Volume 1, Issue 15
December 18, 2008

Take this to decrease your pain
and maybe save your life

Are you taking pain medications for chronic pain? It's very possible you're taking serious and possibly unnecessary risks.

A recent article reviewed the safety of NSAIDs (Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs), a specific class of pain medications (including aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.). And what it found is frightening.

According to the authors of this article, "Each year, the use of NSAIDs accounts for an estimated 7,600 deaths and 76,000 hospitalizations in the United States." That's the equivalent of one packed jumbo jet crashing every month — year in and year out! If we had that kind of death rate from jumbo jets, the authorities would shut the airlines down. Not so in the medical world, however, where death from drugs is an everyday ordinary event.

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But here's the good news. New research has now shown that we can prevent as many as 59% of these deaths and hospitalizations.

Researchers studied 250 people who were taking NSAIDs for chronic neck or back pain stemming from damaged or degenerated discs. Although they had significant pain, surgery wouldn't help. The researchers asked all 250 to start taking fish oil supplements in addition to the NSAIDs they were taking. The supplements contained 2,400 mg of the omega-3 fats, EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosapentaenoic acid). They took this dose every day for the first two weeks, and then cut the dose in half.

After an average of only 75 days of treatment, the majority had much less pain than they had prior to taking the fish oil supplements. Sixty percent reported improvements in overall pain. Sixty percent reported improvements in joint pain. And an amazing 59% completely stopped using their NSAID medications.

On top of that, 78% found relief on 1,200 mg per day. The remaining 22% needed 2,400 mg per day. And best of all — they didn't report any significant side effects of any kind. No deaths and no hospitalizations.

The authors point out that their findings mirror the results from other controlled trials. These have showed the effectiveness of omega-3 fats as compared to ibuprofen, for the treatment of arthritic pain.

EPA and DHA work in much the same way that the NSAIDs work. They alleviate pain by regulating pro-inflammatory substances such as leukotrienes, interleukin 1, and interleukin 6.ÿ These substances occur naturally as part of the body's inflammatory reaction. But their actions intensify when the diet doesn't contain the amount of EPA and DHA required to regulate them. People in chronic pain require much more EPA and DHA than usual because their body is using these fats up so fast.

Both EPA and DHA work with the body. Not against it, like the NSAIDs. That's how they can be so effective and yet have no side effects. Both can alleviate pain. But taking NSAIDs without first trying fish oils just doesn't make sense.

By the way, these same fats also fight cancer, heart disease, autoimmune disease, depression, and diabetes. NSAIDs cannot make these claims.

Finding your Real Cures,

Frank Shallenberger, MD

Maroon, J.C., J.W. Bost. "Omega-3 fatty acids (fish oil) as an anti-inflammatory: an alternative to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs for discogenic pain," Surg Neurol, 2006; 65(4): 326-31.

Tamblyn, Robyn PhD, Laeora Berkson, MD, MHPE, FRCPC; et al, "Unnecessary Prescribing of NSAIDs and the Management of NSAID-Related Gastropathy in Medical Practice," Annals of Internal Medicine, September 15, 1997, 127:429-438.

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