The Problems of Painkillers
Some traditional medical treatments of chronic pain or injury involve over-the-counter or prescription painkillers. The side effects of these pills may range from liver damage and ulcers to full-blown addiction. They also do not treat the underlying cause of the problem, and a quick fix is not always the answer. Chiropractic care can be an alternative to painkillers by using exercises, nutrition, and rehabilitative exercises to address the reasons for the pain.
Prescription pain medication, such as narcotics and opiates, could cause serious side effects, addiction, and withdrawal issues. Overdoses can kill.1 Over-the-counter pills are not necessarily safe, either. Acetaminophen, for example, when taken incorrectly, might cause liver damage, especially if one consumes too many pills or too much alcohol with the pills. It can also increase bleeding when taken with certain other medications.2
Ibuprofen and naproxen are other popular non-aspirin pain relievers. Along with aspirin, they are considered NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These could cause stomach upset, diarrhea, and even ulcers, increased blood pressure, or severe allergic reactions. They also cause problems when taken with alcohol and blood-thinning medications. Aspirin is linked to Reye’s syndrome in children, which can cause brain, kidney, and liver damage. Only children over the age of two can safely take the correct dose of aspirin, and children recovering from flu-like symptoms and chickenpox should not take aspirin.3 With all pills, the underlying causes of the pain are not addressed, and the risks and side effects of taking medication often outweigh the possible pros.
Chiropractic Care Can Replace Meds
Whether the pain is caused by a menstrual, joint, headache, leg, back, neck, or muscle source, chiropractic care can address the issues behind the discomfort. “Chiropractic is the largest alternative/complementary health profession in North America,” according to Dr. Theo Kieu. “Chiropractic is not a treatment or a cure. It gives people the opportunity to be healthy by removing interference in their nervous system.”4 Chiropractors work to reduce the inflammation causing the pain, and also to regain flexibility and strength with exercises. Chiropractic care is especially effective in resolving lower back pain.5 Some doctors prescribe narcotics and opiates to patients as young as teenagers for issues such as sports injuries. This could lead to addiction issues and illegal drug-seeking. Pills are likely to leave patients drowsy and inattentive. Chiropractic care offers a “natural and addiction-free option”.6
In fact, in a 2012 study in The Annals of Internal Medicine, funded by the National Institutes of Health, it was found that “Chiropractic care and simple neck exercises done daily at home were much better at reducing pain than taking pain medications like aspirin, ibuprofen or even strong narcotics.” The key part of this is that chiropractic, along with exercise, are treatments that a patient can do for themselves, at home.7 They are options that can be practiced over a lifetime, reducing medical visits and costs. They also avoid the toxicity and addiction issues that medications can cause, and they address the root causes of the pain.
Supplements as Alternatives to Painkillers
In addition to treatment and exercises received and recommended by the chiropractor, there are some natural alternatives to painkillers. Turmeric may be cooked with, added to tea, or taken in the form of a capsule at 1-2 grams per day. Turmeric curbs inflammation. Devil’s claw root, taken in 30-100 mg., might ease pain in the low back and common arthritis discomfort. Capsaicin, found in chili peppers, may be found in skin cream to soothe back pain while supplement pills could ease diarrhea and cramps. Comfrey extract can also be made into a skin cream for pain, though it should not be taken by mouth.8 White willow bark is a good alternative to aspirin when it is found in tea or capsule forms. Boswellia, another tree-related supplement, has been found to reduce the effects of headaches in some people.
Feverfew and butterbur might treat migraine pain, but more studies need to be conducted.9 Borage oil, which is taken from the starflower, has been shown in studies to reduce the negative activity of rheumatoid arthritis. Evening primrose is similar to borage in that it also reduces the effects of rheumatoid arthritis as well as anti-inflammatory properties. Fish oil is yet another supplement that acts similarly to borage and evening primrose when tested for its effects on rheumatoid arthritis.
Ginger, taken in either supplement or tea form, is used to treat most things from “colds and digestion to migraines and hypertension”. Ginger can also be taken with some medications that have nausea or vomiting side effects to alleviate those side effects. Rosemary, often applied topically, may relieve muscle pain and treat indigestion. The Mediterranean shrub also contains antioxidants that could reduce bodily inflammation. King of bitters, taken in 30mg tablet form three times daily, is known for its anti-inflammatory, anti-viral, anti-oxidant, and antibacterial properties. It is used to treat diseases that are infectious, fevers, and upper respiratory infections.10
Find out more about risks of acetaminophen.