Worldwide, more than 1.5 billion people suffer from chronic pain. In the US, it impacts about 100 million adults, which is more than the number impacted by diabetes, heart disease, and cancer combined.
It can be a challenging condition to treat because while some chronic pain is associated with an injury or disease, in other cases there is no initial event (such as a back injury, infection, arthritis, or cancer) that caused the pain.
“Treating chronic pain is never as straightforward as treating a bacterial infection,” he writes. “As a medical scientist, I was convinced that when patients in chronic pain had a history of emotional, physical, and infectious assaults, all of those assaults must somehow be working together.
This is a strikingly high number, but you can’t put a price on the damage chronic pain can do to an individual’s life. For instance, according to a survey of chronic pain sufferers by the American Pain Foundation:
- 59 percent reported an impact on their overall enjoyment of life
- 77 percent reported feeling depressed
- 70 percent said they have trouble concentrating
- 74 percent said their energy level is impacted by their pain
- 86 percent reported an inability to sleep well
6 surprising causes of chronic pain
1: Emotional trauma. Doctors are increasingly realizing that deep-seated emotional pain from a past trauma, be it abuse or post-traumatic stress, can manifest itself as chronic physical pain. Dr. Kaplan notes that research hasn’t yet uncovered what links the two, but in his practice, he writes, he’s found that patients who have chronic pain that doesn’t respond to traditional treatments have, upon further evaluation, often had some traumatic experience in their lives.
2: Poor sleep. Poor sleep can actually impact virtually every aspect of your health, and the reason for this is because your circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) actually “drives” the rhythms of biological activity at the cellular level. Further, your body needs deep sleep for tissue growth and repair, which is crucial for pain relief. According to recent research from Great Britain, poor or insufficient sleep was actually the strongest predictor for pain in adults over 50.
3: Painkillers. Surprising, but true: Overusing pain killers dulls your body’s response to pain, so you need more, and more potent, painkillers to alleviate chronic pain. But that just leads to increased sensitivity to pain in the long run. Dr. Kaplan says this problem is particularly bad with prescription opiod painkillers, such as Vicodin or Oxycontin. Using painkillers to deal with chronic pain is “shortsighted,” Dr. Kaplan writes.
4: Leaky Gut. Dietary changes (see below) are crucial for managing pain, and this is, in part, due to the way they influence your gut health. Substances in grains, for instance, may increase intestinal permeability (i.e. leaky gut syndrome), allowing undigested food particles, bacteria, and other toxicants to “leak” into your bloodstream. Leaky gut can cause digestive symptoms such as bloating, gas, and abdominal cramps, as well as cause or contribute to many others symptoms, including inflammation and chronic pain.
5: Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, Dr. Kaplan notes, and good health is practically impossible if you don’t have enough. And most of us don’t. In fact, 57 percent of Americans don’t get enough. But this vital mineral blocks your brain’s receptors of glutamate, a neurotransmitter that can cause neurons to be hypersensitive to pain. Dr. Kaplan says he prescribes intravenous magnesium to many of his chronic pain patients, but you can get your daily recommended amount easily if you load up on leafy greens, dried apricots, avocados, brown rice, almonds, cashews, and bananas.
6: Lyme disease. Some of the first symptoms of Lyme disease may include a flu-like condition with fever, chills, headache, stiff neck, achiness, and fatigue. However, it often lingers chronically, in some people for more than a decade, causing muscle and joint pain. Because Lyme and all of its co-infections cause so many constant symptoms, it easily mimics disorders, such as multiple sclerosis (MS), arthritis, Parkinson’s, chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, and more.
7 Painkillers from Mother Nature To Cure Chronic Pain
If you have chronic pain of any kind, please understand that there are many safe and effective alternatives to prescription and over-the-counter painkillers. The pain remedies that follow are natural, providing excellent pain relief without any of the health hazards that pain medications often carry.
- Ginger: This herb is anti-inflammatory and offers pain relief and stomach-settling properties. Fresh ginger works well steeped in boiling water as a tea or grated into vegetable juice.
- Curcumin: Curcumin is the primary therapeutic compound identified in the spice turmeric. In a study of osteoarthritis patients, those who added only 200 mg of curcumin a day to their treatment plan had reduced pain and increased mobility. In fact, curcumin has been shown in over 50 clinical studies to have potent anti-inflammatory activity, as well as demonstrating the ability in four studies to reduce Tylenol-associated adverse health effects.
- Boswellia: Also known as boswellin or “Indian frankincense,” this herb contains powerful anti-inflammatory properties, which have been prized for thousands of years. This is one of my personal favorites, as I have seen it work well with many rheumatoid arthritis patients.
- Bromelain: This protein-digesting enzyme, found in pineapples, is a natural anti-inflammatory. It can be taken in supplement form, but eating fresh pineapple may also be helpful. Keep in mind that most of the bromelain is found within the core of the pineapple, so consider leaving a little of the pulpy core intact when you consume the fruit.
- Cetyl Myristoleate (CMO): This oil, found in fish and dairy butter, acts as a “joint lubricant” and an anti-inflammatory. I have used a topical preparation for myself to relieve ganglion cysts and a mild annoying carpal tunnel syndrome that pops up when I type too much on non-ergonomic keyboards.
- Evening Primrose, Black Currant, and Borage Oils: These contain the fatty acid gamma linolenic acid (GLA), which is useful for treating arthritic pain.
- Cayenne Cream: Also called capsaicin cream, this spice comes from dried hot peppers. It alleviates pain by depleting the body’s supply of substance P, a chemical component of nerve cells that transmit pain signals to your brain.
Sources and References: