Six of the Most Effective Pain Medications (Without a Prescription)
They say that prevention is the best form of a cure, but there are times when that statement isn’t much use… If you twist your ankle whilst out running or fall and sprain a wrist whilst on the way to work, unfortunately we don’t yet have the luxury of time travel, so prevention isn’t really an option.
Likewise with some chronic conditions such as arthritis and fibromyalgia – if you could prevent them from occurring, you would already be doing everything you could.
Ideally, the long-term solution would be to get the root cause of the injury/illness and figure out the best way to treat it and prevent it from happening again, but in the meantime, you’ll probably want some relief from the pain.
What follows is a guide to the six most effective pain medications that you can obtain without a prescription. Some are over the counter pills, others are completely natural herbal remedies.
We’ll look at all the pros and cons, so you can make an informed decision on your path to recovery.
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1. Non Steroidal Anti-Inflammatories (NSAIDS)
Many occurrences of pain have some inflammatory component associated with them, characterised by heat, redness or swelling. Hence, anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen and naproxen can sometimes offer effective relief.
Available in tablet and cream forms, they work by blocking the production of prostaglandins, substances released in the body in response to illness and injury. It’s these prostaglandins that cause the infamous pain and swelling associated with inflammation.
They may provide some pain relief and reduce inflammation, but both of the NSAIDS mentioned above can come with a few unwanted side effects.
As stated on the Spine Health site, “[both medications] thin the blood, so individuals taking oral blood thinners or anticoagulants should avoid naproxen/ibuprofen, as excessive blood thinning may lead to bleeding. Naproxen/ibuprofen also can have some adverse gastrointestinal side effects, so people with active ulcers or sensitive stomachs should avoid it.”
As stated on the NHS website, paracetamol is an analgesic medication that can be used to:
- ease mild to moderate pain – for example, headaches, sprains, or toothache
- control a fever (high temperature, also known as pyrexia) – for example, when someone has the flu (influenza)
As well as being available over the counter, paracetamol is sometimes combined with stronger prescription medications such as tramadol and codeine.
Like NSAIDs, paracetamol works by blocking the production of prostaglandins, which reduces inflammation, brings down a high temperature and reduces your awareness of pain.
And also similar to NSAIDs, paracetamol can also bring a whole host of negative side effects. As stated in a 2015 Guardian article, “Paracetamol can actually be a very dangerous drug. It can cause kidney and liver problems, and causes as much gastrointestinal bleeding as the NSAIDs. In 2013, the US Food and Drugs Administration (FDA) even issued warnings that taking paracetamol can, in some rare instances, cause potentially fatal skin conditions called Stevens-Johnson Syndrome, toxic epidermal necrolysis and acute generalised exanthematous pustulosis, which can cause the top layer of skin to become detached.”
So whilst it may help to soothe your sore throat or ease your nagging back pain, temporary pain relief may not be worth the long term risks.
Thankfully, there are a few natural alternatives you can turn to…
Ginger can be consumed raw, cooked, or in supplement form.
It’s of interest to us because of its potent anti-inflammatory properties. Studies suggest that it may even rival non-steroid anti-inflammatory medications when it comes to reducing pain and inflammation (and it doesn’t come with any known side effects).
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As explained over at Prevention.com, the main active compound gingerol may hold the secret of its anti-inflammatory benefits, “Studies have linked the root to lowered post-exercise inflammation and a drop in joint pain caused by the chronic inflammatory conditions osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis. While researchers haven’t pinpointed its anti-inflammatory effects to a single component, it’s likely one of the culprits is the plant’s active compound gingerol”.
Used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine, turmeric is another powerful anti-inflammatory and analgesic food. It belongs to the same family as ginger, mentioned above.
Curcumin is the compound that provides turmeric both with its yellow hue and its powerful anti-inflammatory properties. Like ginger, curcumin has been shown to be just as effective as over the counter pain medications.
As stated over at WebMD, curcumin presents a wide range of potential health benefits, "Curcumin, a substance in turmeric, may help to reduce inflammation. Several studies suggest that it might ease symptoms of osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis, like pain and inflammation. Other components in turmeric might also be medicinal.
In lab tests, curcumin seems to block the growth of certain kinds of tumors. One study showed that turmeric extract containing curcumin could -- in some cases -- stabilize colorectal cancer that wasn't helped by other treatments. But more research is needed."
Turmeric and curcumin are notoriously hard for the body to absorb, so to aid in the process they’re best consumed alongside black pepper and fat, which increases bioavailability.
A hybrid of the spearmint and watermint, peppermint has strong analgesic properties.
It’s commonly taken orally in a supplement form, but can also be made into an essential oil to apply to specific areas of the body to reduce swelling and pain.
Last but not least, we have the humble basil leaf. Used to flavour a number of Italian dishes, it is also a powerful pain reliever.
Research has shown that when taken orally, concentrated basil extracts can reduce joint swelling by up to 73 per cent within 24 hours.
As explained by the guys at Organic Facts, “Basil essential oil is an analgesic and provides relief from pain. That is why this essential oil is often used in the treatment of arthritis, wounds, injuries, burns, bruises, scars, sports injuries, surgical recovery, sprains, and headaches.”
Whilst there are a number of over the counter pain medications available to you, considering their potential side effects of these drugs - it may be worth experimenting with more natural treatments as an alternative.