by Dr. Mark Wiley
From early on, you are taught to “manage,” “mask the symptoms of ” and “live with” your poor health conditions.
This is perverse… It goes against our homeostatic (self-balancing) nature. What’s more, despite lackluster results, too many people keep following the practices of a healthcare system that simply has not delivered on its promises.
Are we doing this because we don’t realize it’s not working? Surely, our daily chronic pain and suffering is the indication it’s not working.
Simply put, mainstream medicine fails to eradicate our everyday pains, illnesses and diseases. It fails because it is passive and reactionary and thus unable to prevent you from experiencing chronic health conditions like heart disease, diabetes, hyper-tension, obesity, stress, anxiety, depression, headache, back pain, tendonitis and hundreds of others.
This model will always fall short because it uses disease as its basis of finding health.
That is, you go and see your primary care physician when you are ill, the doctor diagnoses your illness, labels the disease, then prescribes a protocol for treating that disease or the symptoms you are suffering.
Your personal health issues are “managed” by prescription medication, various therapies and surgery. Natural treatment can also fall into this category, if the approach is relief of symptoms and not correction of underlying (root) causes. While treating symptoms of pain and inflammation are necessary for immediate relief, it must be done as an intermediary step while implementing a truly corrective approach.
After all, any model based simply on symptomatic relief (whether modern or traditional) can never hope to resolve your daily pain problems. Your best course of action is to carefully analyze the source of your pain and use natural pain relief methods to stem the discomfort. Pain can originate from many sources: You’re on the run and seized by a spasm in your neck. The stress of the day triggers a migraine. Or you overexert yourself, and now your back is out.
You are a busy person and can’t let these ailments derail your day or your week, even if they are intensely painful. So you head to the nearest drugstore and look for quick relief in a bottle, a patch or a cream. When you get there, you are overwhelmed with choices. You look at packaging; recall past experiences and mull over product advertising claims before reaching for the most popular brand and hoping for the best. Several hours later, you’re still in pain and you take another dose of the over-the-counter (OTC) remedy. Later, you experience stomach discomfort and gastrointestinal irritation from those pills. And your body still hurts.
If you’re like millions of other Americans, you have at least one (and probably several) chronic health concerns. For many, it’s a pain-related ailment. Back pain is reported as the number one reason people visit their primary care physician. Headaches and joint pain rank up there, too. I am often asked which OTC remedy is best for pain. The answer, however, is not a simple one.
Like many of you, I am both amazed and dumbfounded by the volume of pain products on the market. A short walk down any store’s supplement aisle is soon overwhelming if one is hoping to find relief for symptoms. How is it that there can be so many products for pain? Some block the pain receptors, while others reduce inflammation. Also offered: Topical pain patches, heat therapy, cold therapy and on and on.
Which treatment is the right one to use for your pain or discomfort?
The biggest issue to understand is that no individual product is suitable for every pain problem, despite marketing and accepted wisdom. For example, if you have neck pain, should you choose ibuprofen (an anti-inflammatory) or naproxen (an analgesic)? Many people think they are identical. After all, they both relieve pain. Yet, most people find that one product works better for them than the other. (This fact alone is a clear hint that not all products work as well for the same
So while Motrin® and Aleve® both help reduce pain sensations for a period of time, they do so from different mechanisms. If your pain is the result of inflammation, then Motrin® matched with a cool-therapy patch, cream or compress is a relatively better choice. However, if your pain results from trigger points, Aleve®, coupled with a heat-therapy cream, patch or pad is a relatively better option. I say relatively because neither OTC pain reliever is natural, and either can harm the body when used for an extended period of time.
When pain symptoms are felt in the neck, the cause of the pain is not the same as it is for back pain. As a basic rule, however, inflammation should be reduced while spasms and trigger points should be released. Applying heat to pain originating from inflammation makes the symptoms worse and applying cold to already constricted muscles makes those symptoms worse. Spending a moment to discern the pain syndrome (collection of symptoms) before making your pain-relieving
selection goes a long way towards quickening the results you desire – without aggravating symptoms or making the ailment more painful.
The idea here is that one size does not fit all, thus no one pain product is best for all types of pain. Don’t mindlessly grab a product off the shelf when you’re experiencing symptoms just because that product worked for a friend, you saw a convincing ad or it’s on sale. Think the situation through first – and then decide which (if any) product is a good choice.
Is your pain throbbing… the site of the pain red and swollen? Do you have restricted range of motion? These questions are relevant to understanding the source of the pain, which itself is a symptom of a larger imbalance. Until the cause of the pain is addressed, the pain will inevitably return and you’ll need more meds to ease the discomfort.
Another problem with OTC pain relief is that these products are only effective for the limited time the remedy is active in your body. This is usually between two and four hours. After that, their effects wear off and you need to take more. The serious problem here is that if the product is not the most appropriate to your pain syndrome, you can actually be damaging your body while not even truly helping the issue. More importantly, if the product works on symptomatic relief (which most do) and not on changing the problem itself (which most don’t), then you risk becoming chronically dependent on the product. This can lead to serious problems for your stomach lining, digestive tract, liver and kidneys. All the while your original pain problem continues.
While I advocate natural health products, I am realistic in my expectations of them. Most natural products for pain are best used as preventive measures or at the very first sign of pain symptoms. Natural pain products like arnica, turmeric, capsicum, angelica root, feverfew, camphor and others are safe and gentle on the system. However, they generally are not strong enough to be much help during severe pain that is in full swing. Also, like OTC pain meds, these are each specific for different kinds of pain-related symptoms. Arnica is appropriate for topical inflammation and turmeric for systemic inflammation; capsicum for muscle spasm and angelica root to quicken blood stagnation and so on. Again, even with natural products, it is advised to first examine your pain type, then consider the related symptoms that are also occurring and look for a solution to address the overall pain syndrome you are experiencing in that moment.
For your body to experience pain of any kind, there must be an environment within it that allows the symptoms to take hold and cause you discomfort. This means that if your muscles are supple and blood is moving through them in the appropriate way, you should not experience muscle tightness, strain or trigger points. However, because of poor diet, lack of stretching and exercise and sitting for long periods of time, the resting length of muscles shortens and less blood moves through them more slowly, allowing toxins to build in the tissue. Those events cause pain and trigger points to manifest. Instead of unconsciously reaching for an anti-inflammatory pain reliever (for example), you should be doing several things that can solve your problem:
Correcting the habit that creates the problem.
Changing the environment in the muscle housing the problem.
To remedy pain, you must think about your pain and try to discern what kind it is. And what the trigger (cause) is. And then pick the right mix of natural solutions from herbs to bodywork, from meditation to acupuncture. This can take years of research and decades of trial and error on your own.
HOW I CAN HELP
I have spent my life, since age 13, in search of chronic pain relief. As an adult I traveled the world many times. and then earned three advanced degrees in different areas of natural health and healing.
I wrote down all the information in my new book, Natural Solutions for Pain and Inflammation It is easy to read, easy to understand, and easy to implement the pain-relief programs for everything from general inflammation to migraines, from carpel tunnel to low back pain, from neck pain to arthritis, fibromyalgia, and more.
I know what it feels like to be in pain… all the time. And I know what it feels like to ease and remove that pain and restore quality of life. I want everyone who is in pain, whether just-occurring or chronically felt, to live pain free. And so I am offering my book for a big 50% off discount. Just enter code PainFree50 at checkout and soon you will be on your way to pain-free living once again.
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