Acute & Chronic Pain
We’ve all experienced some form of pain in our lives. From headaches to back injuries, bruises to broken bones or accidentally jumping into a shower that’s too hot. Pain is the body’s warning system that tells us that we’re sick or injured and need to take action. There are two classifications of pain based on its time course: acute and chronic. Acute pain is when a person experiences a sudden sensation of severe discomfort; usually it has an obvious cause like a broken limb, kidney stones or a burn. The pain is expected to last only for a short amount of time and usually subsides with treatment. Chronic pain is a bit more complex; it is a persistent or recurring pain that lasts for more than 3 months even after the body has healed. A person experiencing chronic pain is likely to fall into a chronic pain disability cycle in which ineffective treatments increase anxiety and contribute to the pain persisting. A good example of chronic pain is that accompanying cancer or rheumatoid arthritis; in this instance, the goal of therapy is not total relief from pain but to effectively manage pain and improve the persons quality of life.
What Causes Pain?
To understand how pain killers and natural medicines work, it’s important to understand what causes pain in the body. Damage to tissue may directly activate sensory nerves and also triggers the inflammatory cascade in which a number of chemicals are released. Arachadonic acid is particularly important to note as it’s produced from damaged cell membranes. This in turn produces hormones called prostaglandins via the cyclo-oxygenase enzyme system.
The Deal with NSAIDs
Certain analgesics (pain killers) called non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs), like Neurofen and Voltaren, inhibit the production of prostaglandins so you don’t feel pain. NSAIDs are quite common OTC products for pain relief and are generally used to treat mild to moderate pain. One thing you may not know about NSAIDs are, though, is how much damage they do to your gut. The most common side effect of this class of medication is gut irritation (nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea, constipation and gastritis). NSAIDs are not recommended for use for more than a few days because they increase the risk of stomach ulcers.
Why does this happen?
NSAIDs also inhibit the synthesis of the ‘good’ prostaglandins that protect the mucous membrane tissues in our gut. Other adverse effects of NSAIDs include renal damage (again, because they inhibit ‘good’ prostaglandins that have vasodilatory effects), asthma attacks, skin reactions, sodium retention and consequent heart failure and hypertension in high risk individuals. Below is a list of common NSAIDs:
The difference with Paracetamol
Paracetamol (acetaminophen) is different from other NSAIDs because researchers don’t exactly know how it works! It’s safer to use compared to other analgesics because it has very little side-effects and is one of the very few drugs that can be used in conjunction with other medications, including other NSAIDs. It’s better for people who have gastric issues because it’s gentler on the stomach. However, it is still a drug and can cause liver toxicity if you take too much.*Always follow packet directions and ask a health professional if you’re unsure about certain drugs for pain relief.
Natural Pain Relief
You’ve probably heard already that fish oils can help with almost any ailment. As mentioned earlier in this post, prostaglandins can be dubbed ‘bad’ in excess because they cause inflammation and contribute to pain; these are called series 2 prostaglandins (PG2). They also promote blood clotting so we don’t bleed to death and signal that we’re hurt so they’re not completely terrible (they just cause tremendous amounts of pain). In regards to pain relief, omega 3 fatty acids decrease PG2 and increase the anti-inflammatory series 3 prostaglandins (PG3). PG3 decrease the rate at which PG2 are formed and this is why omega-3’s are so good at reducing pain in inflammatory conditions like muscle pain and arthritis.
The active ingredient in turmeric, known as curcumin, is a strong anti-oxidant and has powerful anti-inflammatory effects in the body. It inhibits a number of different molecules that play a role in inflammation including prostaglandins. Unfortunately, curcumin isn’t absorbed very well by the body so it’s important that you eat it with black pepper. Black pepper enhances it’s absorption by 2000% thanks to a compound called piperine. If you’d like to read more about turmeric, I go into more detail about it in my post ‘Turmeric – A Drug in Your Pantry.’
We’re not invincible to pain. As much as I strongly believe in food as medicine, sometimes modern medicine wins out with pain relief. Here are some tips to help assist your body if you turn to OTC medications.
If you take Asprin: make sure you take a vitamin C supplement as this nutrient has been shown to make the analgesic effect last longer. Note: Never give Aspirin to children.
If you take Paracetamol: don’t drink alcohol as it can reduce the effectiveness of the drug and cause damage to your liver.
If you take any NSAIDs in general: always, always, always take one with food and not on an empty stomach. Don’t consume alcohol either. It might also be helpful take a probiotic supplement as the beneficial bacteria can help repair damage done to the gut. Glutamine is another great supplement to consider as it aids gut healing and assists in the detoxification of the liver.
I hope this post was helpful and if you have any questions, please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or comment below.
Enjoy your week everyone!
Love Stace x
Disclaimer: My posts are not meant to be individualized treatment plans or protocols. I share what I research and use, and that is it. The information contained in this blog should not be used to treat or diagnose disease or health problems and is provided for your information only. If you need advice on pain killers, talk to your health professional.