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Painkillers are Sex Life Killers: Supplement Solutions

I see it all the time: men who are otherwise health-conscious and otherwise living a natural lifestyle show up to the Peak Testosterone Forum obviously addicted to pain medications. I have no doubt that it probably started out innocently enough – perhaps pain in the knee or back or even recovery from surgery. But next thing they know, they are addicted to these medications and find that they can’t sleep or function without them. The opiates are notoriously addictive, both psychologically and physically, and also have the problem of resistance or tolerance. In other words, over time many men have to take a greater dosage just to find the same pain relief.

And what most men do not realize:  these drugs will almost always impact their sex life negatively.  Yes, a medication like hydrocodone (Vicodin) is just a fraction as powerful as something like morphine, but it can definitely lower sexual function.  And it is more often than not middle-aged men struggling with injured backs and worn out knees that start taking these kind of pain medications and they do not have the buffer in their erectile strength and libido to handle the negative effects of these drugs.

Opiates such as hydrocodone, oxycodone, Darvocet, Vicodin, etc. slowly chip away at both testosterone and libido.  One study of men on intraspinal opiods found GREATLY reduced testosterone levels and a number of men that could no longer even achieve an erection. [1] All men had some reduction in libido. I cover some of the more extreme cases in my link on Heroin and Erectile Dysfunction as well.

I do want to also mention that some men with pain issues pop NSAIDs (ibuprofen, Naproxen, Advil, Motrin, Aleve, etc.) and acetomeniphen (Tylenol) like candy not realizing that the former often affects sexual function and the latter has many potential negative impacts, a fact I cover in my link on The Dangers of Tylenol.  So, as you may have guessed, I am trying to point out that these pain relievers are very likely to greatly reduce your quality of life and possible your bedroom performance.  And I ask the question, “Why not consider more natural alternatives?”

Most men simply do not realize the abudnance of reserach that has gone into more natural pain management solutions.  Below I have summarized some of the many studies that show this:

CAUTION:  Do not discontinue any medication without consulting your physician first.  And if you have any medical condition or are on any medications, check with your physician first.

1. Hypnotherapy. Hyponotherapy, as in the licensed, non-sensational kind, has achieved widespread acceptance in the U.K. and is growing in popularity in many countries including the U.S.  The reason is that research results have been excellent. One of the most interesting uses of hypnotherapy is in pain management and results can be astonishing: I knew one relative who needed a root canal and was suffering quite badly who was completely relieved of all pain for several days after just one hypnotherapy session.  This has not surprising considering that hypnotherapy has shown powerful pain releif in a wide variety of conditions including chronic, abdominal and non-cardiac chest pain. [2][3]

2. Progressive Muscle Relaxation.  Pain can usually be significantly reduced by stress and anxiety-reducing techniques.  One example of this is Progressive Muscle Relaxation, one of my favorite techniques, because it backed by a mountain of research and is easy to learn and do.  For more information, see my page on The Many Benefits of Progressive Muscle Relaxation.  PMR, for short, has also been shown to help with osteoarthritis and insomnia, both common issues associated with pain management. [4]
3. Curcumin. Looking for a decent NSAID substitute with many less side effects? (NSAIDs are notoriously hard on the GI tract and can contribute to sexual dysfunction.) Curcumin is worth consideration and has dozens of studies and centuries of folk usage behind it. Curcumin is a component of turmeric, which is in turn an ingredient in yellow curries and mustards. Asians who eat curry seem to enjoy many of the anti-inflammatory benefits of consuming curry every day. However, curcumin is poorly absorbed in general and to get therapeutic benefits you probably need to consume it with piperine, a phytochemical in black pepper. Life Extension makes such a product for example: Life Extension Bio-curcumin Vegetarian Capsules. [5]

4.  Meditation.  One thing I ask men to consider is Secular (Non-Religious) Meditation for stress and cortisol management. Virtually every form of meditation has been shown to help manage pain as well. For example, mindfulness meditation was shown to substantially help men and women in chronic pain who could not be helped by traditional pain management techniques. [6] Lovingkindness meditation was shown to significantly lower pain in patients with chronic lower back pain and Transcendental Meditation also has a study behind it. [7][8]

5.  Vitamin D.  A vitamin D deficiency has been reported in many studies to be associated with chronic pain.  Some studies have shown nearly miraculous results with this ultracheap supplement.  For example, one study showed pain miraculously resolving and returning based on Vitamin D status and supplementation. [9] Yet another study in fibromyalgia patients showed very positive results as well. [10] However, the studies have certainly not been consistent.  Nevertheless, it is always smart to get your Vitamin D status checked – a big percentage of people are deficient – and this can even boost your testosterone a little.  Read this link on Vitamin D and Testosterone for more information. Resoving a Vitamin D Deficiency can help in a hundred different ways as well. In other words, it’s worth a try…

6. Bromelain.  This phytochemcial is the part of the pineapple that tenderizes meat.  It has another incredible property as well:  it is a moderate anti-inflammatory and has been successful in a number of studies dealing with osteoarthritis in particular. [11] It has relatively few side effects and has a long and rich history in herbal and folk medicine.

7. Boswella. This herb has been used for centuries in ayurvedic medicine for pain relief and, therfore, no one was surprised to find that it really works, especially for arthritis-related pain. [12] It works by downregulating various inflammatory cytokines such as TNF Alpha.  Unfortunately, it looks like it may downregulate nitric oxide as well. [13]

8.  Yoga. Your wife or girlfriend likely loves yoga.  If you have chronic lower back pain, you probably should too according to one study of Iyengar Yoga. [14] This type of yoga is a form of Hatha Yoga, but is designed to be very safe for the joints.

9.  Tai Chi. This ancient tradition, like Mindfulness Meditation, has multiple studies showing its benefits to various pain conditions, including arthritis and fibromyalgia. [15][16]

10.  White Willow Bark.  This is another herb used for, well, just about forever to relieve pain and inflammation.  One study showed it was quite effective on osteoarthritis. [17]


1)   Journal of Pain and Symptom Management, Feb 1994, 9(2):126-131, “Altered sexual function and decreased testosterone in patients receiving intraspinal opioids”

2) GASTROENTEROLOGY, 2007, 133:1430 –1436, “Hypnotherapy for Children With Functional Abdominal Pain or Irritable Bowel Syndrome: A Randomized Controlled Trial”

3) Gut, 2006, 55:1403-1408, “Neurogastroenterology Treatment of non-cardiac chest pain: a controlled trial of hypnotherapy”

4) Pain Management Nursing, Sep 2004, 5(3):97–104, “A pilot study of the effectiveness of guided imagery with progressive muscle relaxation to reduce chronic pain and mobility difficulties of osteoarthritis”


6) General Hospital Psychiatry, Apr 1982, 4(1):33-47, “An outpatient program in behavioral medicine for chronic pain patients based on the practice of mindfulness meditation: Theoretical considerations and preliminary results”

7) J Holist Nurs September 2005 vol. 23 no. 3 287-304, “Loving-Kindness Meditation for Chronic Low Back Pain: Results From a Pilot Trial”

8) Psychosomatic Medicine, Apr 1 1981, 43(2):157-164, “The transcendental meditation technique and acute experimental pain”

9) JAMA, August 1991, 151(8), “Can Vitamin D Deficiency Produce an Unusual Pain Syndrome?”


<p11) evidence-based=”” complementary=”” and=”” alternative=”” medicine,=”” 2004,=”” 1(3):251-257,=”” “bromelain=”” as=”” a=”” treatment=”” for=”” osteoarthritis:=”” review=”” of=”” clinical=”” studies”<=”” p=””>12) Phytomedicine, 2003, 10(1):3–7, Efficacy and tolerability of Boswellia serrata extract in treatment of osteoarthritis of knee – A randomized double blind placebo controlled trial”

13) International Immunopharmacology, Apr 2007, 7(40:473–482, “Pure compound from Boswellia serrata extract exhibits anti-inflammatory property in human PBMCs and mouse macrophages through inhibition of TNFα, IL-1β, NO and MAP kinases”

14) Pain, May 2005, 115(1-2):107–117, “Effect of Iyengar yoga therapy for chronic low back pain”

15) The Journal of Rheumatology, 30(9):2039-2044, “Effects of tai chi exercise on pain, balance, muscle strength, and perceived difficulties in physical functioning in older women with osteoarthritis: a randomized clinical trial”

16) N Engl J Med, 2010; 363:743-754, “A Randomized Trial of Tai Chi for Fibromyalgia”

17) Phytotherapy Research, Jun 2001, 15(4):344–350, “Efficacy and tolerability of a standardized willow bark extract in patients with osteoarthritis: randomized placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial†”

18) Phytotherapy Research, Jun 2001, 15(4):344–350, “Efficacy and tolerability of a standardized willow bark extract in patients with osteoarthritis: randomized placebo-controlled, double blind clinical trial†”


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