Treating Pain With Antioxidants

Antioxidants have made the news a gazillion times in the last few years. After listening to the same information over and over again, I tuned it out. Today I’m paying attention.

Synthetic antioxidants nearly eliminated pain-like behavior in almost three-quarters of mice with inflamed paws. Mice aren’t humans, of course, but it’s an interesting start. Antioxidants are an emerging research interest; with findings such as these, the interest can only grow.

Right now pain treatments options are at extreme ends. OTC painkillers are on one side and opioids are at the other end, with little in between. Finding an effective middle-ground has been tough, but the antioxidant research appears promising (to my untrained eye).

Antioxidants neutralize free radicals, substances that damage cells. While our bodies constantly produce free radicals, healthy tissues inactivate these damaging substances and keep their levels in check. It’s when free-radical production somehow exceeds the body’s natural defenses that problems occur. Researchers have linked this excessive production to diseases like cancer and Alzheimer’s.

A handful of studies published in the last 10 years suggest that free radicals may also contribute to chronic pain. Left unchecked, free radicals build up in the body and can further damage already-injured tissue.

An equally small number of studies, including those by Stephens, suggest that antioxidants may fight chronic pain by helping the body to break down free radicals.