We are a nation of pain! Three out of ten US adults suffer from chronic back or neck pain, and one in four report severe arthritic joint pain. One in six Americans complain of chronic migraines. The top medications used in the United States target pain relief, including NSAIDS like Tylenol or Ibuprofen and opioid medication like Vicodin. While we are grateful to have access to these meds when we need them, there is a significant downside to taking them over extended periods.
Studies show aspirin and NSAIDS quickly lower inflammation in the short-term, but actually increase it in the long-term! In addition, NSAIDS are known to increase the risk of stroke and clotting disorders. The side effects of opioids are well-known, including constipation, dry mouth, drowsiness, hallucinations, and addiction.
Fortunately, there are better and more natural ways to treat our pain, especially when we understand that the source of all pain is inflammation. In a healthy inflammatory response, white blood cells are dispatched to the affected area, resulting in redness, swelling, and pain. This response to harmful stimuli enables the body to clear out dead and injured cells and initiate tissue repair.
The problem arises with prolonged stresses when the inflammatory response starts to self-perpetuate. Too much “runaway” inflammation is associated with many and varied diseases, from periodontal disease to atherosclerosis to osteoarthritis. Are there ways to turn off inflammation running amok in our body, without the damaging, unwanted side effects of medication?
Yes! One powerful method is acupuncture. The Vagus nerve stretches from your brain through your spine and entire digestive tract. Strong clinical evidence shows that vagal nerve stimulation inhibits pain signals in the brain and helps release natural pain-relieving opioids—flipping that “runaway” inflammatory switch back off again. A 2017 research study involving over 20,000 participants looked at treating pain with acupuncture and found it to be not only effective but with long lasting results.
Diet is critical; not many understand that a great deal of inflammation is driven by processes in our gut. Clinically, I cannot count how many patients I have seen dramatically reduce or eliminate their joint or other body pain through diet changes. Sugar and alcohol act like wildfire in an inflamed body, but any potential food allergy or sensitivity can unleash a torrent of inflammation. Certain foods like tomatoes and potatoes are also known to worsen joint pain.
Suffering from chronic pain? Dependent on NSAIDS or other pain meds to get through the day? At Vital Health we dig deep to uncover the sources of your inflammation. Then we use acupuncture, dietary recommendations, and supplements to help you regain a pain-free life again.
©2023 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.