In the history of American medicine, alleviating pain has been one of the two central tenants of “rational medicine.” (Preventing death was the other). Unfortunately, there’s nothing rational about the way mainstream medicine handles pain relief these days.
From the arid mountains of Afghanistan, to the jungles of Honduras, from the gritty urban streets of New York, to the fruited plains of Nebraska, the government is hard at work protecting you from pain…medications.
You see, we live in an era where another misguided government “war”—this one on drugs—is intimidating competent and honest doctors and nurses. Keeping them from prescribing and administering adequate pain medication in effective doses. Even for those on their deathbeds, who often must suffer their last moments on earth in debilitating pain.
All under the guise of “protecting” the public from becoming addicted to painkillers.
If the situation sounds bleak, well…in many ways, it is. But before you give up hope, there is good news.
The fact is, there are many, many alternatives that can offer you real relief. For just about any type of pain. Ones you won’t hear about from the government medical bureaucracy. (Whose agenda has nothing to do with actually helping those who are suffering.) I’ll go over some of the most effective natural solutions in just a moment.
But first, let me tell you a bit about why the “War on Drugs” has turned into a “War on People in Pain.”
The best painkiller on earth that the government is desperate to keep out of your hands
Despite its potential for misuse, the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) has been one of nature’s best gifts to humankind. It is, without a doubt, the world’s most effective pain medicine. Opium is the source of morphine and all its various modern derivatives.
And to this day, even in our era of modern pharmaceuticals, morphine and morphine derivatives still have unmatched pain-relieving and other healing properties. And they remain in widespread use throughout the world.
The reason they’re so effective is that our brains and central nervous systems have built-in receptors for the opiates in these medications. It’s a match made in pain-relief heaven.
But, unfortunately, like many good things, opium also has a history of abuse. And that’s where the focus has been for centuries.
So although morphine, hydro- morphone, oxycodone, and codeine remain the gold-standard opioid analgesics, the ham-fisted prosecu- tion of drug wars has made many good doctors afraid to prescribe them. And as a result, the pharmaceutical industry has put out a slew of rival analgesics. These rival pain meds are less restricted than the opioids. The problem is, they’re also typically less effective. And more toxic.
53 years of useless—and dangerous—“relief”
For example, until recently, roughly 10 million Americans were taking the painkilling drug propoxyphene (sold as Darvon and Darvocet). But in November 2010, the FDA pulled it from the market because of serious heart risks. But here’s the really interesting part of the Darvon story…
While it is classified by the DEA and FDA as a narcotic, it has never been shown in controlled studies to be even a weak analgesic.
In other words, it has all of the stimulating, addictive effects of opiods. But none of the pain-relieving benefits. Yet the FDA approved it for that very use back in the 1950s. Putting millions of people at risk for addiction, heart complications, and who knows what else for 53 years. Risk with absolutely no “reward” in the form of relief.
Then, to add insult to injury, the FDA recommended doctors switch patients to other painkillers, notably Extra Strength Tylenol (acetaminophen).
Take that advice and you trade in risk of heart problems for liver failure.
That’s right. This common, over- the-counter painkiller—found in nearly every medicine cabinet in America—causes hundreds of deaths each year due to liver toxicity. But until now (there is finally a class action suit being filed in 2012) nobody talked about it.
It’s yet another example of major medical mismanagement spawned by ill-informed politicians and misbegotten government regulatory agencies.
Here are a few more of the most common examples where the government also denies people effective pain relief—and the alternatives you can get…
Why back surgery should be your last resort
Low back pain is the most common cause of pain and disability in working Americans. Nearly everyone experiences it at some point. After all, it’s an unavoidable consequence of walking upright. But living with it doesn’t need to be.
And there are treatments for back pain that are much safer—not to mention more effective—than dangerous painkilling drugs and potentially disastrous back surgery.
In fact, surgery should be your absolute last resort. The results can be debilitating. And there’s no “going back” from surgery.
In fact, back surgery has become such a problem that is has actually spawned a new medical condition, called “failed back” syndrome. And there are doctors who specialize in treating people with it. It’s become a kind of “crisis.” But as I said to Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell at a US Congressional Field Hearing in Pennsylvania in February 2003, perhaps this crisis is a blessing in disguise. Because it should finally help open the door for the effective, non-surgical treatments that can help the vast majority of people with back pain.
To his great credit (on this and many other public policy issues), Governor Rendell was genuinely concerned and refreshingly open- minded. And a few weeks later, he contacted me to provide all the details on these alternatives to his office in Harrisburg.
That information included overwhelming evidence about one particular—and completely non- invasive—treatment that works for almost every person who tries it…
Affordable and effective
Spinal manual therapy (SMT), is the most effective and cost-effective treatment for most patients with low back pain. SMT is the primary treatment provided by chiropractors.
In fact, a decade ago the former US Agency for Health Care Policy & Research conducted a review and found SMT to be the most safe and effective treatment. Unlike the NIH, this agency was focused on using research and science to help guide rational medical practices. Things that would actually benefit the public.
Of course, their recommendation for SMT outraged orthopedic surgeons. So much so that they attempted to have the agency shut down. When that didn’t work, they tried to have it de-funded. Eventually, they managed to at least get the office reorganized. (Today it’s known as the Agency for Health Care Quality, and has little power to actually influence medical practice compared to the “medical mandarins” at NIH, or the federal purse strings controlled by Health Care Finance Administration and the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services.)
But I digress…
At about this same time—during 2002-2003—I received a grant from the US Health Resources and Services Administration (another rare honest broker) to review all the studies on low back pain that had been done worldwide.
I worked with the Palmer College Research Consortium and a dozen other universities and scores of scientists around the country. And found—no matter how you sliced it—that spinal manual therapy (SMT) is indeed a safe and effective treatment for low back pain.
And, even better—it’s easy to access. There are over 50,000 practicing chiropractors in the US (all of them from accredited schools). They are licensed in every state.
But if you can’t find a chiropractor near you for some reason, physical therapists also provide effective SMT.
Other useful therapies for low back pain include massage and acupuncture. But with the overwhelming evidence for and easy availability of SMT, most people should try it first.
Arthritis alternatives you can trust
Arthritis pain is another common—and commonly mistreated—problem. And it all boils down to reducing the inflammation causing the pain. But there are also better, safer ways to do that than with NSAIDs or prescription drugs (like the infamous COX-2 inhibitors).
In fact, there are many herbs and dietary supplements that can help reduce inflammation in the joints. Here are a few of the most effective:
- Boswellia serrata (Indian Frankincense). One of the proverbial “Three Gifts of the Magi,” this herbal remedy has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for centuries, primarily for its anti-inflammatory benefits. Look for a standardized extract and take 150 to 450 mg three times per day. You may also be able to find a formula combining Boswellia with curcumin, and/or Ashwaganda. These are additional Ayurvedic ingredients also known for their anti-inflammatory properties.
- Capsicum frutescens (cayenne pepper). You generally see capsaicin as an ingredient in topical creams (usually in 0.025% and 0.075% strengths). They can be very effective for relieving joint pain. However eating red chili peppers (if you like spicy food) can also have remarkably beneficial effects.
- Vitamin C (500 mg/day), vitamin D (2,000 IU/day), and vitamin E (400 to 600 IU/day). These nutrients are always important for bone and joint health. And yes, you need all three to work best together.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. The essential fatty acids in fish oil are another tremendous natural anti- inflammatory. However, to get as much as you need—3 to 10 grams per day—you’ll likely need to increase the amount of omega-3 containing foods you eat (like salmon, sardines, and walnuts) and take a fish oil supplement as well. Fish oil supplements are widely available. Just be sure to look for one that contains both the DHA and EPA fatty acids. Nordic Naturals makes several great fish oil products.
Some people also find that eliminating foods from the “deadly nightshade” family helps relieve their arthritis pain. Nightshade foods include white potatoes, peppers, eggplant, and tomatoes.
However, one caveat: There is no way to tell if eliminating these foods will make a difference for you until you actually do it. And you’ll need to give the elimination diet at least six months (although some report almost immediate relief).
Managing migraines without drugs
Headache is probably the single most common cause of pain experienced regularly by most people. And the most difficult type of headache to treat is the migraine. But, again, there are very effective natural treatments. Ones that can actually keep migraines from occurring in the first place. And if you’ve ever had a migraine, you know that an ounce of prevention is definitely worth a pound of cure.
Feverfew is probably the most well-known natural migraine remedy. This herb is a short, bushy flowering plant that grows in fields and along roadsides and blooms from July to October. The leaves have been used for all sorts of medicinal purposes since the ancient Greek and Roman physicians. Recently, though, it was approved for treating migraine headaches in both the United Kingdom and Canada.
A dried feverfew leaf preparation containing a minimum of 0.2% parthenolide (the active ingredient) is effective for preventing migraines. You’ll need at least 125 mg per day.
Although its most commonly used to improve cognitive function, Ginkgo biloba may also help ward off migraines. The effective dose is 120-240 mg per day.
And anyone who experiences regular migraines should be taking 200-600 milligrams of magnesium per day. Low levels of magnesium can contribute to migraines.
Food allergy may also be a problem for some migraine sufferers. The most common allergens (in decreasing order) include wheat (gluten), orange, egg, coffee/tea, milk, chocolate, corn, sugar, yeast, mushrooms, and peas. A small proportion of migraine sufferers may also react to the presence of tyramine in foods such as aged cheeses, yogurt, beer, wine, liver and organ meats.
If you use the above remedies and for some reason still find yourself battling a migraine at some point, there are a couple of reports that say ginger may help them go away sooner. Mix 500-600 mg ginger powder with water and drink it every 4 hours until the migraine subsides (for up to four days—but hopefully not that long!).
And don’t forget…
Aside from these nutritional approaches and dietary supplements, there are also effective mind-body therapies for many common types of pain. To learn more about them, refer to How to Beat the Dirty Dozen: A guide to the mainstream’s most puzzling illnesses in the free Library of Confidential Cures you received when you subscribed. Also, in that same report, I’ll tell you how acupuncture is the ancient
“Powerhouse of Pain Relief.” For even more information on what will work best for you see my book with Mike Jawer, Your Emotional Type (available at www.DrMicozzi.com, or your local bookstore).
No matter what method you choose, one thing is certain: The successful alleviation of pain can no longer be considered “alternative” vs. “mainstream.”
What works should simply be considered good medicine.
Sources: 1 “Effect of vitamin C on morphine use after laparoscopic cholecystectomy: a randomized controlled trial.” Can J Anaesth 2012; 59(6): 538-543