Eric Bakker N.D.May 7, 2022

Drug-induced liver injury is more prevalent than you would believe, and practically every class of pharmaceutical medicine has the potential to cause liver disease. The majority of instances are benign and respond well to drug discontinuation. To avoid the progression of chronic liver disease, it is critical to identify and eliminate the offending substance as soon as feasible.


Muscular and Structural Problems are More Common as you Age

Patients often see naturopaths about conditions affecting their joints, muscles and bones. We often see the same complaints such as osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, knee cartilage issues, hip and lower back pain, muscle strain, tension headaches, fibromyalgia, polymyalgia rheumatica, ankylosing spondylitis, gout, and other conditions. This short article has a focus on the four common drug-based treatments.

Pharmaceutical Treatment Of Chronic Muscle and Joint Problems

A variety of prescription and over-the-counter pharmaceutical medications can help relieve the pain, swelling, and other symptoms associated with fractured bones, injured ligaments, disease, ageing, and joint and bone deterioration. The problem I have with drugs for pain is that in many cases, patients remain on the drugs, sometimes for many years. Click this link to direct you to a good page to read if you are taking or have taken these drugs. Talk to your doctor about their potential impact on your health.

Although pain management is critical to your recovery, it also makes sense to try and improve your symptoms through therapy, lifestyle and diet. That way you’ll be able to reduce your dependence on medications, and eventually discontinue their use altogether. Severe musculoskeletal pain or discomfort or pain that does not go away might cause depression, difficulties sleeping, mobility restrictions, and changes in your everyday routines. There is the need for pain relief, but also the need for improved health if you want to eventually recover. In some cases, it won’t be possible to discontinue your medications altogether, but over time you should be able (with your doctor’s help) reduce your dependence and dosage. Make sense? Pharmaceutical drugs are known through research to make your liver sick. 

There are four classes of drugs commonly prescribed by your medical practitioner for pain, whether it be muscle or joint pain:

1. Analgesics. Paracetamol is the most commonly prescribed drug by your GP for osteoarthritis and other non-inflammatory, but painful, forms of arthritis. Some analgesic pain relievers are available without a prescription while others must be prescribed by a GP.

2. NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) There are many different types of NSAIDs available, such as aspirin, naproxen, diclofenac sodium (Voltaren), ibuprofen and another class of drugs called “Cox-2 inhibitors” like Celebrex, Mobic and Arcoxia. Even though some NSAIDs are available without prescription.

3. Corticosteroids. Prednisone is probably the best known Corticosteroids and can be taken by mouth as tablets or liquid. They can also be given by injection into a joint, muscle or soft tissue. Corticosteroids reduce pain and swelling by suppressing immune response and inflammation but unfortunately have devastating side-effects long term. They also deplete the body’s adrenal gland function leaving the patient tired, with poor immunity and a host of long-term complications some of which can severely reduce the quality of the person’s life over time.

3. DMARDs (Disease Modifying Anti-Rheumatic Drugs) are prescribed for moderate to severe rheumatoid arthritis, for juvenile arthritis, lupus, ankylosing spondylitis and psoriatic arthritis. Drugs in this class include Methotrexate, Minocycline, Hydroxychloroquine sulfate, and Sulfasalazin which are prescribed by doctors to slow the disease process.

DMARDs suppress the immune system, which reduces the activity of the immune system to attack and damage healthy joints. Now how clever is that, to reduce the effectiveness immune system? You don’t have to be a genius to work out that a combination of Corticosteroids (Prednisone) and an DMARD like Methotrexate, a common combination with rheumatoid arthritis, will have dire effects on a person’s health long-term.

Some say in these instances that the cure may be worse than the disease. There is a delay of sometimes 2-3 months before any improvement occurs, and it makes sense to start looking at more natural forms of treatment with inflammatory arthritis in particular. Before retirement, my clinic had a good success rate with many of these conditions and we tend to tackle these conditions differently from the Western drug based model.

The quick fix rarely gives desired results and disappoints long-term

My opinion for what’s it is worth after working with many patients who have taken drugs, sometimes for decades? Long-term drug based solutions when it comes to problems affecting your muscles, joints or bones generally fail.

For example, it is all too easy to get a steroid injection into a painful shoulder, when a more natural treatment such an osteopathic procedure or massage would have been just as effective without the long-term risk of weakening or damaging the joint further. Studies have shown only short-term benefit, if any. 

Symptomatic drug treatment is very common, as we are taught by pharmaceutical company advertising to “switch off the pain”. Today, patients are in addition offered a “quick fix” in terms of orthopaedic surgery as well, and it is rare to find a patient who has had an orthopaedic procedure to alleviate pain that has actually lived up to the patient’s expectations. I have found this particularly with shoulder operations, but also with lower back pain, including “spinal fusions”.

Pharmaceutical TV advertising aimed at period or headache pain tell you that it’s “your choice” and you can take a drug if you want to switch off your pain. Drug treatments for muscle or joint pain do have a place, but unfortunately the downside long-term is quite significant, particularly on the digestive system. It makes a lot more sense to try and allow the body to repair and regenerate injured muscles, bones and joints.

After all, that is what the body is good at, given the right conditions. I have seen all too many patients with a wrecked liver and digestive system after years of pharmaceutical drug dependency. The first thing we go about is trying to repair such digestive damage, and in some cases it can take many months and even a year.

How can the body efficiently repair damage to a joint, bone or muscle when the digestive system itself becomes damaged through pain killers, preventing the efficient digestion and absorption of nutrients so crucial to the repair process?

By reducing your dependence on drugs that manage pain, you will lessen any burden on your liver and kidneys, primary organs of detoxification. That way you will be on your way to improving your overall health. Congratulations for reading this article and if you’ve made it this far – perhaps some food for thought?



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