How to Treat Chronic Pain at Home and Avoid Liver Damage

Steve Kroening, ND
July 17, 2019


If you suffer from joint or muscle pain, it’s very tempting to pull out some Tylenol to ease your pain. But there’s a major problem with doing so. Research has repeatedly shown that taking more than the highest approved daily dose of 4,000 mg a day is a fatal mistake.

This is because the active ingredient, acetaminophen, is a well-known liver toxin. In fact, acetaminophen overdose is the leading cause of liver failure in the U.S. Unfortunately, it’s easy to take too much.

While bottles of Tylenol and generic brands of acetaminophen clearly state that daily doses should not exceed more than four grams (or eight extra-strength capsules), lots of people may be going well over the safe dose without even realizing it. Here’s why: Hundreds of pain relievers and cold remedies, including Nyquil, also contain acetaminophen. That means if you’re taking several of these medications at the same time over an extended period, you will likely be at high risk of acute liver failure. Don’t make that mistake. Read your labels carefully!

Don’t Take Tylenol for Longer Than a Day – And Avoid Alcohol

If you must take Tylenol, it’s vital you avoid taking it for longer than a day or two. And you can’t drink even the slightest bit of alcohol with it. This actually eliminates the regular use of NyQuil, as it contains both acetaminophen and alcohol. Here’s the problem.

Two studies came out a few years ago showing early signs of liver damage in patients who took, but did not exceed, the highest recommended daily doses of Tylenol for two weeks. These two new studies found that acetaminophen tends to injure the liver even if you don’t take the upper daily dose.

In the first study, taking Tylenol for only four days as directed, put people at risk of liver damage. This is alarming. Anyone recovering from surgery in a hospital will likely take this dose of Tylenol for several weeks!

In the second follow-up study of 145 healthy volunteers, 106 of them took the maximum daily dosage of four grams of Tylenol every day for two weeks. The remaining 39 participants took sugar pills. They all ate the same diet as a control factor.

As expected, the researchers found no problems in liver-test results for those people taking the placebos. But in the group who took the Tylenol, 41 patients (39%) experienced an increase in liver enzymes to more than three times the upper limit of normal. Twenty-seven patients (25%) had enzyme levels exceeding five times normal, and eight patients (8%) had eight times the normal amount of enzyme. Three times the normal limit on liver enzymes signals liver damage. And this was with an approved dose!

A third study, which came out a few years later, found trouble with taking Tylenol with alcohol. This study found that combining acetaminophen pain relievers and even light amounts of alcohol can more than double your risk of kidney disease. The study revealed that taking even the recommended dose of acetaminophen with a small to moderate amount of alcohol can produce a 123% increased risk of kidney disease.

Keep the Dose Much Lower

After the recent studies showing possible liver damage at normal doses, the American Liver Foundation has issued a warning to Americans to ignore the published doses for acetaminophen and not exceed a maximum of 3,000 mg daily. Parents must be particularly vigilant about children’s doses. They point out that acute liver failure caused by excess acetaminophen has risen from 28% of all cases in 1998 to 51% in 2003.

When you are recovering from surgery, you don’t have many options for pain relief. One of the best pain medications is a narcotic. Most people are worried about addiction. But that’s rare if you take it for a short time under the supervision of a responsible doctor.

And if you’re dealing with chronic pain, there are many safer alternatives to help you avoid both the NSAIDs and acetaminophen. Here are a few that will help you address the cause of your chronic pain — not simply hide it.

Start With Glucosamine Sulfate

This tried-and-true joint healing compound is well-known for good reason. Researchers have conducted over 300 scientific investigations on it and at least three thorough double-blind studies. Millions of people worldwide use it because it works. It’s so effective it’s classified as a drug in the treatment of osteoarthritis in more than 70 countries.

But glucosamine is not a drug. Glucosamine is a simple molecule that can be manufactured in the body. The main function of glucosamine in joints is to increase the body’s ability to make molecules called glycosaminoglycans. These are the key structural components of cartilage. Once most folks begin to get older, they lose the ability to manufacture sufficient levels of glucosamine. The result is that cartilage loses its ability to buffer pressure inside the joint. Loss of the ability to make glucosamine is likely a major reason for the widespread prevalence of osteoarthritis.

Scores of published clinical trials with glucosamine sulfate have shown a success rate of up to 95% in various forms of osteoarthritis. In osteoarthritis of the knee, the success rate is over 80%. In addition to being more effective than a placebo, in double-blind studies comparing glucosamine sulfate to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), glucosamine sulfate produced better results than NSAIDs by relieving pain and inflammation.

Glucosamine sulfate acts directly on the cause of osteoarthritis. By treating the cause of the problem and increasing cartilage production, glucosamine sulfate not only improves the symptoms, including pain, but also helps the body to repair damaged joints. The typical dosage for glucosamine sulfate is 1,500 mg per day.

Combine Glucosamine With MSM

MSM or methyl-sulfonyl-methane is the major form of sulfur in the human body. Sulfur is an important element for all cells and body tissues. It is an especially important nutrient for joint tissue where it supports the connective tissue matrix of cartilage, tendons, and ligaments. Eighty years ago, studies found that people with arthritis are often deficient in MSM. Restoring sulfur levels brought significant relief to these patients. More recent studies validate the benefits of MSM for osteoarthritis sufferers. The standard dosage of MSM is 1,200 to 2,000 mg per day.

Take Plenty of Vitamin D

Vitamin D improves muscle strength and physical function, according to a Boston University study of 221 men and women with knee osteoarthritis (OA). People who got the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 400 to 800 IU of vitamin D experienced less pain than those who fell short.

Vitamin D may help relieve pain by aiding in the absorption of calcium, which is needed for bone growth and repair. Vague, chronic aches in the back, arms, legs, neck, and chest are often diagnosed as fibromyalgia or stress. But the real cause may be a vitamin D deficiency. To rule that out as a cause of your pain, have your doctor order a blood test called 25-hydroxy vitamin D. If you’re low, take a larger dose. Most people have to take 5,000 units or more to get to the optimal range.

Take a Fish Oil Supplement

Several clinical trials found that eating three grams of the fatty acids EPA and DHA from fish oils a day is an effective way to treat chronic pain. The researchers found it relieved the joint pain, swelling, and morning stiffness of rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis and reduced the need for drugs.

Researchers have shown that omega-3s — particularly eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) — help regulate the formation of COX enzymes, thereby reducing minor pain. Fish oils also reverse the trend of inflammation that causes RA and OA symptoms. Fish oils help to relieve headache pain too. This probably is due to omega-3 induced reduction in spasms in blood vessels and their normalizing effect on blood vessels.

Other Natural Options

A natural strategy for pain relief should attempt to support the production of substances in the body that protect tissues and organs and relieve minor pain. This goal can be achieved by supplementing with the select nutrients mentioned above plus herbs like willow and hops. These have a demonstrated ability to inhibit the production of COX. They act like natural Vioxx without the side effects. Other herbs act to subtly reduce the activity of COX enzymes, as well as to help regulate pain. These herbs include ginger, boswellia, curcumin, and quercetin among others. When considering herbs, it’s important to choose a blend that has a high level of predicted safety and effectiveness.

Other nutrients act to relieve joint stiffness and minor pain. These include niacinamide and N-acetylcysteine (NAC). When taken together, they have complementary effects to improve results.

Finally, if you can avoid surgery, do so. There are natural doctor-administered treatments that can help you avoid the knife. For instance, if you suffer from back pain, find a doctor with a decompression table. My chiropractor tells me that his table helps people avoid back surgery in 80-90% of his cases. Coupled with regular adjustments, this table is fantastic for bulging discs and other back issues.

If you have pain in your knees, shoulders, neck, or back, try either Prolozone or PRP (platelet-rich plasma) injections. Many orthopedic clinics are now using PRP and it might be covered by insurance. You’ll have to find an integrative doctor at to find a doctor who uses Prolozone. You can find out more about these treatments on my website.

You also might want to give stem cells a try. Stem cells are expensive, but they can work wonders.

Whatever you do, avoid Tylenol. Avoiding Tylenol and treating your pain naturally is possible. But you need to think ahead and be proactive. This list of options should get you started.

One final note: If you’ve taken acetaminophen and fear you’re suffering from liver damage, you can take the nutrient N-acetylcysteine, or NAC, along with the amino acid glutamine to help reverse the damage. These nutrients are great for protecting your liver, as well. You can find all of these nutrients online and at most health food stores.

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