Tuesday, December 27, 2011
How was your Christmas? Are you able to take a few days off, or are you right back in the saddle of juggling? I hope it was peaceful and blessed. So now begins the countdown to 2012. One of the things we always wish one another, especially as the new year begins, is good health. This is something we should never take for granted, and something that we must actively pursue through eating right and exercising regularly. Our society has a quick-fix mentality for any kind of ailment – just pop a pill or get a prescription. It’s just not that easy! So what do you do when, for example, you have pain but don’t want to just take some over-the-counter or prescription medication?
Well, I happened to come across this article from Prevention Magazine that I wanted to share with you. Mind you, I am NOT a doctor and only pass this info along for general information purposes! That being said, I thought it was interesting, especially the counting backwards technique. Imagine being able to ease pain simply by counting backwards – next time I’m giving blood I think I will try this!
Please feel free to share in the comments anything you use to help ease pain. And watch over the next few days as we share ideas on how to prepare for the upcoming year!
Nature's New Pain Relievers
The best remedies for arthritis, back pain, migraines, and more that have science on their side
By Jordan Lite
You're in pain, and ibuprofen just won't cut it. NSAIDs don't agree with your stomach, and you're wary of stronger meds. Fortunately, you have alternatives--natural ones. From herbs that attack inflammation to techniques that leverage the brain's remarkable healing powers, nature offers many treatments for conditions such as arthritis, fibromyalgia, and even muscle strains. Here are eight natural remedies that may enhance or replace conventional antidotes, and leave you happier, healthier, and pain free.
Reduce pain from arthritis, shingles, or neuropathy
What the science says: An active component of chile pepper, capsaicin temporarily desensitizes pain-prone skin nerve receptors called C-fibers; soreness is diminished for 3 to 5 weeks while they regain sensation. Nearly 40% of arthritis patients reduced their pain by half after using a topical capsaicin cream for a month, and 60% of neuropathy patients achieved the same after 2 months, according to a University of Oxford study. Patients at the New England Center for Headache decreased their migraine and cluster headache intensity after applying capsaicin cream inside their nostrils.
How to try it: Capsaicin ointments and creams are sold in pharmacies and health stores. For arthritis or neuropathy, try 0.025% or 0.075% capsaicin cream one to four times daily; best results can take up to 2 weeks, says Philip Gregory, PharmD, a professor at Creighton University and editor of the Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database. But research on capsaicin and headaches remains limited--and don't expect stronger versions anytime soon: "Current formulations are better suited for more acute problems, like a sore muscle or an arthritis flare-up, than everyday pain and stiffness," Gregory says.
InflaThera or Zyflamend
Help ease arthritis
What the science says: Both supplement brands contain ginger, turmeric, and holy basil, all of which have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric (a curry ingredient) may be the best: A component, curcumin, eases inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, according to the Methodist Research Institute in Indianapolis. Researchers are now testing Zyflamend in RA patients, but some experts are already sold: "Each herb has its own scientific database of evidence," says James Dillard, MD, author of The Chronic Pain Solution.
How to try it: ProThera, InflaThera's maker, will only sell to health care professionals, so your doctor has to order it for you; that said, it's reportedly stronger (and slightly cheaper) than Zyflamend. InflaThera's suggested dosage is twice daily with food. For the more readily accessible Zyflamend, take one capsule two or three times daily, but avoid it near bedtime--each pill contains 10 mg of caffeine (another version, Zyflamend PM, is reportedly less stimulating). Buy Zyflamend at swansonvitamins.com or immunesupport.com/zyflamend.htm. Or, save money and try curcumin to start: Taking 500 mg four times daily, along with fish oil and a diet low in animal fat, can ease arthritis, says Jane Guiltinan, ND, immediate past president of the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians.
Alleviate acute injury or post surgery swelling
What the science says: This herb comes from a European flower; although its healing mechanism is still unknown, it does have natural anti-inflammatory properties. Taking oral homeopathic arnica after a tonsillectomy decreases pain, say British researchers, and German doctors found that it reduces surgery-related knee swelling.
How to try it: Use homeopathic arnica as an adjunct to ice, herbs, or conventional pain meds, suggests Guiltinan. Rub arnica ointment on bruises or strained muscles, or take it in the form of three lactose pellets under the tongue up to six times per day. Boiron (boironusa.com) is among the most reputable arnica manufacturers.
Relieve osteoarthritis inflammation and pain
What the science says: This red seaweed supplement is rich in calcium and magnesium. A preliminary clinical study showed that the ingredients may reduce joint inflammation or even help build bone, says David O'Leary of Marigot, Aquamin's Irish manufacturer. In a study of 70 volunteers published in Nutrition Journal, Aquamin users reduced arthritis pain by 20% in a month, and had less stiffness than patients taking a placebo.
How to try it: Marigot recommends 2,400 mg a day (two capsules) of Aquamin in tablet form, sold domestically in products such as Aquamin Sea Minerals and Cal-Sea-Um. A 60-pill jar of Swanson Vegetarian Aquamin Sea Minerals costs about $6 at swansonvitamins.com.
SAM-e (S adenosylmethionine)
Reduce osteoarthritis aches
What the science says: SAM-e is made from a naturally occurring amino acid and sold as capsules. Doctors aren't entirely sure why it tamps down pain, but it reduces inflammation and may increase the feel-good brain chemicals serotonin and dopamine. Studies by the University of Maryland School of Nursing and the University of California, Irvine, showed that SAM-e was as effective as some NSAIDs in easing osteoarthritis aches; the California researchers found that SAM-e quashed pain by 50% after 2 months, though it took a few weeks to kick in. SAM-e produced no cardiovascular risks and fewer stomach problems than the conventional meds.
How to try it: Costco and CVS both carry it; a month's supply costs $30 to $60. Guiltinan prescribes 400 to 1,600 mg daily, often with turmeric or fish oil. SAM-e can interact with other meds, especially MAO-inhibitor antidepressants, so it's vital to talk with your doctor before taking it (and avoid SAM-e entirely if you have bipolar disorder). Also, inspect the packaging before buying, advises Gregory: Make sure the product carries a USP or GMP quality seal, contains a stabilizing salt, has a far-off expiration date, and comes in foil blister packs--SAM-e can degrade rapidly in direct light.
Relieve joint pain from arthritis or autoimmune disorders
What the science says: Digested fish oil breaks down into hormonelike chemicals called prostaglandins, which reduce inflammation. In one study, about 40% of rheumatoid arthritis patients who took cod-liver oil every day were able to cut their NSAID use by more than a third, Scottish scientists recently reported. People with neck and back pain have fared even better: After about 10 weeks, nearly two-thirds were able to stop taking NSAIDs altogether in a University of Pittsburgh study.
How to try it: Taking 1,000 mg is proven to help your heart, but you should up the dose for pain. For osteoarthritis, try 2,000 to 4,000 mg daily; for rheumatoid arthritis and autoimmune diseases associated with joint pain (such as lupus), consider a much higher dose of upwards of 8,000 mg daily--but ask your doctor about such a large amount first, says Tanya Edwards, MD, medical director at the Cleveland Clinic's Center for Integrative Medicine. (The same rule applies if you take BP or heart meds, as omega-3s can thin the blood.) Read the nutrition label carefully: The dosage refers to the amount of omega-3s in a capsule, not other ingredients. Nordic Naturals (nordicnaturals.com) and Carlson (carlsonlabs.com) are both reputable brands; for something stronger, GNC's Triple-Strength Fish Oil (gnc.com) has 900 mg of omega-3s per capsule.
What the science says: MSM is derived from sulfur and may prevent joint and cartilage degeneration, say University of California, San Diego, scientists. People with osteoarthritis of the knee who took MSM had 25% less pain and 30% better physical function at the end of a 3-month trial at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and Health Sciences. Indian researchers also found that MSM worked better when combined with glucosamine.
How to try it: Start with 1.5 to 3 g once daily and increase to 3 g twice daily for more severe pain, suggests Leslie Axelrod, ND, a professor of clinical sciences at Southwest. Patients in the Indian trial improved on dosages as low as 500 mg three times daily. Vendors of OptiMSM, the brand tested in Axelrod's trial, can be found at optimsm.com.
Counting out loud
Soothe brief "needle stick" pain
What the science says: Patients who counted backward from 100 out loud during an injection experienced and recalled less pain, according to a recent Japanese study. None of the 46 patients who counted complained afterward, and only one of them could remember pain from the injection at all (among the 46 who didn't count, 19 said the injection hurt and 10 recalled what it felt like). Recitation might work by distracting the brain from processing the sensation, says study author Tomoko Higashi, MD, of Yokohama City University Medical Center in Kanagawa, Japan. The trick is probably only useful for short or acute periods, she says, adding: "The degree of pain reduction really depends on how well patients concentrate on counting."
Ease fibromyalgia or arthritis
What the science says: Qigong is an umbrella term for traditional Chinese-medicine exercises or techniques that integrate body, posture, mind and breathing to improve the flow of energy, or qi. Women with severe fibromyalgia reported 73% less pain after just 5-7 sessions with a qigong master, according to a Robert Wood Johnson Medical School study, and the benefits continued three months later. "I’ve never seen pain scores change so dramatically," says study co-author Afton Hassett, PsyD, who notes that larger trials need to be conducted to confirm these benefits. In other research, when qigong was combined with meditation, the pair helped patients reduce their pain as well as prescription drugs, according to University of Maryland researchers. And 83% of rheumatoid arthritis patients who practiced qigong for 1-2 hours a day reported greater improvement compared to 57% who received medication, Chinese doctors found.
How to try it: A skilled practitioner can help you reduce your discomfort in 3 to 9 treatments, says Master FaXiang Hou of the Qigong Research Society (qigongresearchsociety.com). Start off with a class or use an at-home video like Francesco Garripoli’s "Qigong Beginning Practice" (available at amazon.com) at least one hour a day, either first thing in the morning or right before bed. Once you’ve got the hang of it, 20 to 30 minutes a day can keep pain at bay, says Kevin Chen, PhD, who led the RWJ study. Find a teacher near you at the National Qigong Association Web site (nqa.org).
Relieve arthritis; migraines; low-back, menstrual, or post-operative pain
What the science says: When pricked with tiny, essentially painless needles, your body releases endogenous opioids, its natural painkillers—but for reasons scientists are still figuring out, the benefits last longer than the chemicals’ analgesic effect. Recent research has yielded stunning results: people with knee arthritis reduced pain by 40% after 6 months of acupuncture that began as twice weekly sessions and was gradually reduced to once a month, according to researchers at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, who also found it can relieve low-back pain. Overseas, scientists in Europe used acupuncture to cut medication use in half among migraine sufferers—and, in another study, ease menstrual pain. Post-surgery patients needed less morphine after receiving the needle pricks, a recent Duke University Medical Center review found.
How to try it: For acute pain, try 5-8 treatments; experts say you’ll need 8-15 sessions for chronic pain (in the UMM study on osteoarthritis, significant improvement took 14 weeks). Nearly half of employers offer health insurance that covers acupuncture, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation survey. Contact your state’s acupuncture board or your insurer to find a licensed practitioner. Get more information on acupuncture and how it can help ease health problems.
Glucosamine and chondroitin
Protect cartilage from osteoarthritis
What the science says: Glucosamine is a natural compound used in the formation and repair of cartilage, according to the Mayo Clinic. Chondroitin is made from shark and cow cartilage. Both are thought to help build or protect joint-cushioning cartilage—the same material that breaks down in osteoarthritis. The combination can help people with moderate to severe knee osteoarthritis, according to a New England Journal of Medicine study: 53% of users felt their pain decrease by half.
How to try it: Take 500 mg of glucosamine three times a day alone or with 400 mg of chondroitin sulfate. The Natural Medicines Comprehensive Database suggests glucosamine sulfate over glucosamine hydrochloride, though many brands contain both.
Published November 2011, Prevention | Updated December 2011
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