Coffee’s a Legit Pain Reliever — Here’s the Science to Back It Up

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Unless you’re topping it off with a spoonful of LSD, coffee isn’t what you’d traditionally call wild.

But my response was. Just a sip and I always ended up with heart palpitations and anxiety. Which you’d think would be a turn-off. But “wild” is also how I’d describe my irrepressible lust for the stuff, despite how it made me feel.

Walking through the coffee aisle at my local health food store, I practically got whiplash. The aroma was so… intoxicating.

Maybe I’ll just get some of the Guatemalan French roast, I thought as I grabbed a bag — just to sniff, of course. And one day, it occurred to me that if my body’s desire for coffee was so strong that my brain had manufactured a “just to sniff” rationale in order to increase my chances of consuming it, then maybe I should actually consume it.

The next day was my first full cup of joe — at the ripe age of 28.

I tasted it, anxious about the upcoming panic attack. But there was only… peace. In thirty seconds, my freak-out was replaced with relaxation. Tension melted away and a sort of golden glow seemed to emanate from every cell in my body. I felt good. Which, after years of having chronic neck and shoulder pain that even 2-hour Swedish massages couldn’t touch (sorry, Helga), was kind of amazing.

There’s plenty of scientific research on the link between caffeine and pain management. But going through study after study, there didn’t seem to be any that studied coffee and pain management. Plenty studied caffeine, but they talked about caffeine (the drug) as an adjunct to analgesics like aspirin or ibuprofen. None studied caffeine’s solo analgesic effect.

According to Robert Schmerling, M.D., caffeine on its own (not coffee) has indeed been observed to reduce pain — admittedly, so far, only in sleep-deprived mice. No study yet exists on human pain and coffee by itself.

But the lack of literature didn’t stop my miracle pain cure from, at the risk of redundancy, being a miracle friggin’ pain cure.

I experimented with caffeine the drug, and caffeine in other types of foods, like tea, but none had any effect that came close to what coffee does for me.

My first cup’s analgesic effect lasted a full 8 hours and was more powerful than any CBD oil (or, let’s be honest, weed brownie) I’d ever tried. It also had none of the side effects that I had been expecting that morning, due to the gobs of fat that slowed down the caffeine’s absorption, thus preventing that kick of adrenaline and the dreaded rush of anxiety.

So, one cup was all it took for me to join the rest of the adult world in a fanatical-bordering-on-obsessive love for coffee. And that was before I even discovered the ridiculous exercise benefits of my favorite substance.

I felt so damn perky after my first taste of adulthood — read: coffee — that I went for a little victory stroll around my neighborhood.

Walking was about all I’d been doing at that point (with the occasional set of calisthenics), because almost any physical activity made me spontaneously karate-chop my neck for pain relief.

But that day, I came across a tree branch hanging over the sidewalk and said to myself LET’S DO IT! I guess I’d seen that Shia LaBeouf video one too many times — I knocked out 20 pull-ups, and proceeded with push-ups, pull-ups, and jump squats every 10 minutes for the rest of the day like I was either some kind of fitness guru, on steroids, or an amped-up combination of both.

This was the first time in years that I’d actually wanted to exercise. And yeah, not being in pain was part of it, but it was an energy thing too: I’d always gotten exhausted from even brief spurts of exercise, pre-coffee. Now, with my magic beans, I felt indefatigable.

As of writing this I’ve become a full-on fitness lover, and I seriously credit my discovery of coffee as the turning point. Now I can understand why Paul Bergmann wrote this song.

So, what’s up with coffee, really: Is it a superfood? Performance-enhancing drug? The Meaning of Life?

I can imagine that my first week on coffee was similar to what people experience on their honeymoons. Everything was gold-tinged; I had insane energy, and was having sex ten times a d— no, actually I’ve been single for five years…

But you get the idea:

Life with coffee wayyy better.

I honestly cried with gratitude at the end of my first month when I realized that my new quality of life was a permanent thing.

Since conventional scientists couldn’t explain exactly whyTF I was weeping with gratitude, precisely, I had to do my own research. This led me to Dr. Ray Peat — PhD physiologist and underground health guru, whose followers will often be seen gobbling up aspirin and, of course, quaffing coffee.

“Our scientific community talks about coffee like it’s a drug,” Peat said, “when actually it’s an adaptogenic nutrient. The caffeine in coffee mimics anti-stress hormones like progresterone, scavenges free radicals, and increases the efficiency of fuel consumption in the body.” This explains why the NBA’s most freakishly energetic player ever was famous for his pre-game coffee ritual.

Peat also mentioned that the negative effects of java, like elevated blood pressure, are typically seen outside of “normal use” — referring to studies where high doses of caffeine are administered on an empty stomach.

“Adequate nutrition is essential,” he says, “because coffee increases the consumption of glucose in the bloodstream. So, if you’re not drinking it with carbohydrates or fat — either in the form of a meal or as cream and sugar— that’s when you start feeling shaky.”

Now, I’ll not pretend that my life post-coffee (aka adulthood) has been without its difficulties.

Aside from being forced into plasma donation to finance my new coffee habit (jo-king) there were times when I had to pump the breaks on my four-espresso-shots-by-4 p.m. routine because I got a super jittery/shitty feeling, which is the opposite of why I got hooked in the first place. But when I refocused on having “adequate nutrition,” per Dr. Peat — drinking coffee after meals, or with plenty of fat or sugar — my adrenal shakes disappeared, and I felt nothing but relaxed bliss.

In fact, toward the end of writing this article, my neck started doing that effed up thing where I feel like visiting my local guillotine for swift relief. So, I did self-massage and deep breathing… nothing. Then I remembered that I was writing an article about how coffee is supposedly this powerful pain reliever and at 9 p.m., just after dinner, I downed a piping hot cuppa black. Instant relief.

Coffee is the only thing that consistently works for me.

If you’re looking to manage pain or increase your overall health and fitness, coffee may be worth a try. Just make sure you’re purchasing organic varieties — way less mold and toxins — and are pairing that ebony nectar with plenty of fat/sugar, or just a good ole fashioned meal. Oh, and I’ve noticed that I have to drink about 15 percent more water throughout the day when I’m imbibing the black stuff.

And if you’re already hooked on coffee — which is to say, if you’re already a normal adult functioning in society — now you have another reason to binge with me!

Seriously, you have a greenlight for up to eight cups.

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