More Americans are afflicted with chronic pain than cancer, diabetes, and heart disease combined, according to the National Centers for Health Statistics and the American Academy of Pain Medicine.
Unlike acute pain, where the nervous system signals that the body has recently experienced an injury, chronic pain persists for days, months, or even years. The prevalence of on-the-job injuries and job-related stress makes police officers susceptible to developing chronic pain.
Because of differences in skeletal structure, brain chemistry, hormones, and other factors, women are more likely to develop chronic pain than men. Conditions such as fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, vulvodynia, interstitial cystitis, endometriosis, lupus, and chronic fatigue syndrome cause pain and are linked to depression. Stress, inadequate sleep, and weather changes can make pain worse. Pain makes the body produce cortisol, a hormone that causes inflammation. Cortisol also suppresses the immune system. When you are in pain and depressed, it is difficult to be an effective law enforcement officer.
Several medications prescribed to treat chronic pain are habit forming, and anti-inflammatory medications such as NSAIDS can cause gastrointestinal bleeding. My previous post discussed how following a healthy diet that incorporates anti-inflammatory foods can help reduce pain and inflammation. Supplements mentioned below bolster the immune system and reduce pain. The supplements can be purchased at your local health food store or online.
Lactobacillus acidophilus and bifidobacterium breve are beneficial bacteria that reside in the intestinal tract of healthy people. Antibiotics, food poisoning, parasites, and yeast such as candida can kill these beneficial bacteria, causing inflammation and irritation in the intestines. Inflammation in the gut makes you more vulnerable to developing food allergies. Inflammation in the gut also causes pain, and because about 70 percent of the immune system's cells are found in the intestines, when the gut environment is out of balance the whole body is more prone to illness.
Take probiotics each day to bolster your immune system, improve your digestion, and help reduce your pain. Some people eat yogurt and kefir as a source of probiotics, but much of the beneficial bacteria in these products is killed by stomach acid. Plus, yogurt and kefir contain lactose (milk sugar) and casein (milk protein), substances some people can't tolerate. Instead of yogurt or kefir, take a dairy free probiotic capsule or pearl designed to withstand stomach acid.
Methylsulfonylmethane (MSM Sulfur)
This is an organic form of sulfur that helps reduce inflammation and pain, relax muscles, improve circulation, bolster the immune system, and strengthen joint and skin structure. Because MSM lubricates joints and the intestines, it can be used to help the body expel some parasites. MSM is an antioxidant, and people who regularly take MSM have noticed that it makes hair look shinier and reduces hair loss. Researchers are studying MSM to determine whether it also may help prevent cancer.
This shellfish-free form of glucosamine is a component that's naturally found in intestinal and joint tissue. Because glucosamine lubricates the joints and strengthens joint structure, when taken as a supplement, it helps to reduce joint pain and can be effective in helping to treat arthritis, fibromyalgia, and other conditions that involve joint pain. Though glucosamine is sold in a cream form, there is insufficient evidence to demonstrate that it can be absorbed through the skin, so take an oral form of glucosamine HCI.
Serratiopeptidase, bromelian, and papain reduce inflammation, improve circulation, and assist with tissue repair and pain reduction. They also can help improve digestion. Papain is naturally found in papayas. Bromelian is naturally found in pineapples. Serratiopeptidase is derived from a beneficial bacteria. All of these enzymes are sold as supplements, sometimes combined with other beneficial enzymes.
Quercetin is a potent antioxidant found in the skin of apples, red onions, and blueberries. Sold as a supplement, its natural anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties help with pain relief and can relieve allergy symptoms. Because quercetin also protects the structure of blood vessels, it benefits circulation. Quercetin is being studied for its potential to prevent some types of cancer. Researchers also are evaluating whether quercetin may help reduce fatigue and depression.
This mineral is crucial for good health, but most Americans don't get enough in their diet. Excessive alcohol consumption also can deplete magnesium. Magnesium supports muscle and nerve function and the immune system. It helps keep bones strong, maintains normal blood sugar levels, keeps the heart rhythm steady, and promotes normal blood pressure. Because magnesium supports nerve and muscle function, if you don't get adequate magnesium, you'll experience more pain. Almonds, pumpkin seeds, spinach, and halibut are rich sources of magnesium. Magnesium glycinate is the supplement form of magnesium that is least likely to cause stomach upset.
Before adding supplements to your diet, talk to your doctor or other health professional. Some supplements interact with prescription medication. Take new supplements one at a time, at least 24 hours apart. Some medications can cause unpleasant side-effects such as dizziness, rash, or vomiting, but the supplements I discussed in this post should not make you sick unless you have an allergy or sensitivity.
Unlike narcotics that can reduce pain in minutes, supplements may take a month or more to show any effect, and should be taken daily for maximum benefits. A healthy diet and adequate sleep also are crucial in supporting good health. If you are serious about reducing your pain and want to recover from injuries faster, treat your body with respect.