Effective and Safer Pain Management

Chronic pain affects the lives of over eight million Canadians. While opiates were once considered a humane choice for pain relief, their addictive potential has contributed to the opiate crisis, leading to a decline in their use as a solution. In my naturopathic medical practice, I often encounter patients suffering from chronic pain who are seeking alternatives that won’t harm their bodies or lead to addiction. Treating the Root Cause of Pain: The primary goal of pain management is to address the underlying cause. At our clinic, we offer laser therapy, a non-invasive treatment that accelerates the healing process for arthritis, injuries, back pain, and more. Additionally, there are many treatments and home programs that can provide relief. However, supplemental pain management is crucial during the healing process and for individuals who don’t respond sufficiently to other therapies. In this article, we will explore safer options for treating pain. Exploring Safer Alternatives:
  1. PEA (Palmitoylethanolamide): PEA is a natural medicine that shows promising results in pain management. It possesses pain-blocking effects and reduces neural inflammation, which is a common feature of many chronic pain conditions. From post-concussion syndrome and long-COVID to chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, sciatic nerve pain, and peripheral neuropathy, PEA has demonstrated effectiveness. Importantly, this naturally occurring fat extract rarely causes side effects. A review published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology concluded that PEA reduces pain and is considered very safe. In my experience, I have successfully used PEA to help patients dealing with complex chronic pain issues.
  2. Low Dose Naltrexone (LDN): As a naturopathic physician, I find LDN particularly intriguing because it helps balance the immune system and promote nervous system healing. Moreover, it is a relatively safe and cost-effective pharmaceutical medication. LDN has shown promising results in pain conditions such as fibromyalgia, low back pain, and rheumatoid arthritis. I customize the prescription according to each patient’s needs, and many individuals consider it a significant part of their wellness plan.
  3. CBD (Cannabidiol): CBD, the non-psychoactive component of cannabis, is extensively used for pain management in Canada. However, the lack of human clinical trials has hindered our understanding of its efficacy and appropriate dosages. With the recent legalization of cannabis, more studies are underway. The Canadian Arthritis Society is actively funding research in this area but has not yet endorsed CBD as a treatment. Nevertheless, one study revealed that CBD use allowed patients attending a chronic pain clinic to reduce their opioid medication intake.
  4. Natural Anti-inflammatory Agents: Use of natural anti-inflammatory agents can reduce the need for more toxic over-the-counter drugs. Curcumin, an extract of turmeric, has been proven to be more effective than ibuprofen in a five-month study on human osteoarthritis knee pain, with fewer side effects. It lowers inflammatory chemicals in the body, benefiting various disease processes. Additionally, fish oil high in EPA content possesses anti-inflammatory properties, and Boswellia, another herb, has shown anti-inflammatory effects as well. Your naturopathic physician is trained as an herbalist and can tailor herbal formulas to suit your needs and ensure they align with any existing prescriptions. They can also assist you in creating a lifestyle plan that reduces inflammation and promotes healing.
  5. Helping people live fuller lives with less pain is incredibly rewarding. Effective pain management strategies can be implemented using solutions that offer side benefits instead of side effects.

Finding Relief from Headaches

Headaches are a common experience for many and effect all sexes, genders, and ages around the world.  Globally, it is estimated that 20% of people at any particular moment have a tension-type headache.  Migraines, which can feel quite severe, effect up to 12% of people.  25% of Canadian households experience migraines.  There are many types of headaches but migraines and tension-type are two of the most common and often treated with medications.

In naturopathic medicine, we aim to identify both the type of headache and the root cause so that we can provide optimal relief.  One’s physical alignment and posture, for instance, can play a role.  So can dehydration, skipping meals, stress, and tension.  For women, menstrual headaches and associated hormone changes can lead to headaches.  Other aspects, like digestion and liver health, allergies, and food triggers can all cause or worsen headaches.  All of these can help naturopathic doctors determine connections and get to the root cause.  In this way, we may help lessen your need for medication and afford some relief.

Tension-type headaches often have a stress component.  Stress can lead to muscle tension and postural changes.  Stress can cause us to skip lunch when we are busy or reach for another cup of coffee.  All of these are aspects to consider when suspecting a headache is linked to stress.  In these cases, Rest and Relaxation (R&R) techniques can help.  It could be listening to music or pursuing creative endeavours, like painting or writing.  It could be a warm bath or massage.  For others, laughing with friends, doing yoga, or physical affection with pets or loved ones can help.  There are a multitude of options to relieve stress.  These and other options such as herbal medicines, nutrients, supplements, and mindfulness techniques, are all what naturopathic doctors are trained to provide.

Migraine headaches have a number of potential food triggers, from common everyday foods to artificial sweeteners like aspartame.  Working to determine which foods are triggers for you can help prevent your migraines in the future.  Analyzing diet and digestion can also provide clues to bring relief.  While we explore the root causes, we can attempt pain relief in the moment using nutrients, herbs, and supplements.

All of these aspects and more can unlock the clues to pain relief from headaches.


Dr. Shawn Peters, ND is a naturopathic doctor practicing in downtown Courtenay.

Contact Dr. Peters for a free “meet the doctor” visit to see if naturopathic medicine is right for you.