PEA for Pain Relief

PEA for pain? This does not in fact refer to a pack of frozen peas placed on a sore joint!  (Being a netball player when I was a child and teenager, I have many memories of using frozen peas for sprained ankles. While this was a good remedy, the PEA I will be discussing in this article is something very different.)

Pic: Afif Ramdhasuma, unsplash

P.E.A stands for palmitoylethanolamide which is a naturally occurring fatty acid amide that is made in the body to help regulate pain and inflammation. PEA is also made in plants and other animals and was first discovered in the 1950s, initially being extracted from soybean lecithin, egg yolk, and peanuts. As we age our levels can be negatively impacted and when we also are in chronic pain our natural production of PEA may lower over time.  PEA broadly works within the endocannabinoid pathway, rather than the opioid pathway. It shares some of the same features as CBD and cannabis in terms of this pain modulating pathway, but offers a slightly different process in how it interacts with receptors.

When used as a supplement, PEA can boost this pathway and support a reduction in pain and inflammation. It has been used for musculoskeletal pain, inflammation, nerve pain and other visceral or chronic pain patterns. It has also had good results in research on chronic skin inflammation such as eczema, psoriasis and lichen sclerosus.

How to Take PEA

The good news is, PEA being 100% natural and made in the body, means that is has no side effects, is non-addictive and does not interact with other pain medications. The only downside is that PEA does take a while to start to work and initial dosing needs to be quite high to activate receptors and allow the pathway to be stimulated. Anywhere from one to six weeks of dosing may be required before the effects are felt, though many people experience relief in 1-2 weeks.

Once the pathway is activated and the PEA is working, doses can be lowered to a maintenance level.  Research has shown effective doses in the range of 600mg twice daily as an initial loading dose,  which can come down to 150mg twice daily as maintenance.  Doses need to be calibrated on an individual basis for best effects.  It is also essential to know that different PEA supplements yield different effects due to the molecule size and absorption.Thus it is important to buy bioavailable types that have been formulated for best fatty acid absorption.

Learn more about the research into PEA in this review paper.

I often pair PEA with curcumin (turmeric extract) which is another good natural anti-inflammatory agent. It is so great to have natural products that can be used for pain, rather than the standard pharmaceutical analgesic drugs which have many side effects and in some cases can be highly addictive. Obviously other supplements and remedies relevant to the underlying condition causing the pain should be utilised for best effects. Additionally, there are many manual therapies such as massage, acupuncture, chiropractic and biofield tuning which can be a great help in many pain based conditions.

Pain and Your Emotions

Photo by David Garrison (pexels.com)

It is also important to know that our experience of pain is highly dependent on our state of mind and emotions. Pain has an impact on emotions and emotions have an impact on pain.

Most of us have had a firsthand experience of this phenomenon – when we are tense and irritable or upset, we experience more sensations of pain. Research has found that maintaining a calm state of mind, even amidst chronic pain, will lower perception of pain. So when dealing with pain, it is also wise to work on your mindset and get support to reframe and change your perception of pain as well as learn some relaxation and breathing tools.

All of these natural approaches covered above, from supplements to mindset and manual therapy, when put together will give best results in tackling chronic pain.