If you are like the millions of people who suffer from chronic pain due to arthritis, back pain, headaches, tendonitis, or muscle aches, it’s natural to want relief. You may be someone who, like many of my patients when they initially consult with me, relies on the use of NSAIDs to ease your chronic pain… And just like many people who express interest in using natural methods for pain relief, you may find that popping a few Advil often seems easier. I completely understand!
However, perhaps you’ve never tried the alternatives… Or you wonder if something natural could really work.
Here’s what we’ll cover in this article:
- What are NSAIDs and how do they work?
- The Benefits and Risks of NSAIDs
- 3 Natural Alternatives to NSAIDs
Is It Really Possible to Be Pain Free Without NSAIDS?
You might not believe it’s possible to enjoy an active life, feeling minimal or no discomfort, without relying on medication. There are a few potential reasons for your trepidation: maybe you’ve been given a diagnosis such as osteoarthritis or fibromyalgia, or perhaps you’ve had major orthopedic surgery like a joint replacement, and you assume you’ll require medication for relief.
…And there’s this common meme in Western medicine: once you reach a certain age, you’ll have aches and pains that will sideline you, limiting your ability to enjoy an active life. Of course, the pharmaceutical industry has the answer: pop a couple of Motrin and you’ll feel much better.
Another dominant message: if you have one of these conditions, pain is going to be a permanent part of your life. You can’t avoid these types of messages. They’re everywhere, from TV to cocktail parties, from bridge club to the tennis court, even your doctor’s office.
Even Chronic Pain Can Be Resolved Naturally…
Without the personal experience of something other than an NSAID to give you significant relief from pain, it could be hard for you to believe it’s possible. I’m offering a fresh perspective – one that you won’t see on TV or hear about from your conventional doctor.
I’ll be sharing my personal and professional experience with the hope that when you learn about many others who are leading active lives without daily, chronic pain (and without NSAIDs), you’ll be inspired to give some of the strategies I’ve shared a try for yourself. I’ll reveal what I’ve done to help thousands of people eliminate the need for NSAIDs and become more active with little or no pain – even people with longstanding ailments, such as chronic tendonitis, hip and knee replacements, and degenerative arthritis.
What is an NSAID?
An NSAID is a Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug. These are a few examples:
- Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil)
- Naproxen (Aleve, Anaprox, Naprosyn)
- Celecoxib (Celebrex)
NSAIDs work by blocking two enzymes, Cox-1 and Cox-2, which produce prostaglandins. Prostaglandins promote inflammation in your body. By reducing inflammation in this fashion, you feel less pain.
The Benefits of NSAIDs
- They reduce pain
- They’re readily available, without a prescription
- They’re relatively inexpensive
But what’s the REAL cost? Perhaps you already know the downside, but you may not know that there are natural alternatives that have been proven to work better AND offer additional health benefits.
The Risks of NSAIDs
Many think that, because they are sold without a prescription, they must be safe. In my article on what to eat if you have chronic pain, I explain some of the problems with taking NSAIDs:
- Gastrointestinal Problems: NSAIDs can cause leaky gut, a condition where your intestinal lining becomes too permeable, compromising your normally healthy barrier. Bacteria and toxins can leak into your bloodstream, resulting in chronic, systemic inflammation in your body, making your pain worse. Absorption of nutrients is diminished, impairing the body’s ability to heal. Many frequent NSAID users end up with bleeding ulcers.
- Kidney Problems: An anti-diuretic hormone in the kidneys is triggered when you take NSAIDs. This filtration imbalance has the potential to lead to renal failure.
- Heart and Brain Problems: NSAIDs dilate blood vessels and increase blood flow. This results in higher blood pressure and increased clotting, which can lead to cardiovascular issues. Long-term use has been linked to strokes and heart attacks.
Can A Little Bit Hurt?
You might be wondering how much you can take (or for how long) before you develop problems… Many people already have a compromised intestinal barrier, meaning their gut is “leaky,” so in that case, the potential problems could begin with the very first dose. Each person and each circumstance is different, but as you’re about to learn, many of the alternatives have been proven to be MORE effective – so why take chances with your health? …Especially when there are effective alternatives that not only don’t have negative side effects, but provide additional health benefits as well.
Quitting NSAIDS, Should You Go Cold Turkey?
Here’s the bottom line: your journey to living without NSAIDs will be unique to you.
Many of my patients that have been relying on NSAIDs, even for long periods of time, have been able to discontinue taking them as soon as they find alternatives that work to reduce their pain.
What if You’ve Been Taking NSAIDS for Months – or Even Years?
About 15 years ago, Alice came to see me to be fitted for custom orthotics. She was referred by her neighbor, a tennis player, who got relief from chronic hip pain once she began wearing the orthotics I fitted her with. Nine months before coming to my office, Alice’s right knee became extremely painful after a 4-hour hike. The terrain had much more elevation than she was used to, which placed additional stress on her knees. After 5 days of rest and ice, there was no improvement, so she went to see an orthopedist who diagnosed her with degenerative arthritis. She was given a prescription for Anaprox (naproxen sodium, an NSAID), which alleviated her pain immediately.
Alice remained pain-free if she limited her activities. Even with the medication, hiking hills caused her knee to become painful, as did bending to work in her garden or to get up and down off the floor to play with her grandson. For nine months, Alice continued to take this medication every day. As I mentioned, this was over 15 years ago, and the public was much less aware of risks of NSAIDS. I find that people are well informed these days. In addition, Alice (who was 60 at the time) saw her doctor as a trusted authority. He kept writing a new prescription, and she kept taking it.
Alice’s Solution: Acupuncture, Orthotics, Epsom Salt Baths, and Magnesium
Alice also trusted her neighbor, and she remained open to the possibility that her body could heal. She received a series of acupuncture treatments and began wearing her orthotics. She soaked in a hot Epsom salt bath daily, and took an evening dose of magnesium. Within less than two weeks, she was able to discontinue the Anaprox and return to all of her activities. Hiking long distances with significant elevation did cause her knee to become sore, but with a few days of rest and ice, the pain would subside. Because she and her husband were passionate about hiking, she planned to continue enjoying occasional challenging hikes.
Other patients find that it takes several weeks for the natural remedies to take effect. Some people choose to keep taking NSAIDS for a while, and then taper off.
What Will Be Your Winning Combo?
I hope you decide to try the 3 Natural Alternatives below… It’s possible that’s all you’ll need! If you require more, you may decide to work directly with a practitioner who specializes in treating pain with a holistic approach to help you craft a plan. Your protocol might include:
- Instrument Assisted Soft Tissue Mobilization (IASTM)*
- Active Release Technique (ART)
- Massage Therapy
*I’ve had tremendous success utilizing acupuncture and instrument assisted soft tissue mobilization (IASTM) in my private practice for eliminating pain.
You may find that stress management or various types of psychotherapy – to deal with current life challenges or past traumas that have been shown to be stored in the body (Google somatic therapy) – are beneficial. In my experience, I find that psychological stress ALWAYS factors into the pain equation, though the degree varies from patient to patient.
You do need to move your body, but if you have chronic pain or are recovering from an injury, you may want guidance from a physical therapist, Pilates instructor, or a qualified personal trainer. A portion of your exercise might include flexibility and balance training, specific strengthening exercises, and home care such as foam rolling or application of moist heat.
…And of course, you’ll want to get restorative sleep and eat an anti-inflammatory diet.
That sounds pretty comprehensive, doesn’t it?
You’ll need to discover which protocols work for you. It may take one, or a combination of several.
So, where should you begin?
The following are nutrients that reduce inflammation and pain. They are easy to incorporate into your daily routine.
3 Natural Alternatives to NSAIDs
By far the most researched natural alternative to NSAIDs, curcumin is a compound found in turmeric, a spice used frequently in Indian cooking with a beautiful yellow-orange color. Curcumin has been well researched. There are over 6000 studies which validate its effectiveness. Curcumin has been shown to outperform many pharmaceuticals in clinical trials for reducing pain and inflammation.
Can you get enough by cooking with the spice? No, but do cook with it…
So, can you just cook with turmeric? Studies are proving that Mother Nature knows what she is doing. Women have known this for eons. While studies have proven that curcumin, the compound extracted from turmeric, is tremendously effective in reducing inflammation, it turns out the whole turmeric plant is beneficial as well! So, to enjoy the full benefits, I suggest you use the spice frequently. To obtain a therapeutic dose of curcumin, you’ll want to take a supplement as well.
Since fat aids in the absorption of curcumin, it’s best to take it with a meal that contains a good amount of healthy fat. Healthy fats include cold-water fish like salmon, mackerel, herring, anchovies, and sardines. These fish have the highest levels of EPA and DHA. Other good sources of healthy fats are avocado, olive oil, coconut oil, and full-fat coconut milk. You might also like my Turmeric Latte’ article!
Dose – Here’s how I use it with my patients (and also for myself): When you sustain a new injury (or if you have chronic pain) and want to try curcumin in lieu of NSAIDs, begin with 1000 – 1500mg, three times per day. Maintain that dose for the first 5 days, then taper the dose gradually down to about 400 – 500mg per day for general health and wellness. **DO NOT take curcumin if you are taking a blood thinner.
Additional Benefits – The anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties of this powerful compound keep inflammation at bay, reducing the risk of cancer, cardiovascular disease, Alzheimer’s, and many, many other degenerative diseases. In fact, supplementing with curcumin – in addition to a commitment to a healthy lifestyle of good eating, stress management, joyful movement, and purpose – can reverse the course of many diseases.
2. Bone Broth
Yes, chicken soup is good for the soul – and bone broth is even better! During the process of simmering bones (including the marrow, tendons, ligaments, and cartilage, for at least 24 – 48 hours, with the addition of apple cider vinegar), healing compounds such as the amino acids proline, glycine, and glutamine are released in addition to collagen.
Experts in nutrition at the Weston A. Price Foundation also tout bone broth because of the minerals contained. The calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, sulfur, and silicon are in forms that can be easily absorbed by your body. Bones also contain chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, which are found in supplements designed to support joint health. While you aren’t likely to obtain therapeutic levels of these minerals and compounds, for years people have offered up a hot cup of soup or broth to bring comfort and to ease ailments. In this article on bone broth, I share two recipes – one traditional, homemade version and my “quick version.”
Dose – Enjoy liberally. I recommend a large mug every day for all of my patients.
Additional Benefits – The nutrients in bone broth help heal leaky gut. The collagen and gelatin are great for hair, skin, and nails.
Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant that can be taken internally via a capsule, tablet, or powder dissolved in water. Since some amount of magnesium is absorbed through the skin, you can soak in a bathtub of Epsom salts and/or use magnesium gel topically – as I suggest my patients do. Unfortunately, toxins are also easily absorbed through the skin, so I’ve explained what you need to do to reduce toxins (such as chlorine) from your bath water.
Soothing Bath – Fill your tub with very hot water, and then detoxify the water by adding vitamin C – which will aid in removing toxins, especially chlorine. I used to use vitamin C effervescent tablets that I purchase on Amazon… The ones I use are made by Vitabath, but I also use vitamin C in the form of a powdered ascorbic acid (1 – 2 teaspoons, depending on the size of your tub). Wait about 5 minutes for the vitamin C to do its job, then add 1 cup of Epsom salts (2 cups for large tubs) and stir it about. Your water temperature should be just right by now. Soak for 20 minutes.
Topicals – Rub a generous amount of magnesium gel or cream over the involved area of your body.
Oral Dose – 300 – 500mg as a capsule or powder mixed with water, taken at bedtime. Preferred chelates are glycinate, citrate, or malate for best absorption. My experience has been that bathing in Epsom salts doesn’t provide an adequate amount of magnesium for muscle relaxation, so I highly recommend you take a supplemental oral dose to help reduce your pain.
*Note: Magnesium is not only a natural muscle relaxant, but it is also a natural laxative and one of the supplements I use for my patients with constipation. So, you may discover that you experience loose stools at a certain dose, especially if you use a combination of the routes above. Just reduce your daily dose a little – but I do recommend going right up to your threshold.
Your likelihood of becoming pain-free increases when you adopt a healthy lifestyle – making sleep, stress management, clean eating, a few key supplements, joyful movement, love, and connection all part of your daily routine. Yes, it’s entirely possible to eliminate the need for NSAIDs once and for all!
Let me know what works for you.
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