Dr. Day is a cardiologist/electrophysiologist at the Intermountain Medical Center Heart Institute in Salt Lake City, Utah. He graduated from Johns Hopkins Medical School and completed his residency and fellowships in cardiology and electrophysiology at Stanford University. He is the former president of the Heart Rhythm Society and currently serves as the president of the Utah chapter of the American College of Cardiology.
I thought I would never live another day without pain. Every step hurt. Like 100 million other Americans I lived with chronic pain.
Something always hurt. My left knee was always in pain, my neck hurt to turn, and my lower back hurt.
I could only take a few doses of ibuprofen or naproxen before my stomach would start to hurt. Celebrex (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug or NSAID) was my answer at the time for the pain. I took Celebrex daily and my autoimmune disease was very active. Although I was just in my mid-40s at the time, I just kept wondering, if the pain is so bad now how on earth am I going to survive to retirement?
The Dangers of NSAIDs
While Celebrex did raise my blood pressure 5-10 points, fortunately I did not have any severe complications from taking my daily NSAID. NSAIDs will not only raise your blood pressure but they are also known to increase your risk of bleeding, strokes, kidney failure, and ulcers.
NSAIDS May Cause Heart Attacks and Atrial Fibrillation
It has been known for quite some time that taking these anti-inflammatories increase the risk of a heart attack. Depending on what study you look at, this risk is any where from a 2-4 fold increase.
While it is not clear exactly how NSAIDs cause heart attacks, it is likely due to their effect on how our blood actually clots or the increased blood pressure that is a known side effect of these medications.
Recently there was yet another study published linking atrial fibrillation to the use of NSAIDs Yes, that little ibuprofen, Aleve, Motrin, etc. pill can also cause atrial fibrillation. In this study, NSAIDs increased the risk of atrial fibrillation by 76%. Even more frightening is that there was an increased risk of atrial fibrillation for up to one month after taking the NSAID!
Is there anything else I can take for pain?
Unfortunately, the other pain medications are not without risk either. There are now increased warnings of potentially life-threatening liver complications from acetaminophen. Not only can the opiate pain killers cause addiction issues but they can also cause people to die from a cardiac arrest due to prolonging the QT interval on an EKG.
When I was in severe pain, I did not see any other way to fight the pain than to take my Celebrex. I knew I was increasing my risk of heart problems but if I did not take Celebrex there was no way I could have even gone to work. Today, I realize that there are lifestyle changes that you can make now to prevent the pain so that there is no need for NSAIDs. Fortunately, everything turned around for me over time. This turn around did not happen over night. It took many, many months for the pain to finally go away. I have not taken anything for pain in a long, long, time. I never thought this was even possible.
How do we know if our bodies are inflamed?
There is a simple blood test which measures the level of inflammation in our body. This test is called C-reactive protein or CRP. High levels of CRP have been linked with many chronic diseases such as atrial fibrillation, heart attacks, and Alzheimer’s Disease. This is a test that can be easily ordered by your physician.
6 Ways to Reduce Inflammation and Pain
How can we reduce the inflammation in our bodies so that we don’t need anti-inflammatory drugs? Let me give you 6 ways we can reduce our inflammation.
1. Stay Physically Active
Physical activity helps to reduce inflammation. If something hurts, there are physical things like stretching, yoga, or strength training that we can do to help relieve the pain. Withdrawing from all physical activity just because something hurts only makes the pain worse long-term.
2. Avoid Foods That Cause Inflammation
We know what these are. Sugar, processed foods, wheat flour, and excessive amounts of animal meats can all cause our body to become inflamed and hurt. By eating real food we can allow our bodies to heal over time.
3. Eat Foods Which Reduce Inflammation
Did you know there are many anti-inflammatory foods? Yes, fruits and vegetables, legumes (beans, lentils, etc.), oily fish, nuts, seeds, and whole grains except for wheat flour can all help to reduce inflammation and pain.
4. Maintain An Ideal Body Weight
Fat cells secrete many hormones and other substances which cause inflammation throughout our bodies. Also, the extra weight causes a lot of wear and tear on our joints over time. As you get lighter the pain the pain will lessen or even go away.
5. Get Your Stress Under Control
Stress causes inflammation and magnifies any pain in your body. Make sure you do something each day to help you get your stress under control.
6. Discuss Alternative Treatments For Pain With Your Physician
There are many anti-inflammatory supplements, like fish oil, or herbs will not only make your food taste even better but they can also reduce inflammation. Also, acupuncture and massage therapy can be extremely helpful for long-term pain challenges.
What have you found that works for managing pain? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
Disclaimer Policy: This website is intended to give general information and does not provide medical advice. This website does not create a doctor-patient relationship between you and Dr. John Day. If you have a medical problem, immediately contact your healthcare provider. Information on this website is not intended to diagnose or treat any condition. Dr. John Day is not responsible for any losses, damages or claims that may result from your medical decisions.