Dealing with pain is never easy, but learning new ways to help patients combat it can make it treatable.
Pain, p-a-i-n. What appears to be such a simple word in the English language is far from it, as it can impact men, women and children of all ages.
The difference lies in how individuals choose to manage it. According to Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, Natural Practitioner Advisory Board member and author of Pain Free 1-2-3: A Proven Program for Eliminating Chronic Pain Now, one third of Americans are currently suffering with pain. Prescribed narcotic drug overdoses result in 15,000 U.S. deaths per year.
Statistics such as these can raise many different questions. Are there certain medications that function better with specific types of pain? Could there be more natural ways in which to treat a condition?
Indeed, effectively helping patients cope with pain can involve staying in the know of the most prevalent types of pain, the role that ingredients play in being effective and the impact that one’s lifestyle can have on the management process.
Common Types of Pain
Pain can be classified on several different levels—on a broader scale, it can be simply defined as one of two options: acute or chronic.
“There are two types of pain—acute and chronic,” said Natasha Paroutis, nutrition director with New Jersey-based CustomVite. “Acute pain is normal pain that occurs when you’ve been injured. Acute pain starts suddenly but doesn’t last long. For example, if you slam your finger in a car door, your body sends a ‘pain’ message to your brain motivating you to rest the injured area so that the damaged tissue can begin the healing process. Acute pain is caused by (but is not limited to): breaking a bone, hitting your head, burning yourself, etc.
“Chronic pain on the other hand occurs continually or intermittently and lasts much longer than acute pain—typically for three to six months or more. This type of pain signals a more ongoing problem that often needs to be addressed by a health care practitioner. Chronic pain can be caused by (but is not limited to): arthritis, endometriosis, migraines, fibromyalgia, etc. Chronic pain can be cyclical in that the pain causes anxiety and the anxiety makes the pain more intense. This leads to the ‘chronic pain cycle,’ which can have serious psychological effects.”
As Paroutis referenced, chronic pain can either be persistent or sporadic. To Cheryl Myers, chief of education and scientific affairs at EuroMedica in Wisconsin, there are various types of chronic pains that are quite prevalent in patients.
“Lower back pain is probably one of the most common, and one that practitioners and chiropractors probably deal with daily,” she noted. “Aside from that, there is pain associated with activity—runners and athletes dealing with foot and knee injuries or wear and tear, or people who do repetitive tasks for their job. So tendonitis, carpal tunnel and joint pain are a big part of the picture, too.”
In fact, although these pains can impact multiple age groups, some of the aforementioned conditions are more pertinent to certain demographics than others.
“The younger demographic from around 20 to 35 years of age is most likely to experience muscle pain associated with workouts or athletics—however, this can extend through a person’s entire life if they are active,” said Brandon Price, president of Medicine Springs Inc. in Montana. “As a person nears 40 years of age and for the rest of [his or her] life, [he or she] begins to have pain associated with aging such as arthritis. Joint and back pain become more prevalent, and proper nutrition and mineral supplements such as the ones found in hot springs or in Medicine Springs products seem to have a significant positive impact on treating both types of pain across all the age demographics.”
What is the right approach in treating these conditions? Perhaps taking the natural route could be the solution.
Growing up, one may have picked up on simple yet effective ways to treat every day issues such as colds, bruises and the like, especially from family and friends.
When it comes to pain relief, one can look no further than magnesium, a component of the periodic table of elements, a staple of high school chemistry.
Magnesium, discovered in the year 1755, is the eighth most abundant element found in the Earth’s crust (Royal Society of Chemistry). The National Institutes of Health mentioned that an adult body contains about 25 g of magnesium, with 50-60 percent of that being found in the bones and the bulk of the remaining percentage lying in the soft tissues.
Carolyn Dean, MD, ND and Medical Advisory Board member with the Nutritional Magnesium Association cited it as being vital a tool for managing pain in humans, especially when mixed with other elements to make different compounds.
“Magnesium is the most beneficial nutrient for pain relief,” noted Dr. Dean. “Magnesium is a natural anti-inflammatory, a muscle relaxant, a natural detoxifier and a natural sleep aid that will allow the body to achieve deep, restful, restorative sleep. It’s just a matter of using enough. Not all forms of magnesium are easily absorbed by the body. Oral magnesium citrate powder mixed in hot or cold water and sipped throughout the day is a highly absorbable form that is easy to take. To avoid the laxative effect, take magnesium throughout the day and not in one large single dose.”
One company that utilizes magnesium while keeping these affects in mind is Texas-based Natural Vitality with its Natural Calm product. “Natural Vitality uses a proprietary blend of ionic magnesium citrate in its Natural Calm product because it is the best form of magnesium for general application,” said Andreas Koch of Natural Vitality. “Within the natural products industry, magnesium citrate—specifically Natural Calm—is the most widely used magnesium supplement. It outsells other forms or combinations of forms by a significant margin and has done so for over 11 years. The issue with any magnesium supplement is bioavailability. Aside from Natural Calm users stating the benefits they received, a recent independent bioavailability analysis was conducted by the International Center for Integrative Systems, which rated Natural Calm as 100 percent absorbable.”
Besides magnesium, practitioners also prefer other reputable ingredients, which have an even greater effect if used in combination with other medicine.
“The most effective general pain relief natural therapy that I have found is a unique mix of a special highly absorbed curcumin, boswellia, DLPA and nattokinase. It is available from EuroMedica as a product called Curaphen,” mentioned Dr. Teitelbaum. “This mix has been a pain relief miracle, and has eliminated pain that even morphine was ineffective for. I will usually then add topical comfrey (Traumaplant by EuroMedica) and if needed, the Pain Formula by Integrative Therapeutics. All of these can be taken together as well as being combined with any other pain medications. They begin to work quickly, and increase in effectiveness over six weeks. After three months of pain being controlled, the dose may often be decreased.”
If used correctly, these substances can be quite beneficial in strengthening one’s inflammatory response, among other advantages.
Many of them have been components of ayurveda, which dates back thousands upon thousands of years.
“Boswellia supports a healthy inflammatory response and healthy blood circulation, as well as proper joint and cartilage function,” noted Jared Paulson, MTCM, national sales and education manager with Washington-based Ayush Herbs Inc. “Additional herbs in the formula include Zingiber officinale (ginger), Withania somnifera (ashwagandha), and Curcuma longa (curcumin/turmeric)—all of which have long been used in ayurveda to provide support for good joint and cartilage function. Curcumin is also used to support the maintenance of healthy inflammatory response. Ashwagandha can help improve muscle and joint recovery after intense exercise. Boswelya Plus from Ayush Herbs also contains glucosamine and chondroitin (sourced from shellfish) for healthy joints through proper nutritional support and bromelain in order to support a healthy inflammatory response.”
Lifestyle & Diet
It has often been said that there is a positive correlation between a healthy diet and one’s mood. Similarly, the proper foods are able to positively impact inflammation and other body responses.
“You can definitely affect levels of inflammation by what you choose to eat. The best whole foods fight inflammation and free-radical damage. They don’t create blood sugar spikes, weight gain or heart disease,” said Myers. “Whole, unprocessed foods, including cold water fish, healthy, non-cured meats and whole fats, like olive oil or butter (not hydrogenated fats, like margarine), are more a much better choice, and fairly easy to begin incorporating into a diet. Fresh vegetables, green tea, garlic, blueberries, apples, almonds, grapes, even dark chocolate are good choices, too. Different practitioners may have different ideas about the proper types and amounts of proteins and fats to include in a diet, but I would guess that most would agree that the less processing, the better.
“Additionally, for anyone who has found themselves not being active and stuck in a sedentary pattern, getting back to some form of exercise is a good way to keep pain at bay. This is something that patients can work on with their practitioners, too. But even starting out taking a lunchtime walk around the block or an after work swim at the local health club can begin to build (or rebuild) muscles and help a person ultimately reduce their levels of pain.”
One way to test how much of an impact certain foods are truly having on one’s body is to conduct a simple yet effective experiment that will allow one to isolate the items that could be causing the pain or inflammation issues.
“Gluten, sugar, alcohol and food allergies can all increase pain and inflammation in the body,” mentioned Dr. Dean. “You can do your own experiment. Remove one food or food group at a time from your diet for two weeks and then have a big meal of that food and see if your pain, first, goes away and, second, returns. Keep the body moving is the advice of Dr. John Sarno (author of the book, Healing Back Pain). When we injure ourselves and stop moving, the scar tissue around the injury can shorten muscles and reinforce the injury and the pain.”
According to Paulson, a major symptom that patients may experience is fatigue, an issue stemming from digestive issues that can affect all aspects of pain management.
“Poor digestion, resulting from inadequate diet,” he said, “leads to fatigue which lessens our ability to handle pain both physically and mentally. A lack of exercise leads to reduced capacity for quick healing of an injury, due to a lack of good flow to all regions of the body. Both lead to chronic inflammation, which enhances pain and increases likelihood to get injured. Increased stress increases neck and shoulder tension, which in turn increases tension headaches and stomach upset.”
State of the Market
In general, pain relief encompasses a plethora of products, such as Texas-based Alchem USA, Inc.’s FlexiQule, which is “the first blend of concentrated Boswellia serrata extract and Zingiber officinale with enhanced bioavailability,” according to Taylor Cage, the company’s marketing and sales coordinator.
The many options for patients to choose from helps pave the way for alternatives to traditional medication, such as herbs and supplements, due to issues that patients could potentially encounter from pharmaceutical drugs.
“The market for pain relief is a consistent, if not [a] growing factor,” Paulson added. “Consumers are interested in alternatives to harsh or difficult to digest pharmaceuticals, and many look to herbal formulations for relief.”
Myers expanded upon the traditional medication controversy—consumers must be aware that there must ingest these items at their own risk.
“Well, the state of the market seems to be in flux right now,” she stated. “I think that just a glance at the headlines about the dangers of prescription and over-the-counter pain killers shows that we need a dramatically different approach … Reports in Europe have led authorities to considering restricting the sale of ibuprofen because it increases the risk of heart attacks, up to 31 percent according to a Danish study. Another painkiller, diclofenac, also raises the risk by 50 percent. These are big numbers, and conventional drugs pose a big problem.”
On the other hand, supplemental pain relief provides a completely different outlook.
“If you’re talking about supplemental pain relief, than I think the market is very strong, especially for the very reasons that people are worried about—addiction, damage to the stomach, liver and brain, and many other potentially chronic side effects,” Myers continued. “So I think that what we’re seeing on the natural health side is a surge of interest in finding effective and safe ingredients that provide the same level of relief (if not actually better) than the conventional options.”
When it comes to understanding pain management and relief, companies, including CustomVite, are passionate about integrating new cutting-edge research about the benefits of specific supplements for pain management and incorporating that research into their formulations.
We [CustomVite] are very interested in pain management/relief as we feel that nutritional supplements can significantly reduce pain associated with various health conditions,” Paroutis said. “Our mission is to enhance each individual’s overall health and wellness. We help you reach your health goals by providing personalized, nutritional supplements of the highest quality that are convenient and cost-effective. Our nutrition team is constantly reading the most up-to-date peer reviewed journals related to the effectiveness of nutritional supplementation and how they can help with conditions associated with chronic pain.”
As studies continue to be published, the stigma surrounding pain is beginning to change.
“People are starting to recognize that pain is not the enemy,” noted Dr. Teitelbaum. “It is not an outside invader like an infection. Rather, it is more like the oil light on our body’s dashboard telling us that something needs attention. Each kind of pain is asking for something different.”
SweetCheeks Massage Mat
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For More Information:
Alchem USA, Inc., www.alcheminternational.com
Ayush Herbs, Inc., www.ayush.com
CustomVite (NutriLab LLC), www.customvite.com
Medicine Springs Inc., www.medicinesprings.com
Natural Vitality, www.naturalvitality.com