Can herbal remedies for pain work as well as traditional medication? Every day you will read something online or in a paper or magazine about different side-effects, addictions and problems with certain medications but they all seem to be ones that people have to take long term.
In a previous post, I wrote about how I am seeing what I called a medicine man (a professor of medicine) as I have been on the same medication for a long time and as I can no longer have facet joint injections my pain has been much worse.
They say that normally side effects from a medication will happen in the first month of you taking them and vary from one person to another. In fact, the NHS writes that ‘All medicines can cause side effects, particularly if you don’t use them as advised. This includes prescription medicines, medicines you can buy over the counter, and herbal remedies and supplements.
Side effects can range from mild, such as drowsiness or feeling sick (nausea), to severe, such as life-threatening conditions, although these are rare. The risk of getting side effects varies from person to person.
You should check the leaflet that is provided with your medication to see if certain side effects could make it unsafe for you to drive or operate machinery’
So, unless it is something life-threatening it appears that whatever medication you take be it herbal or traditional the chances are it will have some form of side effect. If these side effects are something that you can live with and the medication is helping you then the chances are you will carry on taking it. Of course you can then end up taking more medication to help with your side effects. However, if you are in constant pain from any illness then whatever the side effects you will still take it to relieve your pain.
Another problem is the addiction to these drugs which seem to pop up on the media when it affects celebrities rather than jo public. Web MD point out that ‘It also plagues many people out of the spotlight who grapple with painkiller addiction behind closed doors.
But although widespread, addiction to prescription painkillers is also widely misunderstood — and those misunderstandings can be dangerous and frightening for patients dealing with pain.
Where is the line between appropriate use and addiction to prescription pain medicines? And how can patients stay on the right side of that line, without suffering needlessly?
The NHS list of seven of the most addictive pain killers –
A article in Good Housekeeping lists four reasons when painkillers really are your friend –
1. Some people say they want to see how the pain is, or don’t want to be knocked out, or to get addicted. Painkillers won’t deal with the fundamental problem, but lessening pain will allow you to get on with life. Taken safely and sensibly, there’s no reason to suffer stoically.
2. Take the lowest dose of the mildest painkiller, usually ibuprofen, aspirin or paracetamol. Read the instructions: if the standard adult dose is two tablets, and you just take one, it’s not going to do much good.
3. You probably know which painkillers suit you. But if you need an anti-inflammatory – for joint pain, sporting injuries – aspirin and ibuprofen work best.
4. Rather than stepping up the dosage or a stronger painkiller, it may be a good idea to combine a normal dose of two. Speak to your pharmacist for advice. An example is paracetamol plus ibuprofen.
Painkiller addiction tends to occur with codeine type painkillers. eg codeine, cocodamol, tramadol, solpadeine, as well as the gabapentin type drugs (GABA). GPs see a huge number of people with medication overuse headache, which is caused by painkillers. Signs of addiction might include: you’re at the doctor well before your prescription runs out, you take painkillers routinely rather than waiting for pain, you feel unwell if you don’t take them, you feel panicky if you don’t have a supply, you take them privately or secretly. If you’re worried, see your GP. It’s very important to be weaned off painkillers properly.
The NHS has a list of ten ways to reduce pain without medication –
- Get some gentle exercise
- Breathe right to ease pain
- Read books and leaflets on pain
- Counselling can help with pain
- Distract yourself
- Share your story about pain
- The sleep cure for pain
- Take a course
- Keep in touch with friends and family
- Relax to beat pain
At the end of the day we will all try different ways to manage and cope with long term/chronic pain, it’s getting the right balance which is the most important either using conservative methods, herbal or traditional medication. I personally have tried a number of herbal medications that have been in the news recently but they made no difference to me and yet worked wonders for a friend with a hip problem.
Whatever you try you should first see your GP and go through all the options available and don’t give up after a couple of doses just because of the side effects, give the treatment time to work and you never know you might find a concoction of medications/treatments will work great for you.