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Written by Kylie Lucas.
Just about everyone experiences pain at some point or another. However, 1 in 5 of us lives with long-term chronic pain, like arthritis or back problems1, making every day a challenge. Chronic pain can impact our sleep, mood, general health, as well as our relationships with others1.
More often than not, that first port of call when the pain starts is to visit your pharmacy for over-the-counter medications. But from February 2018, painkillers containing low-dose codeine will no longer be available over-the-counter. In light of the changes, it makes sense to consider some other options for your pain relief.
With around 25% of Australians taking a supplement to help manage a chronic medical condition2 , natural medicines are a popular option. Below are a few that are available at most pharmacies:
Turmeric is a spice which has a long history of use in food and traditional medicine. It contains active components known as curcuminoids which exhibit an anti-inflammatory effect and there is evidence that turmeric extract (1000mg/day of curcumin) is effective in the treatment of joint arthritis3. While turmeric lattes are delicious, it’s best to try a turmeric extract product recommended by your pharmacist to optimise the amount your body can absorb.
Arthritis Australia reports that there is strong evidence for the efficacy of fish oil supplements in helping with rheumatoid arthritis4. This is because fish oil contains omega 3 fatty acids known as EPA and DHA, which have anti-inflammatory properties. Taking fish oil can also reduce your need for anti-inflammatory medications known as NSAIDs, which can have side effects if taken in large quantities or for too long. Fish oil supplementation at a dose of 2.7g EPA and DHA daily, usually takes around 3 months to have an effect.
Boswellia, also known as frankincense, has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine. Studies have shown benefits of pain relief and increased functionality of the joint for those living with knee osteoarthritis. It can also be quite fast to work, with some people noticing an improvement in symptoms within a few days to a week5. Boswellia is often an ingredient in combination products, so you will likely find it in various arthritis supplements.
Comfrey cream has been shown to be effective for sprains, strains, muscle aches, acute back pain and arthritis6. It is well tolerated with a low risk of side effects, and the action of rubbing in a cream can also help to soothe pain and discomfort.
Before starting any natural medicines for pain relief or changing any of your current treatments, it is important to speak with your doctor or pharmacist to discuss which option would best suit you, and ensure there are no interactions with your other medications or health conditions.
This post was written by Kylie Lucas. Kylie has been a pharmacist for over 10 years and works in a country town pharmacy in the south west of Western Australia. She lives on a farm with her husband, daughter and lots of pet animals.