Unfortunately, some slick marketers have created the perception that there is such a thing as targeted pain relief. Sadly, it’s not true. And here’s why.

When you have tissue damage, like in the case of osteoarthritis, hormones called prostaglandins are released from the damaged cells. These chemical messengers send a signal to let us know that there is damage and we should do something about it. They cause inflammation and transmit the pain message to the brain via nerve endings.

Fortunately, scientists have discovered that there are a group of enzymes that are needed to produce prostaglandins, and if we can reduce or block the production of these enzymes (called cyclooxygenase or COX enzymes) we can also reduce the production of prostaglandins.

Common pain relievers like paracetamol and ibuprofen (and other NSAID’s) work by blocking the enzymes that make prostaglandins. However, it is important to realise that they block the enzymes everywhere in the body, not just where the pain/tissue damage is.

Health authorities became very concerned about the promotion and prevalence of ‘targeted pain’ medication from a safety point of view. There is a danger that people who have pain in more than one part of the body might be taking a potentially harmful amount of medication. For example, if they take separate Back Pain and Headache medication which both contain the same ingredient, they are doubling the dose which may have serious implications.

Importantly, the COX enzymes that regulate pain are also responsible for some important bodily functions, but because the pain killers don’t discriminate between those functions, they simply block them all. For this reason consistent or prolonged use can lead to some unwanted side effects. And what’s worse is that these same COX enzymes that regulate pain are also responsible for some important bodily functions and because the pain killers don’t discriminate between they simply block them all. For this reason consistent or prolonged use can lead to some pretty nasty side effects.

Plant derived compounds such as those found in turmeric, ginger and Terminalia are effective natural anti-inflammatories. Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years, they are also thought to work on the COX enzymes to block the prostaglandin production. However, unlike some common pain killers, they can be used every day and have no known drug interactions. Turmeric based pain relievers are potent natural anti-inflammatories. Used in Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic medicine for hundreds of years, they are also thought to work on the COX enzymes to block the prostaglandin production. However, unlike some common pain killers, they can be used every day and have no known drug interactions.

Natural anti-inflammatories, like turmeric, do not block these enzymes – they down regulate their production specific to inflammation. So instead of turning off pain and other natural bodily functions they simply turn down the inflammatory response, relieving pain but leaving the rest of the body to function in harmony.