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The High Cost of Pain
The High Cost of Pain
A recent study in the August 2012 issue of the Journal of Pain showed that the economic costs of pain in the United States are almost $600 billion a year—a staggering figure that is more than the total costs of cancer and heart disease combined. Yet most physicians are very poorly trained in treating pain and have been indoctrinated with a belief that holistic practitioners who can help pain patients must be quacks. It’s no surprise, then, that around one quarter of adult Americans suffer with inadequately treated pain.
Unfortunately, the main treatment approach for pain that physicians are taught is to prescribe medications called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), like ibuprofen. Sadly, more than 30,000 Americans die unnecessarily each year from these medications, including an estimated 16,500 deaths a year from bleeding ulcers, according to a 1998 review in the American Journal of Medicine. Meanwhile, a 2011 British Medical Journal study of more than 100,000 people showed that NSAIDs can increase heart attack and stroke risk by well over 200 percent.
The good news? You don’t have to wait for your doctor to learn how to treat your pain naturally, safely and at a lower cost. You can do it yourself. Here are a few examples of natural solutions for common sources of pain.
- Migraines. In a 2012 issue of the journal Neurology, the guidelines for standard prevention of migraines include butterbur, magnesium, vitamin B2 and coenzyme Q10. It is gratifying that even the very traditional American Academy of Neurology is now recognizing the research supporting these natural therapies.
- Arthritis. A controlled study presented at the 2011 Osteoarthritis Research Society Interational conference showed that a combination of a high-absorption curcumin (BCM 95) and the herb boswellia was far more effective than the drug Celebrex in treating knee arthritis. Numerous other studies have also shown the benefits of glucosamine, chondroitin, willow bark, boswellia and other herbs in treating arthritis pain.
- Muscle pain. Muscle pain affects those with fibromyalgia, a condition that can be very effectively treated using natural therapies, as well as a combination of natural therapies and safe medications. This was documented in my 2001 placebo-controlled study published in the Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, which showed that treating the underlying causes of the pain with what we call the SHINE Protocol resulted in an average 90 percent improvement. In fact, most people no longer qualified as having fibromyalgia by the end of the study. Another study published in a recent issue of the Open Journal of Pain showed that ribose not only significantly decreased fibromyalgia pain, but it also increased energy an average of 61 percent after three weeks. So treating the underlying causes of pain is often even more important than masking the pain.
Treating pain’s causes with the SHINE Protocol
Pain is like the red flashing oil light on the body’s dashboard, telling us that something desperately needs attention. When you have a broken leg or touch a hot stove, the source is obvious. When there is no clear physical or structural cause, think SHINE. This stands for:
- Sleep. For pain to go away, it’s critical to get eight hours of sleep a night.
- Hormonal deficiencies. It is often necessary, albeit controversial, to treat with thyroid, adrenal, ovarian and testicular hormones despite normal blood tests. (These hormones have been found to be reasonably safe when used in low doses.)
- Infections & inflammation. Many studies have shown immune system dysfunction in individuals with fibromyalgia, resulting in infections that drive pain. In addition, inflammation caused by a host of factors is a common cause of many types of pain.
- Nutritional supplementation. Because the Western diet consists of highly processed foods, nutritional deficiencies are a common problem. In addition, bowel infections can cause poor nutrient absorption, and illness can cause increased nutritional needs.
- Exercise as tolerated. In the beginning, walk as much as you can so that you feel "good tired" afterward—meaning comfortably recovering the day of exercise and better still the next day.
These simple measures can help you get pain free now, and cut down on the overwhelming cost of pain—without resorting to risky medications.
Dr. Teitelbaum is medical director of the national Fibromyalgia and Fatigue Centers and Chronicity, author of the popular free iPhone application “Cures A-Z,” and author of the best-selling book From Fatigued to Fantastic! (Avery/Penguin Group) and Pain Free 1-2-3—A Proven Program for Eliminating Chronic Pain Now (McGraw- Hill), and Beat Sugar Addiction NOW! (Fairwinds Press, 2010). His newest book is Real Cause, Real Cure (Rodale Press, July 15, 2011. Available at RealCauseRealCure.com). Dr. Teitelbaum does frequent media appearances including Good Morning America, CNN, Fox News Channel, the Dr Oz Show and Oprah & Friends. He lives in Kona, Hawaii. For more information visit EndFatigue.com.
October 25th, 2012