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THE INDUSTRIES OF PAIN RELIEF REMEDIES: PICK A LANE OR DABBLE WITH BOTH?

It seems fair to predict that one form of pain relief will never captivate the market so much as to make the other redundant. Whether it’s pharmaceutical pain relief medication or natural pain relief remedies, the market is divided enough in its preferences to make each an asset to the industry. It is very fair to ascertain though, that both are of equal necessity and can in fact serve different (but equally valuable) functions in terms of pain relief and overall health. So then, we pose the question: is there a need to stay in one lane, or can you pick and choose between the two respective industries of pain relief to accommodate specific needs? Or, (and I don’t mean to pry open Pandora’s box here), can we use them conjunctively? 

There is a selection of natural supplements and ingredients that have the ability to reduce pain and inflammation just as their pharmaceutical equivalents do. Turmeric is one of them – not just a trendy addition to an otherwise basic latte – but a spice that contains a compound called curcumin, which is known to decrease inflammation in major diseases like diabetes, heart disease and cancer. 

Fish oil is another supplement that can help decrease inflammation in the same major diseases. It can be tricky to obtain the quantity of omega-3 that you need to cause a reduction in inflammation in food, so supplements are very handy to absorb the quantities you need to make a difference to your overall health. 

Ginger is an easy enough spice to acquire – whether it’s in whole or supplement form – and is known to reduce the inflammation of several diseases. 

Spirulina had better be brimming with health benefits, or it belongs at the bottom of a cesspool. For most, the taste is extraordinarily vile. Quite frankly, I find that those who can stomach it are rarer than unicorns and stronger than The Hulk himself, but the research is in and it turns out it is a worthy ingestion. As an algae, spirulina is known to both reduce inflammation and strengthen the immune system. It is not known to facilitate world peace though, which is perhaps the only way you would ever find me drinking it. 

Pharmaceutical pain relief is generally only supposed to be taken to alleviate temporary bouts of pain (and therefore for a short period of time). The consequences of taking them for longer than the recommended time can be quite grave. The guidelines around the consumption of natural pain relief are usually not so restrictive. In fact, herbs, spices, and other forms of natural pain killers and anti-inflammatory ingredients are often recommended to incorporate into your regular diet. What natural remedies do that pharmaceuticals don’t, is act in a preventative manner. This means that their purposes can overlap perhaps as often as they can be drastically different. 

So let’s run through a few scenarios that may warrant the help of pharmaceuticals or natural supplements for the relief of pain:

Headaches: 

Nurofen would be an obvious choice to combat the pain of headaches. Aspirin, too. And because both of these forms of pain relief medication are NSAIDs (that is, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), they will reduce inflammation that would otherwise be caused by entry of a protein called COX, which would help produce prostaglandins and consequently, cause you more pain and inflammation. 

Magnesium is a very well-used and significantly more natural alternative to treating a headache. Available in supplement form, magnesium relaxes the muscles in your body, making it especially valuable for treating tension headaches.

Period Pain:

Products like Naprogesic and Advil are very popular for combating pain caused by periods for more or less the same reason they are for headaches; they are anti-inflammatory medicines (or NSAIDs) that stop the production of prostaglandins that cause you pain and inflammation. 

Magnesium is also a very valuable alternative to pharmaceutical pain relief medication for the treatment of period pain. Like with headaches, magnesium will relax the muscles that tighten and cause women so much pain around the time they are menstruating. It is the contraction of the uterine muscles that trigger the pain and inflammation women can often feel to varying degrees around this time. 

Flu:

Now you could clear out an entire chemist trying to treat the wide spectrum of possible flu symptoms. Between throat sprays or Strepsils to try and alleviate the burning in your throat, to Panadol and Advil to combat the general aching sensation associated with the flu and your general feeling of wellness, there are many pain relief medications that can ease flu symptoms. And usually, if you’ve had the flu even once, your house will never be devoid of them again. 

Any natural alternative will most likely target your immune system, causing you (ideally) to be rid of your cold or flu quicker than you might otherwise. Ingredients such as ginger, garlic, vitamin C and zinc are all credited for assisting in the easing of symptoms and strengthening of the immune system. Ginger, for example, is known to soothe a sore throat, and vitamin C (found in citrus-ey foods like oranges and lemons) can reduce phlegm and aid your immune system. 

As we’ve already established, both natural pain relief remedies and pharmaceutical pain relief medication are a necessary element in the treatment of pain and overall feeling of wellness. One form does not make the other redundant. So although sometimes there is a need that only one form of pain relief can serve, it is oftentimes possible, even encouraged to take natural forms of pain relief with pharmaceuticals. No medication will be able to strengthen your immune system the same way selective natural ingredients can, just as no natural supplement can target the cause of your pain with the same speed that selective medications can. So keep your pantry stocked with ginger and your bathroom vanity with Panadol. Just as the cute kid in the Old El Paso TV commercial once asked: why can’t we have both?

NB: If you are unsure, please consult a GP or healthcare professional before taking multiple forms of pain relief conjunctively. For pharmaceuticals, always follow the directions on the product.