Natural painkillers – without a prescription? Suggestion and empathy for pain
Many People in Germany rely on painkillers from the pharmacy for acute and chronic pain. However, natural painkiller alternatives tend to have fewer side effects in the long run.
Salutations from Gelsenkirchen! My name is Turgay Turhan, and I am the senior dentist and founder of the Dental Praxisklinik am Stadtwald in the Buer district. The topic of pain is very important in my profession because it is precisely why many patients are afraid of going to the dentist.
I know from experience that when it comes to pain, the psychological component is often at least as large as the physical component. Pain also arises in the mind. This leads to a very interesting question for me: Isn’t it therefore possible to also handle pain psychologically instead of relying exclusively on chemical painkillers? Psychology as a natural painkiller, in a manner of speaking? Those who continue to do research here, will come across some exciting discoveries!
Why natural painkillers? – Are pharmacy painkillers dangerous?
As a dentist, dealing with painkillers is one of my daily tasks. We have access to many well-tested and usually well-tolerated painkillers – particularly in the area of dentistry, which make it possible to perform procedures without pain.
However, these are merely anesthetics, which are localized and only last for a certain period of time. Of course, they don’t help with everyday pain such as headaches or chronic joint pain. In such cases, many consumers often resort to over-the-counter painkillers from the pharmacy such as ibuprofen or paracetamol. In many cases, they can actually remedy the situation in the short term. However, these medications are not without (and can cause) serious side effects, especially with long-term use.
In an interview with the FAZ, one pain therapist even advised that no painkillers should be sold freely (https://www.faz.net/aktuell/gesellschaft/gesundheit/schmerztherapeut-ueber-die-gefahr-von-ibuprofen-15202284.html).
The psychological component of pain
The same interview also deals with another exciting aspect, namely the psychological side of pain. In many cases, chronic pain, for example, is detached from its original organic cause. Even after amputations, some sufferers will still feel pain in the missing parts of their bodies – so-called “phantom pain”. This pain arises from the body having a so-called “pain memory”. Those who suffer from certain pain for a long period of time will be subconsciously “reminded” of the pain when they think of the way it actually occurred.
The whole thing works similarly with acute pain when it’s associated with certain situations. The classic example is the dentist. Many patients come to my practice with a lot of anxiety because they have had bad experiences with dentists. Sometimes a single painful experience in childhood is enough to develop a lifelong fear of doctors. If someone stops going to the dentist because of this fear, the consequences for his/her dental health can be devastating. From my point of view, it does not have to be this way.
Empathy and suggestion as natural painkillers without prescriptions?
My practice specifically targets patients with anxiety. We often take away these People’s fear by not designing our practice rooms like a classic dental practice, and instead creating a feel-good atmosphere. The patients, my team, and I call it the “anxiety-free space”. This creates additional trust.
We also actively deal with the concerns and fears of our patients, for which we take our time. In many cases, this alone is enough to quell anxious patients’ greatest fear of intervention. If the expectation of pain is no longer there, the level of pain that most People actually feel diminishes, or even disappears completely.
This effect can be utilized by other means. The keyword here is: suggestion. Examples include the placebo effect or hypnosis. Just believing that something hurts less can have a positive effect on the actual perception of pain and improve the effects of painkillers. A study by the International Review of Neurobiology shows that this effect has clinical relevance in the case of placebo and can even work without deceiving the patient (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6175283/).
If you also attack the pain psychologically, you’ll also be able to handle it well. Suggestion as a natural painkiller, in a way – and certainly with a much lower risk of side effects than many pharmaceutical painkillers.
Our mind is capable of amazing things
For me, this topic is further proof of how much power actually lies within ourselves and ties in with my experience in the daily work of my dental practice. When you imagine that a lot of empathy – combined with positive suggestion – can be sufficient to trigger strong treatment-supporting effects, as can be the case with placebo or hypnosis, then this amazes me from my perspective a doctor, in the first instance.
This shows that faith can move more than just mountains; it can also have a direct impact on our lives. But on the other hand, I have come to the conclusion that science should carry out further research here for the benefit of the patient.
In an exchange with the Bottrop-based Youtubers, Farid Zitoun and Christian Rüger from Naturheilzentrum Bottrop, it became clear that the topic of the placebo effect and the power that our minds can exert on our lives is of current relevance across the profession, and that this presents great opportunities in itself. That’s why I was particularly pleased that the naturopaths and lifestyle bloggers filmed their new video about it here at my dental clinic. I think the vlog contains things that are worth knowing as well as interesting tips for everyday life. My suggestion: definitely take a look!
Last but not least, a clear recommendation for you: go to the dentist regularly! This is for more than sensible prophylaxis; it can spare you from anxiety and toothache in the long run.
Have you had a conscious experience with placebos or do you have positive suggestions on how to deal with pain? Share your experiences and posts in the comments section. I’m looking forward to them!
Dr. Turgay Turhan
More about the “Placebo Effect” topic can now be found in the latest post of the Naturheilzentrum Bottrop news section, along with a #nabomade video.