With all the news of the risks associated with drug treatment for chronic pain such as headaches, many people are looking to reduce their use of pain drugs. Some think that turning to natural supplements is a safe and smart way to do this. Anything “natural” can’t be harmful, right?
Wrong! If you’ve ever spent time learning how to survive in the backcountry, you know how many things out there are dangerous or lethal if eaten. And that includes many herbs that are advertised and sold for use as a natural supplement–a category of products that is poorly regulated under our current system. Because authorities aren’t taking precautions to protect us from these types of medications, it means that you have to take the initiative and protect yourself.
And an even better approach is to see whether drug-free treatments can help control your chronic pain.
Some Natural Supplements Have Dangerous Effects
We know that some natural supplements can have dangerous side effects. This includes several of the supplements recommended for chronic pain, such as devil’s claw.
Devil’s claw has many potential risks. It can speed the heart and increase blood pressure, leading to heart problems. People with known heart problems and those taking heart medication should avoid devil’s claw. The herb can also increase your risk of gallstones and ulcers. Devil’s claw has been associated with risks to the developing fetus, and it’s not known whether it’s safe to take while breastfeeding. It can also lower blood sugar levels, so it can lead to low blood sugar, especially in people who are taking diabetes medications to control blood sugar.
Devil’s claw is just one example of a potentially dangerous natural supplement. Before you take any supplement, make sure you carefully research its potential risks and side effects.
Some Natural Supplements Have Dangerous Interactions
Even if a supplement isn’t dangerous on its own, it might have interactions with other drugs you are taking. This can lead to dangerous consequences. Some supplements, like St. John’s wort, can decrease the effectiveness of drugs you are taking. Others, like schisandra, can increase the potency or extend the duration of drugs you take, which can interfere with dosing.
Unfortunately, we know even less about the interactions between drugs and supplements than we do about the dangers of the supplements themselves. Often, the only way we learn about these interactions is when someone has a bad reaction. If you can’t find information that says a combination is safe, assume it’s not and steer clear.
Always Tell Us What Supplements You’re Taking
Because of the potential risks associated with natural supplements, it’s important to tell all your healthcare providers about all the supplements you are taking, just as you should tell them about prescription and over-the-counter (OTC) drugs.
This will help avoid risks of dangerous interactions.
Drug-Free Treatments for Chronic Pain
If you don’t want to take medications for chronic pain in the head, neck, or back–or if your medications aren’t doing enough to control pain–we may be able to help.
We offer drug-free treatment for TMJ, which can control jaw pain, headaches, neck pain, and more. There’s no risk of drug interactions, and the treatment has few risks.
We also treat TMJ and headaches with BOTOX ®, which is widely used and well-researched so we understand the nature of any potential interactions. That means we can use it safely and effectively to control your pain.