What is Chronic Pain?
Chronic pain, unlike acute pain, can last for months or even years. Chronic pain can drastically reduce quality of life, and unfortunately it is not always easy to determine the factors contributing to the pain.
Conventional medical treatments are wrought with adverse side effects, such as opioid addiction. Even over-the-counter drugs have been linked to adverse effects—acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of acute liver failure in the United States.
Pain can be broadly classified as nociceptive (resulting from activation of peripheral pain receptors) or neuropathic (resulting from injury or dysfunction in the nervous system). Nociceptive pain is intrinsically linked with inflammation, while neuropathic pain may be more difficult to treat.
Natural interventions such as honokiol and palmitoylethanolamide (PEA) may help relieve pain without the adverse effects common to pharmacologic pain therapy.
What are Conventional Medical Treatments for Chronic Pain?
- Behavioral therapy
- Biofeedback, and others
- Non-opioid pain relievers (eg, acetaminophen and/or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAIDs])
- Antidepressants (eg, tricyclics and serotonin-norepinephrine reuptake inhibitors [SNRIs])
- Antiepileptic drugs (eg, gabapentin, pregabalin, and other anticonvulsants)
- Muscle relaxants (eg, benzodiazepines)
- Topical analgesic agents
What Dietary Changes Can Be Beneficial for Chronic Pain?
Several types of dietary interventions have been linked with pain relief:
- Periods of fasting
- Low glycemic index diet (ie, high protein, low carbohydrate)
- Vegetarian/vegan diets
- Diet rich in antioxidants (fruits and vegetables)
What Natural Interventions May Be Beneficial for Chronic Pain?
- Honokiol. Honokiol, a polyphenol extracted from the bark of magnolia trees, has long been used to improve sleep and relieve anxiety. It may also help relieve inflammatory pain.
- Palmitoylethanolamide (PEA). PEA, a lipid present in tissues around the body, may be effective for relieving pain from many causes without adverse effects. Many clinical trials have demonstrated its effectiveness.
- Omega-3 fatty acids. Greater dietary intake of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids has been linked to a reduction in both inﬂammatory and neuropathic pain.
- Gamma linolenic acid (GLA). GLA, a plant-derived omega-6 fatty acid that helps modulate inflammation throughout the body, has been shown to relieve pain from a variety of conditions.
- B vitamins. Vitamins B1 (thiamine), B6 (pyridoxine), and B12 are beneficial for many painful diseases. A mixture of these vitamins has also been shown to reduce neuropathic pain.
- Vitamin C. Evidence suggests free radicals play a role in exaggerated pain hypersensitivity. Several animal and clinical studies indicate vitamin C may help relieve nociceptive pain.
- Vitamin D. Vitamin D metabolites help inhibit inflammation. Deficiency is linked with several painful conditions. Administration of vitamin D was found to reduce pain for women with chronically painful periods and may help relieve pain from other causes as well.
- Curcumin. Curcumin has been shown to have analgesic effects and may be useful for a variety of pathological pain conditions. It reduces levels of inflammatory mediators involved in nociceptive pain hypersensitivity.
- Ginger. Ginger has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties. Certain species can be helpful in reducing pain from muscle sprains, arthritis, menstruation, and others.
- Melatonin. Aside from its well-known role as “the sleep hormone,” melatonin is also a potent antioxidant and has been shown to reduce the pain associated with a variety of chronically painful conditions (eg, fibromyalgia, irritable bowel syndrome, and migraine).
- Additional natural compounds that may be helpful for managing chronic pain include vitamin E, proanthocyanidins (such as from grape seed), methylsulfonylmethane (MSM), and others.