According to an article in USA Today, Prescription Drug overdoses are now a leading cause of fatal overdoses, surpassing cocaine, heroin, and illegal drugs.
“Addiction to prescription painkillers — which kill thousands of Americans a year — has become a largely unrecognized epidemic, experts say. In fact, prescription drugs cause most of the more than 26,000 fatal overdoses each year, says Leonard Paulozzi of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”
Due to the fact that so many Americans are unhealthy, obese, and looking for a quick fix, they are demanding these pain medications from their doctors– and getting them. The increase in prescriptions filled is actually correlated to the increase in number of overdoses. Although, I do feel that sometimes pain medications are necessary, their abuse is become a glaring problem not to be ignored. The solution lies in a different viewpoint regarding pain management.
Most people aren’t aware how integrative and natural medicine can help alleviate chronic pain. Paying attention to biochemistry as well as the mind-body connection, Integrative practicioners are able to address the cause of the pain, rather than to simply cover up the symptoms. It is a different mindset for patients- to take responsibility for their lifestyle choices and emotional issues rather than to pop a pill. However, the rewards of a healthy, fit, body and a sane, peaceful mind is worth the effort to most..
Here are some natural tips that I commonly use in my practice to help address chronic pain:
1. Exercise and weight loss: Exercise releases feel good chemicals called endorphins which act as natural pain killers. Furthermore, healthy circulation and weight loss leads to decreased pressure on joints creating less pain and a happier outlook on life.
2. Getting enough sleep: sleep is vital for rejuvination and also helps with pain management. In fact, sleep actually affects your body’s ability to modulate pain perception.
3.Addressing the cause: whether it be excess weight, eating an inflammatory diet, food sensitivities, gut permeability, low immunity, or a virus or bacteria….your integrative practicioner can help you pinpoint the underlying issue.
4. Natural anti-inflammatory agents: These have fewer side effects and are better for your liver and stomach. Curcumin and boswellia have been shown in studies to decrease inflammatory cytokines (NF Kappa B)and leukotrienes respectively.
Other helpful supplements are fish oils and vitamin D. (Make sure you get your blood levels checked for vitamin D.)
5. Address your emotions: the body and mind are connected. Just thinking stressful thoughts releases inflammatory and immune suppressing biochemicals into your bloodstream. Without looking at the whole person, even supplements can be band aids to healing underlying emotional trauma.
As an Integrative Doctor, it is important for me to remember to not to get lost in the fun maze of biochemistry and to step back and look at the whole person. This ultimately leads to true healing rather than simply fixing and patching.
PMID: 19914447 Mercola, J. Deadlier than Cocaine, heroin, and Swine Flue. Mercola.com. November 21, 2009. (online)
Kim, YS. et al. Curcumin attenuates inflammatory responses of TNF-alpha-stimulated human endothelial cells. Cardiovasc Pharmacol. 2007 Jul;50(1):41-9.PMID: 17666914