Is it time to ditch the painkillers? - GulfToday

Is it time to ditch the painkillers?

Birjees Hussain

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

She has more than 10 years of experience in writing articles on a range of topics including health, beauty, lifestyle, finance, management and Quality Management.

Illustrative image.

Illustrative image.

When I was at university every morning my father would drop me off at the train station before he set off to work. One morning, as he dropped me off, I was in such a rush to get out of the car that I accidentally brushed the tip of my right thumb in the car door as it closed. The thumb and forearm started to swell and gradually my thumbnail turned black. Throughout the day, the pain did not subside and instead it sometimes got bad and sometimes really bad, to the point that it was intolerable. Then at lunchtime a friend suggested I distract my mind from the pain by digging my nails into the palm of my other hand. It did not work. Eventually I had to be taken to the hospital casualty (commonly known outside the UK as the emergency room) where the thumb had to be trephined (meaning a hole had to be made in the nail to let the blood drain out). The pain eased by 70% after that.

Thinking back I don’t know why I didn’t try to take a painkiller or an anti-inflammatory. Clearly I never carried anything like that around with me, something I always have in my bag now. I also don’t know why I did not seek medical attention, even first aid, as soon as I got to the university grounds. Silly me, I went into a chemistry lab and ran my thumb under a cold tap as if it were a burn! Obviously it didn’t help because it was not a burn. To be fair, I doubt the painkiller or anti-inflammatory would have helped much given the severity of the injury. It took more than six months for the swelling in the arm to go down, longer for the thumb swelling and eventually the nail, that had turned black, fell out.

But there is one thing on which we can all agree and that is that painkillers may not be the answer for all your ailments. In fact, they are not a cure for what ails you. By its very name, a painkiller kills the pain and not the cause of it. Taking painkillers is like putting a plaster on a cut. It doesn’t heal the cut and only covers it up. The cut heals in its own time. Even a tension headache doesn’t really need Panadol. If whatever is causing the tension (be it muscle pain, skeletal alignment or stress) is attended to, the pain goes away. Even something more serious and chronic as a migraine can be helped before it happens provided its trigger is found and avoided. Moreover, in some instances, taking painkillers or an anti-inflammatory might not be the right thing to do because they might temporarily conceal the pain, the cause of which then can go unchecked and, therefore, untreated. A good example is if you have carpal tunnel syndrome or tennis elbow. An anti-inflammatory, coupled with a painkiller, makes the pain go away making you think that it’s okay to use that arm again thereby injuring yourself further.

Unless the pain is excruciatingly unbearable, it might be worth trying other methods of pain management that do not involve ingesting medication. The first thing to try might be topical anti-inflammatory gels, of which there are a variety available, and other forms of topical analgesics. The latter may be hard to find in your local pharmacies but it’s worth asking around. I’ve tried anything that contains a fair amount of Oil of Wintergreen in its mix and have even bought a bottle of the Essential Oil that I sometimes apply, neat, to my elbows; it does seem to do the trick.

For headaches, which are a common ailment from which we all suffer, it’s worth rubbing Tiger Balm or Vicks on the forehead. It causes a cooling, numbing effect, provided it’s rubbed in really well and works rather well to soothe the head. I’ve often rubbed it in and then sat down with a nice cup of tea. The combination is quite comforting. Sometimes just washing your hair can help the headache.

Cold therapy is not only good for reducing inflammation but it also has the benefit of numbing the area on which it is applied. It works well for repetitive strain injuries, sprains, joint pain, the bottom of the feet and your head.

The opposite of cold therapy is heat therapy and that too can help certain types of pains. For example, backaches, stomach aches and certain joint pains all benefit from heat treatment. When I lived in the UK, I instinctively knew whether or not a headache needed cold therapy or heat.

Oftentimes, foods can either alleviate pain or reduce it. Certain foods can cause inflammation or allergic reactions in the body whereas others can act as anti-inflammatories. Ginger springs to mind.

Sleeping is also a good painkiller. After all, who feels pain while they’re asleep? Ever gone to bed with a headache and woken up without one?

And finally, ever hear the phrase, ‘mind over matter’. Well, some experts believe that simply taking your mind off the pain by thinking good thoughts, or of happier times, can often alleviate pain. I don’t believe this one unless your pain is that of mental anguish.

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