For individuals living lifestyles that demand hard work, physical fitness or constant travel, it’s important to know how to manage aches and pains without risk of debilitating side effects. Due to the natural ramifications of itinerant or strenuous living, standard forms of pain medication (i.e. synthetic drugs) are an impractical choice, and could in fact do more harm than good.
Over the past few decades, even the most frequently prescribed synthetic painkillers have gained a degree of notoriety for their high risk of compromising side effects, which range from constipation to stomach ulcers.
What are some of the most common side effects associated with painkillers?
It’s important to know the side effects conventional painkillers might incur so you can avoid them or prepare for them if they happen. Even over-the-counter pain relievers can have many different side effects, including sleepiness, nausea and decreased appetite, because they affect how much fluid your body absorbs and how quickly it digests food.
If you take pain medication with acetaminophen in it, you should not drink alcohol while taking it because this increases the risk of liver damage. If you take a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), or celecoxib (Celebrex), you might experience side effects such as stomach irritation, an increased risk of bleeding or perforations in your gastrointestinal tract.
Some medications can lead to serious complications if you take them with other pain relievers. If you are taking these drugs, be sure to inform your doctor so he or she can monitor your condition closely. For example, you should avoid taking acetaminophen (Tylenol) with a prescription pain medication called codeine because the two drugs together can cause severe liver damage and permanent kidney failure.
Other painkillers have unavoidable side effects regardless of whether or not they are taken in combination with other medications. For example, they can cause drowsiness and dizziness that could result in injury if you drive or operate machinery. If you take this type of painkiller several times daily at the same time each day, it’s important to set an alarm so that you remember to take your next dose on time.
Opiates are powerful pain medications commonly prescribed by doctors to treat severe pain and chronic pain. Opiates work by binding to the central nervous system, resulting in suppressed sensitivity to pain. However, because of their direct effect on brain chemistry, these drugs can be addictive and lead to opiate withdrawal syndrome when not taken.
According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA), just under 50,000 people died of opioid-involved overdoses in 2019. Though opioids are considered effective, it’s crucial to understand the dangerous extent of their abuse potential.
Let’s go over three natural, practical alternatives to conventional painkillers, as well as their effects on acute or chronic pain and how they function on a neurophysiological level.
CBD is one of the most abundant cannabinoids in the cannabis plant; second only to tetrahydrocannabinol (THC). This naturally occurring compound can be sourced from both marijuana and hemp to create powder, isolate and concentrate products. For individuals with active, itinerant or survivalist lifestyles, a yearly purchase of wholesale CBD isolates is the most practical method of stocking up an ample supply for day-to-day use.
Aside from its therapeutic potential, scientific research has shown that CBD can be a viable form of treatment for both acute and chronic pain disorders. This is because of its interaction with the endocannabinoid system (ECS), which is a group of cell receptors, molecules and enzymes that work together to support many physiological functions such as sleep, mood and immune function — as well as the pain and inflammatory response.
Cannabinoids work by interacting with ECS receptors found in different parts of the body. CBD interacts specifically with cannabinoid type 1 (CB1) receptors, which are found in the brain and spinal cord. CB1 receptors influence the uptake and throughput of signalling molecules to the brain, as well as its sensitivity to neurotransmitters and hormones. CBD’s modulatory interactions with the ECS makes it beneficial not only against acute and chronic pain disorders, but associated inflammatory conditions like tendonitis and bursitis as well.
Unlike THC, CBD is non-psychoactive, which means it does not produce a “high” or intoxicant effect. This is often characterized by reduced coordination, impaired motor skills, a lost perception of time and general lethargy in some cases. While any of these effects would hamper the productivity of individuals with demanding lifestyles, you don’t have to be wary of CBD, which is not only non-psychoactive, but has no established adverse side effects either.
To ensure you’re getting the most out of CBD as a form of self-medication or health supplementation, be sure to use CBD isolates over full-spectrum CBD. The latter has lower overall potency due to the presence of secondary cannabinoids, terpenoids and flavonoids in its formulation. While isolates are pricier, it’s well worth it for a safe and effective alternative to synthetic painkillers.
Massage offers a different approach to treating pain for patients with chronic conditions. Massage therapy is a type of physical therapy that helps to relieve muscle tension and pain through gentle pressure and strokes. It also stimulates blood flow, reduces stress, improves mood, increases range of motion and boosts the immune system.
Full-time athletes aside, individuals with active lifestyles can significantly benefit from massage therapy even as infrequently as once a month. Its positive effects against daily wear and tear include:
- Eliminating tension on tight muscles By reducing muscular tension in the body, massage therapy can help reduce the amount of discomfort a patient is feeling as well as help them heal faster
- Improving flexibility in the body Stretching various muscles and joints can greatly reduce the discomfort of chronic pain as well as help patients gain better range of motion. Massage therapy will often work on different areas of the body with each session to ensure that all tight muscles are loosened up
- Reducing stress on the body and mind The gentle pressure and strokes used for massage therapy can be very relaxing, helping to calm a patient’s mind as well as taking their focus off their discomfort. Massage therapy can even improve the patient’s mood and energy levels, which can help to relieve peripheral effects of chronic pain such as feelings of stress or enervation
- Stimulating the immune system Massage therapy often involves the application of various oils into a patient’s skin to help spread their immune cells throughout the body, which will assist them in fighting off illnesses and infections
- Improving blood circulation in the body Improved circulation throughout the body will help increase the flow of oxygen and nutrients to where they are needed most, which is essential for reducing chronic pain and inflammation
A unique aspect of massage’s viability as an alternative to painkillers is how easy it is to learn to do yourself. With minimal time investment in books, manuals or web resources, gym partners, survivalist groups and even household members can learn to practice competent massage therapy amongst themselves. This makes it not only a safe and effective alternative to conventional painkillers, but potentially cost-free as well.
Depending on the legality of medical marijuana in the state you currently reside in, it could be a good choice for keeping aches, pain and inflammation at bay. In legal states, medical marijuana is frequently prescribed to treat everything from the pain of serious maladies associated with cancer to more common conditions like discomfort from arthritis.
The viability of medical marijuana as a natural painkiller comes from its abundance of the cannabinoid THC, as well as analgesic terpenes like linalool. Concentrations of the two vary by strain, so it pays to know which strains to select based on your intended use case.
Studies have shown that the analgesic effects of medical marijuana are not limited to non cancer-related pain disorders, and can benefit a variety of different conditions. This means that people who suffer from acute or chronic pain may find relief or at least decreased symptoms by using medical marijuana. This is because THC interacts directly with the central nervous system, which is where all incoming sensory data converges before being processed by other parts of the brain.
Cannabis reduces inflammation and decreases muscle spasms, making it easier for patients to rest without constant interruption from discomfort. Additionally, cannabis stimulates appetite which is important for patients who often lose weight due to metabolic disruption. Depression is a very common side effect of chronic pain, and using medical marijuana can improve mood levels as well as reduce anxiety from prolonged periods of being bedridden.
In states where both medical and recreational cannabis is legal, you don’t need a prescription to stock up on analgesic strains of cannabis. Good examples of pain-relieving strains include Harlequin, ACDC, Blueberry Kush, Cannatonic, Jack Herer and Blue Widow. These contain ample concentrations of THC and analgesic terpenes to relieve pain, as well as produce complementary entourage effects in the process.