When your back hurts or muscles ache, does the easiest solution often seem to lie in a bottle inside your medicine cabinet?
Relief may last for a few hours, but then it’s back to the medicine cabinet or off to the drug store for bottle after bottle of the same old stuff. Or to the doctor for a stronger prescription.
But do all these pills, whether over the counter or prescribed, really help the problem? Or are they really doing more harm than good?
The truth of the matter is most pain relievers take a toll on your body over time. Regular use of acetaminophen sets you up kidney failure while high doses put you at risk of potentially deadly liver damage.
Ibuprofen and other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are tied to gastrointestinal bleeding and perforation and an additional 1 in 1,200 chance of dying when used for more than two months.
Health risks for prescription-strength painkillers like opioids (morphine, codeine, etc.) start with nausea, vomiting, severe itching and constipation. Many are notorious for creating intense physical and mental addictions to the drug.
When it comes to pain, long term use of drugs can build our body’s tolerance for the drug. In other words, we have to take more and more of the drug to get the same amount pain relief. That’s why long-term relief of pain should focus on true healing instead of drugs.
How about getting relief for your back pain without harming other parts of your body? Instead of popping pills and worrying about getting an ulcer or dying from a heart attack, try taking a more natural approach that actually gets you better. Here are several safer options you can consider:
Acupuncture — According to traditional Chinese medicine, pain is a result of blocked energy along the energy pathways of the body. As acupuncture needles are inserted along these invisible pathways, these pathways become unblocked. Acupuncture causes our bodies to release natural pain-relieving opioids, send signals that calm the sympathetic nervous system, and release neurochemicals and hormones to help relieve pain. And you won’t have to worry about becoming addicted or harmed by them.
Vitamin D — Chronic muscle pain can be a symptom of vitamin D deficiency. A reasonable amount of direct sunlight exposure is the best way to get Vitamin D. During winter at higher latitudes or when stuck indoors, consider supplementing with Vitamin D as few foods have a good supply of the vitamin naturally (some, like milk and cereal, are fortified with it though).
Magnesium — Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. It’s needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium supplements have also been strongly linked to a reduction in pain symptoms, particularly in those with chronic lower back pain.
Willow Bark — Salicin, found in the bark of the white willow tree, is converted in the body to salicylic acid. This is the same compound our bodies convert aspirin into with a similar effect at relieving pain and inflammation.
Massage Therapy — Massage is a great way to relieve stress, tension, and pain. A talented masseuse can work out tender spots and help the body improve circulation. One specialized type of massage, trigger point therapy, relieves tiny muscle knots which often cause pain in distant muscle tissue.
Chiropractic — Chiropractors are one of the specialists who come to mind for many back pain sufferers. A good chiropractor will not only help you with back pain, but also work with you towards improved overall health through spinal adjustments to correct subluxations, or misaligned vertebrae, which can interfere with normal nerve signaling throughout your body.
Now the next time you get the urge to run to your medicine cabinet for one of those drug-based pain relievers, save your body from the side effects and try one of these healthier alternatives instead.