According to Ortho-McNeil Pharmaceutical’s National Pain Survey conducted in 1999, “An estimated 50 million Americans live with chronic pain caused by accident, disease, or disorder. And additional 25 million people suffer from acute pain” (Weiner, “Pain Issues: Pain is an Epidemic.”) Lower-back pain, bone/muscle pain, arthritis, and fibromyalgia are the most common complains, according to the survey.
U.S. physicians have commonly treated chronic pain with over-the –counter Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAIDs) like Ibuprofen and Naproxen, Acetaminphen (Tylenol) and powerful prescription opoids like hydrocodone and Fentanyl. But the myriad side effects of these medications-gastrointestinal distress, drowsiness, and liver damage are just a few-are leading many chronic pain sufferers to consider other alternatives.
COX 2 Inhibitors
COX-2 inhibitors-drugs that inhibit the production of Cyclooxygenase-2 “a key enzyme responsible for the inflammation response in the body” (Cox-2 Connection, Lavalle, ix) –are extremely popular and thought to carry fewer risks than traditional NSAIDs. However, it turns out that COX-2 inhibitors interfere with angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, which are “imperative to wound and ulcer healing” (LaValle, 54) And , like traditionall NSAIDs, they may affect the kidneys leading to :an increase in blood pressure and the incidence of hypertension, swelling and other cardiovascular problems: (LaCalle, 54)
Natural COX 2 Inhibitors
Many traditionally used herbs also have COX-2 Inhibition properties:
Feverfew, popular in the UK for arthritic ad rheumato8d joint inflammation and used worldwide for migraines.
Ginger, used for centuries in Brazil, China, Indonesia, India, New Guinea, Sudan and Thailand “to treat pain and fever associated with inflammatory disorders” (LaValle, 75)
Turmeric, which contains the powerful anti-inflammatory chemical curcumin, “and is about 50% as effective as cortisone.” LaValle reports that it is useful in the treatment of gout, carpal tunnel syndrome, swelling gallstones, and stroke. However, turmeric can cause gastrointestinal upset in some individuals.
Andrographis: A relatively new product is ParActin, which inhibits the gene responsible for the production of COX-2 and other chemical mediators responsible for inflammation. ParActin contains an extract of the Andrographis Paniculata plant which not only has COX-2 inhibiting qualities, but also protects the gastrointestinal tract from inflammation.
Fish Oil: The April 2006 issue of Surgical Neurology reports on a study in which a patented fish oil supplement manufactured in Norway was administered to 250 patients under a physician’s care. Most of the subjects suffered from degenerative disc conditions. After an average of 75 days of fish oil supplementation, 60% of respondents reported significant improvements, including reduction in overall pain, and 59% were able to stop taking other pain medicine. And none of the patients said they experienced significant side effects.
MSM (methylsulfonymethane) supplies our body with biologically active sulfur. The major metabolite of DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide), which is used around the world to treat arthritis, head and spinal cord injuries, an other pain-inducing conditions, MSM delivers similar relief without DMSO’s pungent odor. Its benefits include “inhibition of pain impulses along nerve fibers, lessening of inflammation, increasing blood supply, reduction of muscle spasm and softening of scar tissue”(10-11)