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Pain Management

Dr. Oz’s Prescription for Managing Chronic Pain

Photo: Courtesy of Sony Pictures Televison

An estimated 1 in 5 people have chronic pain and using opioids to manage the condition can be devastating. TV’s Dr. Oz shared his top tips for natural pain relief.

What are some of the best natural remedies for pain relief?

  • Turmeric: Curcuma, an active ingredient in turmeric, is known to have pain-relieving effects in the body by inhibiting inflammatory substances and cytokines. One small study with close to 400 subjects found that 1500mg/day of curcuma extract is as effective as ibuprofen 1200mg/day for pain management in the treatment of knee osteoarthritis when a person takes it for 4 weeks.
  • Acupuncture: has been used in Asia for centuries to treat many conditions and relieve pain. It is often used for a variety of conditions like low back pain, nerve pain, headaches, menstrual cramps, and so much more. Even though it may not work for everyone, studies have shown that acupuncture is effective for a variety of conditions. 
  • Capsaicin: is derived from chili peppers. Topical application of capsaicin is commonly used to provide pain relief. Studies have found its topical use to be effective for osteoarthritis and neuropathic pain. It is thought that capsaicin can deplete a neuropeptide, which transmits pain signals and inflammation, substance P. 
  • Peppermint oil: is one of the most commonly used essential oils to treat headaches and migraine attacks. Menthol, active in peppermint oil, activates receptors that produce a cooling sensation. When menthol-containing products are applied to the head and face, certain receptors are activated to produce a reduction in pain sensation. In a small clinical trial, applying 10 percent menthol solution to the forehead and temporal area provided statistically significant pain relief in the treatment of migraine.

How can a person experiencing chronic pain find relief without taking an overabundance of medicine?

Many may not realize there are methods and options aside from medication to cope with and manage chronic pain.

  • Exercise: Studies have shown that exercise may reduce pain severity and improve physical function, both of which may increase quality of life for those with chronic pain. This may include gentle routine activity like walking, biking, and swimming. Aqua therapy can decrease joint compression forces and may reduce inflammation. 
  • Integrative techniques: Integrative techniques combine the power of breath, movement, and mindfulness to relieve pain by calming the mind. These techniques include yoga, tai chi, and acupuncture. A 2017 review found that acupuncture could reduce a patient’s need for opioids. 
  • Music: Studies have shown that music can reduce self-reported pain and depression symptoms in people with chronic pain.
  • Physical therapy: The practice of toning, strengthening, and stretching muscles with a physical therapist may reduce pain and improve overall muscle function.

Who should patients in pain turn to first when seeking medical advice?

You should bring up your chronic pain concern with your primary care physician first. Give adequate time for their treatment plan to help you out. If you are still experiencing similar pain after a few visits, you can talk to your doctor about seeing a pain management specialist. Their goal is to find the root cause of your pain and create a multidisciplinary treatment plan unique to you that includes further diagnostic testing, physical therapy, ongoing monitoring, and so on.  

How can CBD be effective in managing pain and the stress of living with pain?

Given the complexities of chronic pain management and the results of the opioid epidemic, physicians are eager to find safe and effective ways to treat pain.

Cannabis (most commonly obtained from the Cannabis indica and Cannabis sativa plants) has three major components: cannabinoids, terpenoids, and flavonoids. While there are more than a hundred different cannabinoids, the two major components are the psychoactive tetrahydrocannabional (THC), which provides the “high” feeling, and cannabidiol (CBD), which does not. 

CBD has been found to be effective for treating specific types of seizures and it may offer an option for treating different types of chronic pain. Animal studies have shown that CBD exerts its pain-relieving effects through its various interactions and modulation of the endocannabinoid, inflammatory, and pain-sensing systems. 

Small, portable and powerful TENS devices from Omron offer drug-free pain relief for sore or aching muscles of the lower back, shoulder, arm, leg and more.

An animal study from the European Journal of Pain showed that CBD applied on the skin could help lower pain and inflammation due to arthritis. Another animal study demonstrated the mechanism by which CBD inhibits inflammatory and neuropathic pain, two of the most difficult types of chronic pain to treat. However, more human studies are necessary to substantiate CBD for pain control.

What are some ways people living with chronic pain can have a better day-to-day life?

  • Develop good coping skills: Many people with chronic pain continue to live healthy, productive lives because they found ways to cope with their pain. This is often through alternative treatments like the ones mentioned above, or lifestyle changes like incorporating yoga. 
  • Find the right medication:You may not find the right medication that works for you to manage your pain right away. While this can be frustrating, make sure you are honest with your healthcare provider so they can find the right medication for you. 
  • Find ways of relaxing: Stress causes muscle tension, which can increase the amount of pain you feel. Try to identify the stressors in your life and find ways to reduce them. Attempt to incorporate meditation or guided imagery into your daily routine. 

How do you personally overcome any pain issues?

Many people with chronic pain sleep poorly. Insomnia and poor sleep are often directly related to chronic pain in many wide-scale studies. Once you start sleeping better, the pain starts to go away. 

Rather than resort to a sleeping pill or herbal medication, see if you can become involved with a sleep study that is covered by your insurance. Depending on your specific issues, the study can find ways to help you achieve better sleep. 

To lessen the effects of bad sleep, make sure to stretch for 10-15 minutes in the morning, as movement can also help ease chronic pain. A 10-minute hot shower to loosen muscles can also help after a restless night’s sleep.

How can people manage their pain at home if they aren’t comfortable seeing a doctor or going to a medical professional due to the pandemic?

It is estimated that 1 in 5 Americans suffer from chronic pain. Telemedicine has emerged as a convenient and effective way for physicians to provide services during the pandemic. Depending on your type and location of pain, healthcare providers may be able to instruct you on regular exercises that can help reduce pain. They also have the ability to prescribe medication or recommend useful over-the-counter medications that provide some relief. 

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