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There's Another Way

by Dr. Dave Gordon


Think about the last time you needed medical advice for an illness or injury. How many treatment options did your doctor offer you?

When I ask people that question, the most common answer is: one. Just one option. And that one option is usually a pharmaceutical treatment. Most people will assume that the physician knows best, so they accept that one pharmaceutical option as an irrefutable fact.

But is a pharmaceutical approach really the only choice?

Although I “never say never” when it comes to medicine, the answer to that last question is almost always: no. When it comes to pain management, I believe pharmaceutical treatments should be one of the last options. There are many other safe and effective options that a patient can pursue before resorting to expensive and potentially unnecessary prescriptions. Unfortunately, if your physician doesn’t know about or believe in non-pharmaceutical options, you’re not going to hear about them.

I want people to know that there’s another way.

And the more you know, the more you can advocate for yourself and your optimal health. Instead of simply accepting the one given pharmaceutical treatment option, arm yourself with the knowledge that there are other options and you are well within your right to make the best choice for yourself.

I want to share with you my own health care experience this past year: I had shoulder surgery.

Surgery is an area where pharmaceutical pain management is extremely common. Sadly, it’s also a very negative turning point for many individuals. In the 2000s, 75% of heroin abusers reported that their first opioid was their own prescription medication. Because of the high levels at which opioid medications are prescribed post-surgery, those clinical encounters are a common starting point for many who go on to struggle with lifelong addiction.

So what is the norm for post-surgical pain management?

Accounting for slight variations in preferences amongst surgeons, the norm for post-surgical pain management is typically Tylenol and/or NSAIDs (Ibuprofen and related medications) taken 3-4 times per day, plus scheduled or as-needed doses of opioids. Physicians use this basic regimen thousands of times per day with little thought about the potential ramifications. While the severe dangers of opioids are finally being discussed in medical communities and with the public at large, Tylenol and NSAIDs are still publicized by most practitioners as nearly harmless with only rare, uncommon side effects.

These “basic” pharmaceuticals are recommended as the first line for pain therapy for just about any and every person from birth to death. What many physicians do not disclose, however, is that NSAIDs and Tylenol can have quite a significant impact on the body and are key contributors to the root causes of most chronic diseases.

Fortunately, I know the dangers of medications that other patients are not told, and wanted a non-pharmaceutical plan following my shoulder surgery.

So if I was not taking traditionally prescribed painkillers, how did I handle my post-surgery recovery?

First, I rotated between my bed, bathroom, and kitchen for the first 48 hours. Interestingly, I had read this article just prior to my surgery and thought it was wonderfully insightful.

Next, I used a boat-load of ice to keep pain and swelling to a minimum. I paid $200 for a machine that constantly circulated ice water around my shoulder. I wore it almost continuously for the first two days, and then regularly, including when I slept, for the next several days. Also, I used a maintenance supplement regimen that focused on controlling pain and inflammation:

Omega 3 – EPA/DHA – 2 grams, twice daily