Natural Pain Relief for Muscles and Joints

Stock your pantry with these simple kitchen remedies to provide natural pain relief for muscles and joints.

| September/October 2014

  • In studies, beet juice is effective at lowering blood pressure.
    Photo by iStock
  • Athletes who took 3 grams per day of cinnamon experienced less muscle soreness after a workout.
    Photo by iStock
  • Skip over-the-counter medication and use these kitchen spices to help reduce muscle and joint pain.
    Photo by iStock

Accidents happen. Maybe you slipped on a slick sidewalk and ended up with a nasty bruise or a sprained ankle. Perhaps you picked up that too-heavy box in just the wrong way, and wound up with strained muscles. Or maybe you decided to enthusiastically engage in a sport you haven’t played since Reagan was in office—and afterward a pulled muscle was the least of your troubles.

Any kind of mechanical trauma can injure the elements of the musculoskeletal system: muscles, joints, bones, tendons (connective tissue that attaches muscle to bone) and ligaments (connective tissue holding joints together). Such pain can range from mildly irritating to debilitating. Even daily wear and tear on our bodies can lead to chronic conditions such as arthritis. And whether such pain is acute (short-term) or chronic (lasts longer than three months) makes no difference—all pain affects our day-to-day life.

While many people turn to nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID) drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, or acetaminophen drugs such as Tylenol, prolonged use of these drugs can actually impede the healing of injuries. Studies even suggest that prophylactic use—taking them before exercise—may be counterproductive because they can inhibit the synthesis of substances such as collagen, which strengthens muscles and bones. Instead, turn to your kitchen cabinets for anti-inflammatory foods and medicinal spices to reduce muscle and joint pain.

Eat Anti-Inflammatory Foods

When it comes to anti-inflammatory benefits, a plant-based diet that includes fish is the way to go. Flavonoids and carotenoids, plant pigments responsible for the rich hues of fruits and vegetables, may reduce free radical damage—a sort of cellular warfare that both worsens and is aggravated by arthritis. Within this dietary framework, focus on these particular foods, whose key chemicals have caught the attention of scientists.

Fatty fish are laden with inflammation-fighting omega-3 fatty acids. Supplemental fish oil can also reduce rheumatoid arthritis symptoms. Interestingly, a 2014 study showed that an omega-3 fatty acid extract from New Zealand green lipped mussels outperformed fish oil in providing relief for people with osteoarthritis (OA).

Beet juice has many healthful merits. In a 2010 study published in the Journal of Applied Physiology, seven healthy men drank two cups of beet juice a day for six days. Drinking it appeared to improve athletic performance by enhancing the efficiency of skeletal muscles’ use of oxygen. Blood pressure was also reduced.

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