Over 25 Million People in the U.S. Suffer with Chronic Daily Pain. Is there a Safe Alternative to the Chronic Ingestion of Pain Killers and their Associated Side-Effects?

November 26th, 2015

Chronic pain - WHOWhat can the 25 million people in the United States who suffer chronic daily pain do that is safe and won’t expose them to the health risks of chronically ingesting pain killers?  Side-effects include heart attack, stroke, kidney damage, liver damage, ulcers and bleeding.

Over 20 years ago, due to playing competitive tennis on the cement courts of California 3-4 times a week, my knees deteriorated and even though I was in very good shape, my daily pain was so severe,  just stepping off a curb to cross the street was a very painful challenge.

I decided to see  a famous orthopedic knee surgeon, who took care of and operated on the knees of some of the most high paid and well known athletes in professional sports.

I didn’t tell him I was a chemist and knew a lot about pharmaceutical drugs and pathway’s of pain and inflammation throughout the body.  I was there to keep quiet and listen to what he had to say and what he recommended.

After doing a very thorough exam, and taking all of the necessary “pictures” of my knees, he told me to come back in a few days to discuss his recommendations.

Upon my return, I was told (I paraphrase in non-medical terms) that my knees were about as bad as he had ever seen, and that I should have had bilateral knee replacement years ago.  I asked  “point blank” if there was any chance that the pain would go away on its own and if there were non-surgical options to reduce or eliminate the pain?  His comment was, “You don’t have a 1% chance of alleviating your pain without the knee replacement.”

I thanked him, paid his fee and upon leaving, knew that I would not be following his advice until I exhausted every “non-surgical” option I could uncover that had both reasonable scientific support or logic and was safe.

Honestly, 20 years ago, though I was quite knowledgeable about body chemistry and natural medicines, I know much more now then I did then, but fortunately I made some “educated” lucky guesses about what to take!

Fast forward 20 years –  As I sit here writing this article, I can say that I haven’t had knee pain for the last 18 years and I never had the knee replacement that the “expert” unequivocablly said was “my only chance.”

I can walk for miles with absolutely no pain.  Radiographically, I doubt (but I haven’t checked) that the bone on bone status of my knees (lack of cartilage cushioning the knee joint) has changed dramatically (if at all) but my pain is gone!

If I jam my knee on a hard surface from running or jumping to aggressively, I will feel some pain or discomfort (so I try not to do that).  But for all practical intents and purposes, my knees are “Pain Free.”

I tell you this story because of an article I recently read which analyzed data from the 2012 National Health Interview Survey (NHIS) which was carried out by the National Institutes of Health  National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health (NCCIH).  The analysis revealed that over 25 million adults suffer with daily pain (14.4 million of whom rated their pain at the most severe level).

This does not include those people who suffer from chronic pain that isn’t experienced on a daily basis.

The question that still rises to the top of my mind today, just as it did over 20 years ago, “Other than undergoing surgery or taking a daily synthetic drug, all of which are known to have specific kinds of health and side-effect risks…….What can I do?”

This is the same point that was posed by the NCCIH researchers and authors of the study.  They stated:  “Pain may not be adequately controlled with prescription drugs or other conventional treatments… A research priority of the NCCIH is to determine the effectiveness of complementary approaches for treating pain.”

A review of the published medical literature reveals that the health risks caused by chronic ingestion of either OTC or Rx Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory  Drugs (NSAIDs) like aspirin or ibuprofen or naproxen or pain killers like acetaminophen range from: gastrointestinal bleeding, ulcers, stoke, cardiovascular issues, kidney damage and liver damage depending upon which drug is chronically ingested.

Though the risks have been known for quite a while, lately more and more high-profile institutions have been writing about them.  The FDA issued a warning in 2014 basically saying:  Stop dispensing and stop taking prescription medications containing more than 325 milligrams of acetaminophen.  It is  now the second most common cause of liver failure requiring transplantation in the United States.

Because acetaminophen is available over the counter, many consumers don’t realize that it may also be in prescription drugs they get from their physicians and dentists and also after hospital procedures.

Very recently the FDA strengthened its warning about the increased risk of heart attack and stroke caused by  NSAIDs like ibuprofen  and naproxen. (aspirin, also an NSAID, was not associated with these risks but can cause spontaneous gastrointestinal bleeding and stomach disorders like ulcers.)

I was aware of these issues at the time of my severe knee pain, so none of these were ever an option that I would have considered.

By this time many of you may be thinking – “OK, I got it. I won’t take those things or I want to stop…  What did you do?”

I identified specific kinds of herbal extracts such as: ginger, boswellia and feverfew and took them daily at very specific doses.  To these ingredients I added the simple mineral magnesium which was known amongst many other health benefits, to block a receptor known to abet the pain response.

Over the years I also added a turmeric extract (curcumin) and a high quality omega-3 fish oil delivering at least 1500 mg/day of combined  EPA and DHA (eicosapentanoic acid and docosahexanoic acid).  My pain however, started to significantly decrease just using the first 4 ingredients mentioned above (Ginger, Boswellia, Feverfew and Magnesium)

I believe the two mechanisms of action that make this daily regimen so effective against all kinds of pain is that the components have been shown both to block multiple factors contributing to excessive/chronic systemic inflammatory response and the creation of excessive levels of certain types of reactive oxygen species both of which are intricately involved in causing tissue damage and body pain.

To the Best of Health,


Curt Hendrix, M.S., C.C.N., C.N.S.


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