Are “Conservative” Treatments for Chronic Pain Harmless? Why Conventional Medicine Isn’t As Safe as It Sounds… and What You Can Try Instead

by | Regenerative Medicine

Are “Conservative” Treatments for Chronic Pain Harmless? Why Conventional Medicine Isn’t As Safe as It Sounds… and What You Can Try Instead

May 23, 2022

Maybe you’ve been using so-called “conservative” treatments to treat your chronic pain. Or perhaps your doctor has even recommended surgery as a last resort. While many pain sufferers use these methods, believing they are their only options for relief, there is a better way — one your doctor may not have talked about with you. Let’s explore how people are drawn to conventional medicine when they’re in constant pain and what they can do instead that’s safer and, in most cases, more natural.

“Conservative” Treatments and Conventional Medicine

Somewhere along the cycle of chronic pain, people usually decide to consult their physician. That may be years after their pain started because of many factors that keep them away from the doctor’s office:

  • High deductibles and expensive copays requiring out-of-pocket costs
  • Difficulty getting an appointment due to long wait times
  • COVID-19-related concerns
  • Stigmas around chronic pain and fear of being seen as a “drug seeker”
  • Worries about a misdiagnosis or having their complaints dismissed (“It’s all in your head. You just need to exercise more.”)
  • Difficulty getting off work for multiple appointments (office visits, imaging, bloodwork, etc.)

When chronic pain patients finally do get into the doctor’s office, they are typically told to try a range of “conservative” conventional medical treatments that are (sometimes mistakenly) considered harmless. Some of these used to be thought of as “alternative” modalities but are now mainstream, including:

  • Tai chi and yoga
  • Massage
  • Chiropractic
  • Acupuncture
  • Electric stimulation
  • Cortisone injections
  • Use of cold packs or heating pads
  • Physical therapy
  • Dietary supplements
  • Over-the-counter medications
  • Prescription drugs

In some instances, things like yoga or massage aren’t generally dangerous, although they can make the pain worse when taught or practiced the wrong way. Likewise, chiropractic and acupuncture have the potential to cause even more pain.

Cortisone injections can provide relief, but they have to be done every few months, and they are not a long-term solution. In addition, the material injected can accumulate and cause side effects, and the placement of the injection has to be perfect to achieve relief. So it’s more of a band-aid approach to get patients through physical therapy or until surgery can be scheduled.

Likewise, oral medications — from herbal remedies you can find online and at the health food store to narcotic regulated prescription drugs — don’t really address the root of your pain problem. They can offer temporary relief, but they fail to treat the cause and come with dangerous side effects (see below).

Surgery is sometimes suggested as a last resort when “conservative” treatments fail to help chronic pain. This aspect of conventional medicine might include knee arthroscopy, spinal disc surgery, or even joint replacement. But, like medications, surgery has many associated hazards that should make you think twice about it.

The Negative Side Effects of Conventional Medicine

Opioid pain medications

The one good thing about the opioid epidemic in the United States is that it has opened the world’s eyes to the dangers of prescription pain medications. These are often given for chronic pain. Although they can provide relief, they are some of the most dangerous medicines on the market.

Common opioids (AKA narcotics) include oxycodone (brand name OxyContin), hydrocodone (Vicodin, Norco), morphine, methadone, tramadol, and fentanyl. Side effects of opioids are particularly worrisome:

  • Drowsiness and lethargy
  • Difficulty focusing and concentrating
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Constipation

You shouldn’t drive or operate machinery, like a lawnmower or factory equipment, while on opioids. So, if you take a narcotic medicine for pain relief because you’re a landscaper or factory worker with wear-and-tear injuries, you won’t be able to go to work.

Even worse, opioids can be physically and psychologically addictive, causing people to resort to extreme behaviors, similar to a recreational drug addict, to get the dose they need (which may not be available with drug shortages or mandatory 30-day refill periods).

The dose of narcotics keeps going up because most people develop a tolerance to these drugs. They need more and more overtime to get the same results. This can make prescription costs rise, and eventually, users hit a cap on how much they can take in a day. They may be taking the max dosage but still not get the pain relief they crave. At very high intake, potentially fatal overdoses are a real risk.

Many people who take opioids have to take other medications to handle side effects. This includes anti-nausea medications and stool softeners or laxatives for constipation. You wind up taking more drugs in total because you’re trying to manage the adverse events of one drug with another.

Antidepressants and anticonvulsants

This happens with antidepressants, which are also commonly prescribed for chronic pain and the depression that comes with it. The side effects of antidepressants include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Drowsiness
  • Loss of libido
  • Constipation
  • Dry mouth
  • Weight gain
  • Suicidal ideation
  • Withdrawal when discontinuing or changing medications
  • Serotonin syndrome (high levels of serotonin that can cause seizures, muscle rigidity, and death)

Anticonvulsants share many of these side effects, including itching, swelling, loss of appetite, and weight loss. In some instances, side effects like memory problems and difficulty coming up with common words can remain even after the medication has been discontinued.

Over-the-counter drugs and supplements

Think over-the-counter products or supplements are a safe option instead of prescription drugs? Think again.

Here’s what you need to watch out for with NSAIDs (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs):

  • Increased risk of ulcers, bleeding in the stomach, and bruising
  • New or worsening acid reflux (GERD)
  • High blood pressure
  • Internal organ damage (drugs are metabolized in the liver and kidneys)
  • Potential increase in the risk of cardiovascular events, like heart attack and stroke

Glucosamine and chondroitin supplements are frequently taken for arthritis and joint pain. But these medications have a side effect profile, too: gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, nausea, heartburn, rash, and allergic reactions to fish or shellfish components.

Hyaluronic acid can cause headaches and dizziness while actually increasing joint pain temporarily. There are other supplements with warning labels: calcium, MSM, boron, and vitamin D3, to name a few.

Surgery

Although surgery is a more severe and last-ditch treatment for chronic pain, it still falls in the category of conventional medicine. Some doctors may even recommend surgery before trying other measures, depending on how they were trained and the health systems that employ them. It’s common knowledge that many surgeons think the solution to most health problems is an operation. It’s a corollary to the old saying, “If all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.”

Surgery has many negatives:

  • High cost, even with insurance
  • Time-consuming pre-op process
  • Extensive downtime for recovery
  • Possibility of suboptimal results
  • Need for subsequent surgeries
  • Newer procedures aren’t well studied
  • Difficulty finding the right doctor
  • COVID-19 risks and restrictions for hospital visits

Some surgical patients get marginal or no relief from their pain, while others are left worse off than when they started their healing journey, dealing with nerve damage, scar tissue, or pain in nearby areas of the body.

Of course, there is a long list of potential health dangers with surgery and its inherent anesthesia too, some of which can be fatal:

  • Shock
  • Malignant hyperthermia (overheating)
  • Allergic reactions
  • Post-operative illness (nausea, vomiting, sore throat, aches, etc.)
  • Excess bleeding and hematomas (blood under the skin)
  • Post-op delirium and cognitive dysfunction
  • Bruising or pain at the incision site or where grafts were harvested
  • Surgical site infection
  • Pneumonia
  • Pneumothorax (collapsed lung)
  • Cardiac arrest or stroke
  • Deep vein thrombosis (DVT) and pulmonary embolism (kinds of blood clots)
  • Medical mistakes

These risks are often glossed over, but thousands of people die every year during or in the weeks immediately after surgery. Even small things may affect success. Did you know there’s a greater likelihood of mortality for patients undergoing an operation on the surgeon’s birthday? This points to things like day-to-day distractions influencing medical safety.

Regenerative Medicine: An Alternative to Conventional Medicine

As you can see – or perhaps as you have experienced yourself – you can empty your wallet and spend years pursuing conventional medicine treatments and end up with no pain relief… or with worse pain or another serious medical problem. There is a better way, though: regenerative medicine.

Regenerative medicine uses your body’s natural healing processes to restructure the body and provide pain relief and improved mobility. Unlike most conventional medical treatments discussed here, it doesn’t mask your pain; instead, it treats the root of your discomfort. And it’s safer than surgery.

Although not usually covered by most insurance plans, regenerative medicine can cost you less in the long run because it lasts for years. You don’t have to keep paying for prescriptions and doctor’s visits when one treatment fails, and you need to start another. There are no surprise expenses like you get with insurance when they decide not to cover something or you haven’t yet satisfied your deductible.

So, how does regenerative medicine work? At RegenerWave Clinic, we inject exosomes into areas of the body where you have pain or loss of range of motion. Exosomes are similar to stem cells and are ethically derived from umbilical cords. They jumpstart the body’s healing process, promoting tissue regeneration, improved immunity, and reduced pain. Exosomes encourage these healing cells to keep reproducing, so the cycle continues without you having to do anything further.

We use regenerative medicine to treat all kinds of chronic pain, sports injuries, and joint wear and tear brought on by aging and manual labor. It’s ideal for meniscus tears, disc problems of the back, and rotator cuff tears, among many other uses. Our team typically combines this treatment with a holistic functional medicine approach that looks at your digestive system, nutrition, energy levels, and hormones as one giant puzzle.

Why Don’t Most Doctors Talk About Regenerative Medicine?

There are multiple reasons why most doctors aren’t telling their chronic pain patients about regenerative medicine. If you’re of a certain age, you may remember when acupuncture, massage, and other Eastern medicine treatments were considered “out there.” It took many years for the medical establishment to accept these methods and include them as treatment options. Regenerative medicine, being fairly new, is going through that stage right now.

Other reasons why physicians withhold information about regenerative medicine include:

  • No time to keep up with the latest treatments
  • Disinterest in new treatments outside the norm
  • Misinformation about how it works or where exosomes come from
  • Pressure from healthcare and insurance systems to promote money-making drugs and surgical procedures

Is Regenerative Medicine an Option for Your Chronic Pain?

We can tell you right away if regenerative medicine at RegenerWave Clinic is suitable for you. Your personal history is combined with a physical exam and medical imaging to identify your chronic pain problem and see if injections with exosomes are likely to work.

You don’t have to keep suffering from conventional medical treatments that don’t bring relief and put you at risk. Set up your initial consultation at RegenerWave Clinic by calling 954-510-3150 today or using our easy contact form to reach out online.

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Dr. Rodriguez

Dr Rodriguez

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