Here's where I insert some gimmicky blurb about how you don't have to suffer in pain and if you try this treatment all your pain problems will disappear. Well, you probably don't need another ad telling you what's best for you. The title was to grab your attention; because let's face it, shameless marketing excites our curiosity. However for this article, I'm going to give you the facts and simply educate you about other pain-relief options. By the end, YOU be the judge as to whether you think this may help you.
What is pain?
I'll attempt to explain as simply as I can, but please note, pain is no simple process.
We can all agree pain is a sensation, often described as uncomfortable, that makes us notice what is happening in our bodies. Pain is a message...a communication between the brain and body. Pain is not what is released by your actual tissues, but rather, what is perceived by your mind. That's right folks, pain is all in your head! Its significance is a very complex protective mechanism. For the purposes of this article, most of us experience pain as an alert to stop or change a behavior in order to protect our bodies from further harm or injury. However, that is only the tip of the iceberg about our understanding of pain, and beyond the scope of this article.
How big an issue is pain?
Pain is a huge problem in our society! Millions of people suffer from muscle and joint pain everyday. Did you know 1 in 4 Americans have suffered from pain lasting more than 24-hours (1)? Pain affects more Americans than diabetes, heart disease, and cancer...COMBINED! Chronic pain is the most common cause of long-term disability. Pain costs us billions upon billions of dollars every year in healthcare expenses, time-off from work and/or school, funding for development of new treatments and therapies, decreased quality of life, and DEATH (2). Wait! Did I say...Yes...I said death.
Are people dying from pain?
Not necessarily pain itself, but from the treatments for pain. How many of you reading this are taking a prescription pain medication right now-oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, morphine, and fentanyl to name a few?
Drug overdose is the leading cause of accidental death in the US, with 52,404 lethal drug overdoses in 2015 (3). Opioid addiction is driving this epidemic, with 20,101 overdose deaths related to prescription pain relievers. Now, I'm probably going to offend some folks when I say this, but this has to asked. Do you really think getting high and numb is the best way to address your pain? Do prescription pain meds even fix your pain?? Of course not! Hence why so many people are still suffering with pain and dying from drug overdoses.
What about cortisone injections? Are they any better? Nope! Studies found cortisone injections to be no better at pain-relief than placebo (4). Again, just a temporary fix for pain-relief; and in time, repeated injections can cause bone loss and further tissue and nerve injury.
If you fail to address the root cause of an issue and instead opt to ignore the issue, then you'll never find the true solution. So ask yourselves, have you and your doctor actually addressed and solved your pain, or are you both ignoring it with temporary quick-fixes?
What is the cause of most musculoskeletal pain?
Most muscle and joint pain are caused by weakened ligaments and tendons. These tissues are like the "glue" that attach your muscles and bones together. There are many reasons why ligaments and tendons can become weak. The most common causes are trauma, activities causing overuse, decrease production of collagen, aging, improper nutrition, autoimmune triggers and even certain medications. As a naturopathic doctor, I address all those potential factors and more. Once we take the steps to strengthen your weakened tissues, then there is a high likelihood your pain will resolve. Doesn't that sound way better than taking highly-addictive and life-threatening medications, or receiving ineffective injections that could worsen pain?
So finally, what are Prolotherapy and Platelet-rich plasma therapy?
Prolotherapy, formerly called sclerotherapy, is not a new or quack therapy. Physicians began using it in the 1930s for treating injuries and healing pain. Since then, many clinical studies have demonstrated prolotherapy as an effective treatment for arthritis, musculoskeletal injuries, and more! Prolotherapy works by precise injection of a mild irritant solution into the site of torn, stretched, or weakened ligament and/or tendon. The solution stimulates the body’s natural healing response and allows for new tissue to grow in the weakened area. This leads to stronger ligaments and/or tendons, decreased pain, and increased mobility. Prolotherapy is given as a series of injections, given every 4-6 weeks, until the injury has either fully healed or significantly improved.
PRP Therapy works similarly to prolotherapy, except, the solution injected into the tissues is a blood product obtained from the patient by withdrawing their blood and using a centrifuge to separate platelet-rich plasma from the whole blood. The platelet-rich plasma contains growth factors and immune cells, which may promote faster healing and tissue regeneration. As such, there are usually less injections given; however, office visits are longer and more expensive than prolotherapy. PRP injections are best for moderate to severe injuries, and for those who may be allergy-sensitive since PRP comes from the patient's own body.
Are there any other non-surgical and non-drug therapies for pain-relief?
Yes, many! Other evidence-based and effective pain-relief options include the following, but not limited to:
- Naturopathic Medicine: using herbs, lifestyle changes, physical medicine, and more!
- Exercise therapy
- Pain Education