Think Outside the (Pill) Box: Alternative options for feeling better

You’ve seen them, those commercials touting a new pill for this or that? In fact, it appears that there is a pill for every single ailment we have. And what’s worse is the disclaimer touting potential side effects if we indeed decide to take the medication, from increased risk of kidney problems to even death. But what about those over-the-counter medications that we take to ease a pain here or there, do they have risks?  The answer is ‘yes’.

As we age, our bodies age. And that means that sometimes we are following in the genetic tracks of our family members or in the tracks that our lifestyles dictate, such as bad eating habits, stress, or environmental factors. Backaches, headaches or even tight muscles in the shoulder blades or wrists and hands are common forms of chronic pain that many people suffer from due to everything from old sports injuries to carpel tunnel syndrome. And that can lead us right to over-the-counter medications that reduce Inflammation. These are known as NSAIDS or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. You may know them as Aleve, Excedrin, etc.

What you may not know is that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently elevated its warning against NSAIDS, noting that that they may increase the risk of heart attack or stroke even if you have taken them for a short while. I was taking a prescription NSAID for my chronic migraines and I weaned myself off of them because of the potential damage long-term to my kidneys or liver. I thought using an over-the-counter when I needed it would suffice. Not exactly.

Thinking outside the pillbox for alternative ways to relieve our chronic pain can provide a healthier option. Possible non-medication alternatives include acupuncture, chiropractic adjustments, Reiki, hypnosis and therapeutic touch therapy. In addition, some simple day-to-day adjustments might do the trick as well. Here are a few:

1) LOL – that’s laughing out loud. If you have a funny friend, enjoy watching America’s Funniest Videos or go see a comedy at the movies, a good old belly laugh causes your blood vessels to dilate by 22 percent, which improves blood flow and thus, lowers blood pressure.

2) Let It Go. It may be a song in “Frozen” but Disney has something: by letting go of a grudge or just plain forgiving someone, you will reduce your blood pressure and lower your heart rate. Forgive and forget? Yes, and lower your risk of heart disease in the process.

3) Green Acres is the place to be. Apparently, it really is! Research has shown that for every 10 decibels of added roadway traffic near your home, your risk of stroke increases by 10 percent. The Wesley Communities must know something about building tranquil communities with access to nature.

If you are taking medications as directed by your physician, be all means don’t stop. But don’t be afraid to ask if there is an alternative to feeling better or enhancing your health in other ways.

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