The first question is, are they having pain much of the time, or only occasionally? The occasional use of an over the counter pain killer is not likely to cause a problem, unless the person is allergic or has had a problem with it in the past. However, the treatment of a muscle sprain is different than that for fibromyalgia, a more chronic painful condition. Treat the pain, but look for the cause too.
For frequent or chronic pain I recommend fish oil (or flax for my vegetarian friends), 2 capsules every four hours for pain relief. Fish oils can "thin" the blood. If you're on Coumadin or other blood thinners, or if you're about to have surgery, go easy on the fish oil.
If someone has chronic pain, as with arthritis, they must look for the underlying cause, which is often related to food allergies (dairy, eggs and wheat being the most common) or toxic metal accumulation which must be treated by a knowledgeable physician.
Many people have inflammation in the system which makes them more vulnerable to chronic pain. This can be caused by gum disease, chronic sinus infections, toxic chemical accumulations or a deficiency of antioxidant foods.
Some people are deficient in endorphins (a natural form of morphine produced in the body). these people are often helped with a regimen of the amino acid DL-phenylalanine,(DLPA) 500mg taken 2-3 times a day. Don't take this if you have blood pressure problems.
Others are adrenal hormone depleted from chronic stress, in which case an "adaptogenic" herb like licorice root, ashwaganda or ginseng would be helpful.
Certain foods have an anti-inflammatory effect. The full rainbow of fruits and veggies are full of antioxidants. Some of the best are blueberries, carrots, red grapes and wine, parsley, watercress, peppers and so on. Noni, goji berries and mangosteen are antioxidant "superfoods" that can be purchased in the supermarket.
Other suggestions to help people who would like to try more natural treatments for pain:
Stay away from caffeine, refined sugar, white flour and allergy foods. Drink lots of clean water, as dehydration causes pain in joints and spine. Detoxify yourself. Do stretching (yoga, Tai Chi) on a regular basis. Find a good bodyworker (massage, Rolfing, Structural Integration). Acupuncture is highly effective for chronic pain and has none of the side effects of drugs.
White willow is a natural form of aspirin but it has the same safety profile and can cause stomach problems. Homeopathic Arnica montana is a great treatment for sprains, bruises and sore muscles. It will prevent the soreness after a heavy workout when taken right after. It will reduce the need for drugs even after surgery. Two or three tiny pellets under the tongue is usually enough - may repeat if necessary if soreness happens. Extremely safe, it can be given to children and also to pets!
What ever else you do, make a strong effort to correct the habits that you have control over. Work with a qualified health care person who can help you get to the underlying cause of your pain, and don't take pain-killers any more than absolutely necessary.
Carol L. Roberts, MD
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