What are NSAIDs?
NSAIDs or to give them their full name – nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs are a class of drug commonly prescribed and taken for pain. They include ibuprofen and naproxen as well as certain prescription only drugs. Millions of people take NSAIDs for a variety of painful conditions. They are commonly prescribed for arthritis as well as chronic muscle and joint pain. They are also used to deal with migraines, headaches, menstrual pain and various other inflammatory conditions.
The Risks of Taking NSAIDs
In 2015, the U.S Food and Drugs Administration or the FDA repeated their warnings regarding the potential heart health risks of these common pain killers. According to experts that does not mean you should be scared to ever use them and they help relieve pain for tens of millions of people. However, there is evidence that they can cause problems for your cardiovascular health especially for those at greater risk of a heart condition.
The Risks of NSAIDs
There is a well-established link between these drugs and heart health. Doctors typically inform their patients that NSAIDs can increase the risks especially in those with a heart disease history. The recent FDA warning can be summarized as follows:
- All NSAIDs other than aspirin are linked to increased risks of heart issues. This risk is higher in patients with a history of cardiovascular disease or those with other risk factors.
- It is not yet known which of the NSAIDs pose more of a risk but naproxen appears to present the lowest risk.
- Taking NSAIDs in higher doses for long periods of time increases the risk.
Several studies seem to show that those who take an NSAID are more prone to heart attack though the precise cause is not understood. This is especially the case for people with other risk factors of heart disease. These risk factors include:
- Being overweight
- History of heart attack or stroke
- High blood pressure
- High cholesterol
As well as increasing the risk of a heart problem, NSAIDs can cause other side effects. These include hearing loss, anemia, hypertension and miscarriage.
Tips for NSAID Use
Take only the dose that you need: You should not overdo your dose at first. Start off with the lowest dose and only increase your dose if it does not work.
Stop taking them as soon as possible: Of course people suffering with severe pains need relief but when that pain has eased off and is more of an ache, you should try other more natural treatments. A cold pack or a warm bath can do a great deal to ease your pain without the risk of side effects.
Natural Alternatives to NSAIDs
If your pain is less severe, then there are plenty of more natural options available. Instead of reaching for your prescription medications, you may like to try one of the following natural remedies.
Many herbs and plant based oils possess natural anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that can help relieve pain and inflammation. Unlike pharmaceutical NSAIDs, they pose far fewer risks of dependency and have a much lower risk of adverse side effects.
A number of studies have demonstrated that ginger contains some powerful natural anti-inflammatory compounds that are especially helpful for people with arthritis. In fact, a study published in 2013, suggests that ginger may be even more effective than certain NDAIDs in easing pain.
The study demonstrated that while prescription medications like ibuprofen can prevent inflammatory compounds from forming, ginger also blocks their formation. In addition, ginger also contains powerful antioxidant compounds that help to ease existing inflammation as well as breaking down acidity in the joint fluid. (1)
The study made use of both heated and raw ginger so try adding plenty to your food or using it to make a delicious, healthy tea. Ginger is also available in supplementary capsule and tincture form while the essential oil can be applied topically for pain relief.
Curcumin is the the active ingredient responsible for many of the health benefits linked to turmeric. Studies have showed that curcumin is a powerful natural anti-inflammatory and pain reliever. It works blocking the pain messages sent to the brain. Studies have demonstrated that curcumin is especially effective for people with rheumatoid arthritis and chronic pain. (2) (3)
Curcumin is available in supplementary form. A dose of around 400-600 mg to be taken three times daily is recommended for inflammation and pain relief.
Capsaicin is the compound found in chili pepper responsible for their got taste but it is also responsible for their health benefits. It has analgesic effects and is often applied topically to help ease joint, nerve and muscle pain. Like Curcumin, capsaicin works by blocking the pain signals from reaching the brain.
Capsaicin is available in the form of topical creams and gels in a variety of different strengths. You can apply it several times a day but expect it to sting a bit at first. The stinging pain usually subsides after using it for a while.
Boswellia also commonly referred to as Indian frankincense is derived from the beautiful Boswellia serrata tree. Boswellia is well-known for its excellent anti-inflammatory actions which it gets from its boswellic acid content. Several studies have demonstrated that boswellia can help significantly decrease the pain experienced by arthritis patients.
These therapeutic acids help ease inflammation and improve the flow of blood to the joints. It is regarded as an excellent remedy for people suffering with rheumatism, arthritis and muscle pain. Boswellia is available in a variety of forms including oral supplements and topical creams. Frankincense essential oil is also an excellent remedy for pain and inflammation when applied topically.
5) Cat’s Claw
Cat’s claw is another herbal remedy that can be used as an alternative treatment to deal with pain and inflammation. This South American herb works by blocking the body’s production of a substance called prostaglandin that contributes towards inflammation.
Cat’s claw is available in supplementary capsule form. The typically recommended dose for inflammation and pain is between 250 and 1000 mg taken between once and three times a day.
6) Devil’s Claw
Devil’s claw which is native to South Africa is another herb that has proven to be effective against various inflammatory complaints including muscular pain and arthritis. There is some research proving its ability to help with osteoarthritis, knee and hip pain.
In fact, one study published in the year 2000 found that a supplement called Harpadol containing devil’s claw compared favorably to a prescription pain killer – diacerhein. (4)
In Germany, devil’s claw has been approved as an over the counter treatment for arthritis and pain.
There is an ever increasing body of research into the pain relieving abilities of cannabis and cannabis oil. Numerous studies have demonstrated that cannabis helped provide effective pain relief when used by cancer patients as an adjuvant treatment. (5) (6)
Studies also show that patients who take cannabis are far less likely to need prescription medications such as strong opiates or NSAIDs to relieve their pain.
The availability of cannabis as a medical treatment will depend on the country or state in which you live. For a full review of the benefits of cannabis oil, please click this link.
8) White Willow Bark
White willow bark has long been used to treat pain and inflammation preceding aspirin by many long years. Like aspirin, the herb contains salicin which is converted in the stomach into salicylic acid. This helps to relieve inflammation, pain and fever. Unlike aspirin however, white willow bark does not irritate the stomach.
White willow bark is usually taken in tincture form. Check with an expert and read the label carefully to establish the best dose.
9) Essential Oils
A wide variety of essential oils are commonly applied to the body to help ease pain and inflammation related to various conditions including arthritis, rheumatism and chronic pain.
Many essential oils contain powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic actions that can help to treat your pain and relieve inflammation. Some of the best essential oils for pain and inflammation include frankincense, lavender, ginger and peppermint but there are many more to choose from.
Before applying your essential oil to your body, make sure that you dilute it well with a suitable carrier oil. You can then use the mixture as a massage oil to soothe your pain. Alternatively, you can add a few drops to your bathtub and let the goodness work its way into your body.