According to Journal Sentinel/MedPage Today, opioid pain-relievers prescribed to people aged 60 years and over has increased by 32 percent since 2007. While these drugs may temporarily mitigate pain, they do nothing to address its underlying cause. Furthermore, long-term use of narcotic pain relievers can lead to serious and sometimes debilitating side effects. Many patients do need opioid pain relievers, but they are often over-prescribed when other, safer natural options are readily available.
Risks of Prescription Pain Reliever Use in Seniors
More than 40 percent of people over the age of 65 take five or more prescription drugs each day. This greatly increases the risk of dangerous drug interactions caused by mixing medications or overdosing due to confusion or forgetfulness.
Narcotic pain-relievers sometimes pose serious health risks when used for long-term pain management.
These risks include:
- Neurological Impairment
Narcotic pain relievers are well-known for their negative impact on neurological health. This can result in forgetfulness, which may result in accidental overdose of medication. This impairment can also cause loss of balance, which often leads to falls and bone fractures.
- Personality Changes
A common side effect of long-term opioid use is personality changes. You or your loved one may exhibit social withdraw or sudden anger.
Long-term opioid users are at increased risk of unintentional overdose and suicide due to psychological impairment caused by the drug.
Natural Options for Treating Chronic Pain in Seniors
- Dietary Modifications
Oftentimes, the conventional medical community neglects to focus on how diet affects chronic pain. For my patients, I recommend a gradual removal of all highly-processed foods with inflammatory additives like high fructose corn syrup, MSG, aspartame, and food dyes.
I also suggest removing gluten, corn, and soy from your diet for a period of at least two months to test for hidden food sensitivities. After the two-month period is up, re-introduce the foods one at a time to test for a worsening of symptoms.
For inexpensive inflammation relief, add turmeric, ginger, garlic, onion, and raw, organic coconut oil to your diet. These can be used liberally in food to treat chronic pain. A spoonful of organic coconut oil taken each day as a dietary supplement acts as a powerful anti-viral and anti-inflammatory.
- Capsaicin Cream
Capsaicin is the active component in chili peppers that give spicy foods their ‘kick’. When applied to the skin in the form of a cream, it depletes substance P, a neurochemical that transmits pain, thereby desensitizing the person to pain.
According to a study published by the University of Oxford,[1. http://bja.oxfordjournals.org/content/90/6/812.full] capsaicin cream has been shown to relieve the symptoms of post-herpetic neuralgia, diabetic neuropathy, osteoarthritic pain, and trigeminal neuralgia.
- Pain-Relieving Natural Supplements
There are three natural pain-relieving supplements I always recommend to patients with chronic pain.
- Vitamin D3
According to a study published in the Scandinavian Journal for Primary Health Care,[2. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3347929/] patients living with chronic pain are often significantly deficient in this nutrient.
Many times, simply adding a high-dose vitamin D3 supplement is enough to reduce pain to the point that prescription drugs can be significantly reduced or stopped altogether, under the supervision of a physician.
Magnesium is responsible for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body. Multiple studies have shown that a high-quality magnesium supplement can be quite effective in relieving the pain, mood changes, and insomnia associated with fibromyalgia.
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Multiple studies have shown that balanced omega-3 fatty acids can help treat the symptoms of rheumatoid arthiritis by relieving joint pain, swelling, and morning stiffness. These important nutrients have also been shown to improve memory and mood.
- High-Quality Herbal Anti-inflammatory
Diamond Nutritional’s Inflamments Formula offers superior anti-inflammatory benefits without the potentially-dangerous side effects of many prescription drugs.
This safe, completely non habit-forming formula contains a synergistic blend of 4 powerful natural pain-relievers that stabilize your overactive immune system and encourage your body to heal itself.
These ingredients are:
Skullcap Root Extract
Skullcap root extract is a powerful antioxidant that inhibits prostaglandin 2, without interfering with your normal gastrointestinal function. In addition to providing powerful pain relief, this healing root extract eases the anxiety and muscle tension associated with chronic pain.
Bee Propolis Extract
Bee propolis extract contains caffeic acid phenethyl ester (CAPE), which strengthens your immune system while acting as a natural antioxidant and anti-inflammatory.
Turmeric Root Extract
Curcumin, the pharmacologically-active component of turmeric, limits the action of lipoxygenase and cyclooxygenase, which impedes enzymes in inflammatory pathways. Taken in conjunction with skullcap root and bee propolis, this simple kitchen spice offers a powerhouse of healing pain relief.
Graminex G60 pollen extract is a source of 10 essential amino acids, non-essential amino acids, and antioxidants. Laboratory studies have shown that Graminex G60 provides anti-inflammatory properties while relaxing smooth muscles and easing chronic tension and pain.
According to an article published in the Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine[3. http://online.liebertpub.com/doi/abs/10.1089/acm.2007.0815], a randomized controlled study revealed regular yoga practice causes a significant reduction in Oswestry Disability Index (ODI) scores. Seniors looking to avoid the potential side effects of prescription pain-relievers can look to yoga for a safe way to improve their flexibility, balance, and overall well-being.
You can get started with yoga by taking a class designed for seniors, renting a DVD from the library or following instructional YouTube videos.*
*As with any new exercise regimen, be sure to contact your healthcare provider for a go-ahead.
Entering your golden years should be a time of reflection, relaxation, and enjoyment of family and leisure activities. When you look to more natural options to treat your chronic pain, you’ll be more present and available for yourself and those you love.
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