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Getting Rid of Pain—Safely

If you've ever tripped and sprained your ankle, you know how excruciating the resulting pain can be. It's torture to put the smallest amount of weight on your injured foot. Pain is nature's way of getting your attention, keeping you from increasing the likelihood of damage to the sprained muscles and ligaments, and forcing you to allow the injured tissue to heal.

The acute pain associated with sprains can develop into a chronic condition as the result of poor treatment or other health problems, such as arthritis, multiple sclerosis, or fibromyalgia, and last for weeks, months, even years. It occurs when the nerves that transmit pain impulses to the brain for long periods of time become "trained" to deliver the pain signals. Just like muscles that get stronger with continued exercise, the nerves become more effective at sending pain signals and the brain becomes more experienced at recognizing them. This constant, heightened state of sensitivity is no longer just getting your attention, it's actually causing damage to the nervous system's pain pathways.

Patients who need relief from acute or chronic pain, have many pain medicines available to them. While most are effective, none are completely safe—they all have side effects. Even over-the-counter (OTC) medications have significant side effects.

A good example is Tylenol® or acetaminophen. Though a common pain and fever reliever, taking 4,000 milligrams (eight 500 mg tablets) daily—the maximum dose—can cause serious, even fatal liver disease. In fact, acetaminophen overdose is one of the leading causes of liver failure in the United States. Acetaminophen should never be used by people who have existing liver disease, who consume more than a daily drink of alcohol, and should not be taken with aspirin or ibuprofen. Another real danger is that many combination products, such as sinus medications and sleep aids, contain acetaminophen, so many people are completely unaware of how much they are taking in a day.

  • Aspirin and ibuprofen (called NSAIDs or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) can damage the lining of the stomach. And because aspirin interferes with your blood's ability to clot, it can increase your risk of harmful bleeding.
  • Vioxx (rofecoxib), a prescription COX-2 selective NSAID, recently removed from the market by its maker Merck & Co., was shown to increase the risk of cardiovascular problems, including heart attack, stroke, sudden death, and blood clots.
  • Celebrex (celecoxib) and Bextra (valdecoxib), the other prescription COX-2 selective NSAIDs, remain on the market despite the similarity of these drugs to Vioxx. The FDA warns that patients using these drugs longer than two weeks should be monitored closely by their physician.
However, you do not have to choose painrelief over further harm to your health. As a specialist in the areas of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia (CFS/FM), I learned that once the underlying causes of my patients' pain are identified, they can achieve complete relief.

As part of my pain management protocols, I recommend several safe and effective medicinal plants and herbs, particularly white willow bark. This pain-relieving plant contains the active ingredient, salicin, which converts to salicylic acid in your body. Salicylic acid is a natural medicine that has been used for centuries to relieve pain and inflammation from diseases, like arthritis, as well as injuries. Salicylic acid and the active ingredient in aspirin–acetylsalicylic acid–work in essentially the same way. However, all-natural salicylic acid doesn't cause stomach bleeding or the other known adverse effects of its synthetic equivalent. Though it may take a little longer for white willow to work, its pain-relieving effects may last longer.

Cherry extract is another all-natural pain reliever. Anthocyanins both give cherries their pretty hue and rid the body of pain and inflammation. Cherry extract helps shut down the enzymes that cause tissue inflammation in the first place, preventing and treating many kinds of pain, like arthritis and gout.

The natural pain reliever, Boswellic gum resin extract (from the Boswellia serrata tree), is a powerful anti-inflammatory and vascularsupporting herb. It relieves headaches by opening up the blood vessels that are constricting and causing the pain. This extract also blocks the formation of leukotrienes, other chemicals made in the body that cause inflammation and pain. Also, it is one of the rare treatments that decreases elastase, an inflammatory mediator found to be elevated in those with fibromyalgia.

My patients achieve the best results when they use standardized forms of these all-natural pain relieving herbs:
  • Boswellia standardized to contain 70 percent boswellic acids
  • Cherry fruit 10:1 extract
  • White willow that's standardized to contain 30 percent salicin
The best pain relief comes when patients use these three standardized herbs together. That's because pain and inflammation often create a "cascade" in the human body—a trickle of pain that builds to a stream joined by a surge of inflammation, thus combining forces, causing on-going and unrelenting misery. Research shows that the best way to halt this cascade is to use medicines that work synergistically to stop both pain and inflammation. The combined power of white willow, cherry extract, and Boswellia extract provide this synergistic relief.

These gifts from Earth's garden can be wonderful for patients who are suffering with minor pain, such as scrapes, to major acute and chronic conditions, like fibromyalgia, arthritis, and back and neck pain.

In fact, over 85 percent of American adults below the age of 50 suffer from back pain. Regardless of its cause (medical conditions, over-use, or injury), the white willow, cherry extract, and Boswellia extract combination can safely and effectively reduce back and neck pain, especially when combined with the other treatments for back pain discussed in my new book, Pain Free 1-2-3!

And with more than 100 other plants, herbs, vitamins, nutrients, and prescription medications available to safely and effectively reduce pain, there is no shortage of options. Pain Free 1-2-3! is a step-by-step guide to eliminating many of the underlying causes of your pain, as well as to learning exactly which treatments are most likely to help. In fact, in our "gold standard," placebo-controlled study of fibromyalgia patients, most were pain free within 100 days!

Take the steps to learn to feel better, increase your vitality, and acquire a life that you love.