Pain, Pain, Go Away
Julian Whitaker, MD
Pain is an awful thing to endure, and we’re blessed to be living in a time when medications are available for intractable episodes. But we’re also living in a time when these drugs are used excessively and inappropriately. In 2011, 219 million prescriptions were dispensed for opiate painkillers—enough, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “to medicate every American adult around-the-clock for a month.
Some of these drugs are siphoned off for recreational, nonmedical purposes, and prescription drug abuse is indeed a growing problem. But even well-intended use of painkillers can have serious adverse consequences—prescription drug overdoses have surpassed automobile accidents as our number-one cause of accidental death! And although you may think addiction is only for junkies, it is disturbingly easy to get hooked on opioids. Remember Rush Limbaugh’s debacle? He began taking OxyContin (which chemically is nearly identical to heroin) for back pain and ended up getting arrested for illegally acquiring multiple prescriptions to support his habit.
There’s no doubt that conventional docs hand out way too many pain med prescriptions. Big Pharma, however, creates much of the problem by aggressively marketing and promoting these drugs for chronic pain when they’re safe only for short-term use. And patients looking for quick relief and easy answers must also shoulder some of the responsibility.
If not drugs, then what can you do for pain? In this article, we’re going to discuss safe, natural solutions for the most common source of pain: osteoarthritis.
Physician organizations such as the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons have established guidelines for the treatment of osteoarthritis that emphasize conservative measures such as weight loss and exercise. All too often, however, doctors brush aside these treatments and go straight to pain-relieving drugs, corticosteroid injections, arthroscopic and joint replacement surgery, and other pricey, invasive interventions.
It’s time we get back to the basics. Experts predict that the burden of arthritis will double by 2020, due to the graying of the Baby Boomers and, more importantly, the fattening of America. Obesity does a number on the joints. Every 10 pounds of extra weight loads an additional 30–60 pounds of force on your knees when you walk. For reasons that aren’t entirely clear, obesity even increases the risk of arthritis in the hands. I understand that weight loss can be a constant struggle, but the payoff is substantial.
Exercising when you have aching joints may seem counterintuitive, but it’s one of the best treatments for osteoarthritis. Targeted exercises lubricate the joints and enhance their function, increase flexibility and range of motion, and strengthen the muscles that hold the joints in proper alignment. If you’re not sure about what exercises are best for your particular condition, enroll in a few sessions with a personal trainer or physical therapist to learn the basics.
Supplements Do Make a Difference
Nutritional supplements are popular among arthritis sufferers, and the number of products to choose from is enough to make your head spin. At Whitaker Wellness, our top recommendations for osteoarthritis are high doses of curcumin and fish oil to relieve pain and inflammation; glucosamine sulfate and MSM to help rebuild cartilage; and Univestin for more immediate pain relief.
All of these natural compounds are backed by scientific studies, but the best researched, with clinical trials dating back to the early 1980s, is glucosamine sulfate. What I like about this nutraceutical is that it doesn’t just relieve symptoms. Long-term studies have shown that 1,500 mg of crystalline glucosamine sulfate, administered daily for up to three years, actually has a disease-modifying effect. It slows the progression of degenerative changes in the joints—and in the process, provides lasting pain relief and improved function. In a 2012 review article discussing glucosamine sulfate for knee arthritis, researchers noted that patients who had taken glucosamine for at least a year were 57 percent less likely to have joint replacement surgery during five years of follow-up, compared to participants who had taken a placebo.
Health & Healing subscriber H.C. is certainly a believer: “My general health is good, and I am very active, but a knee injury from my younger years eventually caught up with me so I started using a product that contains glucosamine sulfate and curcumin. Four years ago, my knee felt normal so I stopped taking it, and the pain came back. My doctor ordered an X-ray and told me that the results suggested a knee replacement. I did not want to go that route, so I started back on my supplement, and within weeks, the pain went away and stayed away.”
More Intensive Therapies
If you’re following these lifestyle and supplement suggestions yet you’re still having problems with arthritis, you may need professional help. The Whitaker Wellness Institute has a very effective multi-modality pain relief program that includes acupuncture, chiropractic, massage, infrared light, microcurrent, prolotherapy, platelet-rich plasma, and high-intensity laser.
Time and again I’ve seen weight loss, therapeutic exercise, nutritional supplements, and the right combination of office-based therapies relieve pain, restore function, and bring back a spring in the step, a twinkle in the eye, and renewed joy in the simple pleasures of life.
- Do everything in your power to resist taking opioid painkillers. Other drugs prescribed for arthritis are also problematic. COX-2 inhibitors should be strictly avoided, and over-the-counter NSAIDs and acetaminophen should be used for the briefest time possible.
- Weight loss and appropriate exercise are essential for the prevention and optimal treatment of osteoarthritis.
- Helpful supplements include glucosamine sulfate 1,500 mg, curcumin 1,500 mg (or Meriva curcumin phytosome 500–1,000 mg), fish oil 4–8 g (1.2–2.4 g of EPA/DHA), MSM 5,000–10,000 mg, and Univestin 500 mg. Take daily in divided doses.
- Look for these supplements in health food stores, online, or order by calling (800) 810-6655.
- To learn more about receiving treatment for arthritis or other types of pain at the Whitaker Wellness Institute, call (866) 944-8253.
- Hunter DJ, et al. Quality of osteoarthritis management and the need for reform in the US. Arthritis Care Res (Hoboken). 2011 Jan;63(1):31–38.
- Ringdahl E, Pandit S. Treatment of knee osteoarthritis. Am Fam Physician. 2011 Jun 1;83(11):1287–1292.
- Rovati LC, et al. Crystalline glucosamine sulfate in the management of knee osteoarthritis: efficacy, safety, and pharmacokinetic properties. Ther Adv Musculoskelet Dis. 2012 Jun;4(3):167–180.
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