Conquering Chronic Pain: Expert Insights & Proven Remedies

Woman holding her head because of chronic pain.

Chronic pain is an issue many grapple with, and unfortunately, a majority of physicians struggle to manage it effectively. Often, they prescribe medications and fail to discontinue them, even when aware of the significant side effects. I’m here to share the insights I’ve gained about chronic pain from my 16 years in the field of obesity medicine. I’ll explain what works, what doesn’t, and the lessons learned from treating patients with pain.

One of the most prominent challenges posed by chronic pain is its tendency to limit movement. Indeed, nothing hampers mobility quite like chronic pain. For instance, if walking causes knee pain, individuals are inclined to walk less or might even resort to using aids like walkers or wheelchairs. Reduced movement, in turn, can lead to muscle atrophy. To stave off chronic pain from the onset, it’s crucial to maintain regular physical activity.

Additionally, chronic pain adversely affects sleep. Inadequate sleep can then impact mood due to lowered serotonin levels. This can further influence food cravings, dietary choices, and ultimately, weight gain. Recognizing this cascade of effects underscores the importance of addressing pain effectively and employing the right strategies to alleviate it permanently.

The 6 Types of Chronic Pain

Pain that persists daily for over three months is termed chronic. Recognizing different pain types is crucial since each requires unique treatment methods. The six types of chronic pain include, neuropathic, musculoskeletal, inflammatory, mechanical, nociceptive and psychogenic. 

Chart of the different types of chronic pain.

Remedies for Chronic Pain

When it comes to pharmaceuticals, it’s essential to understand how they work, how long to take them, and how much to take. The most common pharmaceuticals I encounter are NSAIDs or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. If you experience pain accompanied by inflammation, you’ve likely used drugs like Motrin, Ibuprofen, Advil, Naproxen, or Aleve to alleviate swelling and pain. These medications function by inhibiting certain enzymes that trigger pain in the body. However, I’ve observed that some individuals who have been on these drugs for an extended period at high doses are experiencing kidney issues. If I hadn’t reviewed their bloodwork, they would remain unaware of the underlying problems. That’s why it’s crucial to minimize NSAID consumption and always take them with food.

Another effective remedy for chronic pain is SPMs or specialized pro-resolving mediators. These primarily derive from fish oil, which benefits the joints, metabolism, and brain function. SPMs have been found to significantly improve joint comfort, sleep, and mood. I have utilized SPMs to wean people off medications ranging from powerful opioids to simpler pain relievers like Tylenol and Motrin. The remarkable thing about SPMs is their lack of side effects. I haven’t encountered a single patient who needed to discontinue it due to adverse reactions. What I hear most often is, “I can’t believe how effective these are!”

Interested in a natural approach to managing chronic pain? Consider turmeric and curcumin. Turmeric is a delightful yellow spice. A component of turmeric, known as curcumin, is particularly effective against arthritis and chronic inflammatory pain. However, given the wide variety of turmeric types available, caution is essential when buying these over the counter. 

Supplements don’t undergo the same rigorous regulation as pharmaceutical medications. Disturbingly, tests often detect lead in store-purchased turmeric and curcumin supplements. Lead, as you may be aware, is neurotoxic and can harm the heart, brain, and kidneys. If you opt for a pill form of this substance, ensure it’s of medical-grade quality.

Can Pain Medication Cause Weight Gain?

Anti-seizure medicines, such as Neurontin or gabapentin, are often prescribed for neuropathic pain. If you have issues like a slipped disc causing numbness and tingling, you might be prescribed one of these medications. However, many individuals begin to put on weight after starting these medications. In my weight loss practice, I assess the quantities of these drugs and aim to minimize their use.

We frequently encounter individuals taking medications like amitriptyline or nortriptyline for chronic pain. These medicines can lead to significant weight gain, so they are best avoided for extended periods. Other drugs, such as Cymbalta, Celexa, and Zoloft, prescribed for pain can also result in weight gain. We must be careful when prescribing antidepressants like these because they don’t affect each person the same way. In some cases, they can even negatively impact mood.

Weight loss itself can significantly impact chronic pain. First, it addresses the mechanical effects of pain. With less weight, there’s reduced pressure on the vertebrae, leading to a more upright posture and less compression on the joints. Furthermore, a weight loss of 5-10% can not only alleviate these mechanical issues but also reduce the inflammation caused by obesity. For instance, if you weigh 200 pounds, losing just 10 to 20 pounds can significantly reduce your inflammation and pain. Shedding just one pound from your body relieves 10 pounds of pressure off your back, 8 off your hips, and 6 off your knees! Imagine the relief from just a modest amount of weight loss!

Ending the Cycle of Chronic Pain

If you’re taking medication for chronic pain, it’s essential to communicate with your doctor. If your symptoms have improved, discuss the possibility of reducing your dosage. If you’re unsure why you’re on a particular medication, seek clarity and determine whether it’s still necessary. 

Bear in mind that the prolonged use of pain medications can result in complications such as weight gain and kidney issues. In treating one condition, you could unintentionally trigger another. So always prioritize safe and effective alternatives. Remember, not all supplements are of high quality, and just because something is marketed as beneficial doesn’t mean it is. Exercise caution, stay informed, and recognize the significant role of weight loss in managing pain and inflammation—it might be the cornerstone of your health journey!

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