Considering PEA for Chronic Pain

Considering PEA for Chronic Pain

As Acupuncturist’s our patients are often looking for effective but safe and non addicitve alternatives to pain medication. One of the supplements we regularly recommend is the reletively unheard of PEA. So let’s explore PEA a little more.


So, what is PEA?


PEA is short for Palmitoylethanolamide, which is a lipid compound that occurs naturally in our body. It can be described as our in-built pain modulator that works via our ‘bliss’ receptors. Within our PEA is found almost everywhere in our bodies.  PEA belongs to a group of bioactive lipids called N-acylethanolamines (NAEs) which are involved in the regulation of pain and inflammation. It is particularly abundant in the central nervous system (CNS), where it is produced by neurons and glial cells, and also in immune cells.


PEA can also be supplemented, like the naturally occurring PEA in the body acts as an anti-inflammatory, analgesic agent as well as having also demonstrated neuroprotective properties in many studies. More specifically the supplement PEA interacts with inflammatory cells in the nervous system by blocking an enzyme, so boosting the activity of your natural occurring cannabinoids. Although the endocannabinoid system (EC named after the marijuana plant Cannabis Sativa) isn’t fully understood yet, some experts believe that clinical endocannabinoid deficiency could contribute to disorders such as migraine, and fibromyalgia.


Do not confuse PEA with Pea protein or Phenylethylamine.


PEA use compared with Cannabidiol (CBD oil)


PEA often compared with CBD oil due to its similar ability to interact with endocannabinoid system (EC), however it is actually considered much safer alternative to something like CBD oil for various reasons; firstly lack of side effects and secondly, no known interactions with medications. Side effects of CBT can include dry mouth, low blood pressure, light-headedness, and drowsiness.


Although research is showing that CBD can be potentially beneficial for many conditions, it comes with more downsides than positive for others. For example, the average over the counter CBD product available in Australia has low concentrations of CBD. (excluding prescribed CBD). So, if you buy an oil over the counter in Australia it will commonly have approximately 30 milligrams of CBD per mil, your average daily dose is probably less than 100 milligrams of CBD. Research is often based on 100-800mg per day, which can increase the side effects. See these article for dosage research;


We never recommend purchasing CBD products from overseas on internet have been known to have issues in quality control. Studies show that unregulated CBD bought online rarely contains the advertised amount of CBD. In one study, nearly 70 percent of CBD oils sold online were mislabelled; incorrect active amounts listed, and no safety regulations so could contain potentially harmful such as moulds, toxins, heavy metals, bacteria, fungus, viruses, and pesticides. Another risk with incorrect labelling is that it may contain too much tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) the component which is considered psychoactive.


Some also believe that removing THC the action on the EC is greatly reduced, and will have less benefit. However THC increases the synthesis and release of dopamine, as well as increase reuptake inhibition associated with a stressor, which can potentially cause dopaminergic alterations which in severe cases seen are seen in drug induced schizophrenia.


If you are going to use CBD then it is strongly recommended to seek medical advice and prescription of TGA approved product. However we recommend strongly considering trying PEA first. Unlike CBD oil PEA is available at therapeutic dosages from practitioners, is TGA approved for use, available from various reputable brands, and does not need to be prescribed.


At Balanced Life Health Care we stock Designs for Health PEA Supreme $50 



PEA Compared with Prescribed Pain medications

PEA is considered much safer when compared with pain relieving medication, as it has shown little to no addictive qualities, limited sided effects and no known interaction even with other pain medications. Alongside this it can actually be more beneficial; for example, research comparing PEA with Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) and ibuprofen showed up to 2 times the pain relief.


It can be combined synergistically with other medications, and researched has been suggested that clinically it could help those wanting to reduce the reliance on opioid analgesics (narcotics) especially when combined with other supplements such as NAC and DPLA.



Examples of types of Pain conditions PEA could help


Despite is low level of attention PEA has been recently studied in the treatment of some complex pain conditions such as;


  • Fibromyalgia (FM): 35 patients with FM, already taking pain medications, took 600 mg/d of PEA for 12 weeks. Results showed PEA reduced their overall pain. The average number of painful body points also decreased from eight to one.
  • Osteoarthritis (OA): 111 people with mild or moderate knee OA received 600 mg/d of PEA for 8 weeks, and at the end of the trial, their knee pain and stiffness reduced by 53.7%, compared to 25% in the placebo group.
  • Diabetic neuropathy: A 600 mg/d dose of PEA across 8 weeks reduced the intensity and presence of pain, pins and needles, burning and numbness in 30 people with diabetic neuropathy.
  • Carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS): 50 patients took 1,200 mg/d of PEA for 8 weeks, experiencing a decrease in the pain intensity of their CTS, compared to people who didn’t take PEA, whose pain actually increased.
  • Sciatica: 636 sciatica participants who were prescribed 600 mg/d of PEA for 21 days reported their pain reduced and quality of life improved.


PEA is an option for those who do not tolerate pain medication well, prefer not to use, or when pain medication isn’t effective.  Commonly recommended for persistent neuropathic pain.


Other effects of PEA – Mental health improvement!


The endocannabinoid system is considered a key mood regulator and plays a   key role of the stress response, recent findings showed that PEA has an antidepressant and anxiolytic effect in animal models. It has also been shown to improve the Hamilton Depression Rating Scale (HAM-D) score in humans.


Other effects of PEA – Neurogenative effects! 


PEA has also shown some benefits for neurogenerative diseases including stroke. It has analgesic and anti-inflammatory benefits so has a wide range of conditions, it has shown benefits in MS and spinal cord injuries.



Safety and Dosing


The daily dosage of PEA in clinical trials has ranged from 300 mg–1200 mg daily for chronic pain. Individual requirements will vary and some can take up to 4-6 weeks to experience benefits so keep that in mind. PEA is available powder, capsule or liquid form.


Most common dosage for pain starts with a loading dosage of 600mg twice daily until pain is reduced 30-50% after which is reduced to 300mg twice daily. As pain improves dosage can be lowered, and potentially stopped.


Considering that PEA is a fat-soluble compound, consumption with a fat-containing meal may enhance absorption. PEA has been clinically studied across a broad population group and has been found to be highly tolerable. Your practitioner can guide you on the correct dosage and best combinations for your pain.


Dr Lauren Lanzoni | Acupuncturist | Balanced Life Health Care | Ferntree Gully


Dr Lauren Surridge (TCM) is the Acupuncturist, Chinese Herbalist and owner of Balanced Life Health Care. To find out more about Lauren click here and to make an appointment to see Lauren at her clinic in Ferntree Gully click here