Body aches are often attributed to just “getting old.” However, pain relief is not just for older adults. Many younger individuals are also looking for relief from an injury or long-term health conditions that cause them discomfort. There are plenty of natural remedies for pain and inflammation out there, and not all of them are as great as they make themselves out to be.
Generally, the first step in any pain management plan is to consult with your doctor to determine the cause of your pain and what options are available to you. Then, you can look for natural remedies that complement your treatment plan.
In this article, we discuss five natural remedies for joint, muscle, and body aches that actually work.
1. Assess Your Lifestyle
First on the list of natural remedies would simply be an assessment of your lifestyle. Experts believe that an overall healthy lifestyle, which includes eating healthful foods and getting daily exercise plays a big role in managing chronic pain. Following an anti-inflammatory diet, which is similar to the Mediterranean Diet, may minimize the symptoms of chronic inflammatory diseases that can cause pain.
Choose to eat colorful vegetables and fruits, whole grains, lean proteins, nuts, seeds, and healthy fats every day. Registered Dietitian Martha McKittrick, recommends limiting sugary foods and beverages in your diet. These highly processed carbohydrates and grains may contribute to inflammation and discomfort.
Not surprisingly, a major part of a healthy lifestyle includes daily physical activity. For many years the recommendation for pain was rest and inactivity, but now we know that not being active can lead to weak muscles, resulting in worsening pain. Studies have shown that as little as 20 minutes of moderate daily exercise can stimulate the immune system and help to reduce achiness and pain.
Before you jump in and start exercising, make sure you talk with your healthcare team and let them know your plans. Remember “one size does not fit all,” so just because your cousin does a Zumba class, that does not mean it is the best exercise for you. There are many different types of exercise (aerobic, strength, flexibility and balance), each with its own benefits. You may find a combination of these different types to be best for you.
2. Make Sleep a Priority
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sleeping less than seven hours each night may contribute to chronic health conditions, including arthritis, diabetes, and depression. What is less clear, however, is which comes first. Does the lack of sleep lead to these health conditions or do these health issues cause people to have poor sleep?
Ultimately it doesn’t matter because anyone who has had several nights of bad sleep can tell you that the effects can be devastating. The National Sleep Foundation says good sleep hygiene is “key” for people with chronic pain to have a good night’s sleep. They suggest limiting caffeine and alcohol intake, especially in the evenings, and to practice relaxation techniques before going to bed.
3. Have a Soak
Soaking in a warm bath is something my coach would always tell me to do after track practice, and for good reason. Doing so always helped to ease my aches and pains.
Experts agree a warm bath can help with pain because it reduces the force of gravity that may be contributing to the discomfort. It can also help reduce swelling and inflammation and increase circulation. Recommendations include soaking for 20 minutes and making sure you drink water before and after the bath to stay well-hydrated.
4. Try Hot and Cold Packs
For some using hot and cold packs can be an effective and affordable natural remedy for pain. The tricky part, however, is knowing if you should use a hot pack or a cold pack. As a general rule, a cold pack may relieve acute pain as it is helpful to reduce swelling that follows an acute injury.
A hot pack, on the other hand, helps to increase circulation and is more for long term muscle and joint discomfort. Apply a hot pack for no more than 20 minutes at a time, and be careful not to burn yourself.
5. Consider Mind-Body Therapies
Somewhat surprisingly, our mind and emotions can play a significant role in how we experience pain. For people with chronic pain, the stress and fear of their pain can heighten their pain perception.
The goal of mind–body therapies is to change a person’s mental or emotional state towards pain in order to help them relax, which can reduce their perceived level of pain. Examples of mind-body therapies can include meditation, biofeedback, and hypnosis.
Acupuncture is also considered by some to be a mind-body therapy. This type of therapy has been used in Asia for centuries and involves having hair-thin needles inserted into various points on your body. The National Institutes of Health National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health states there is research to suggest that acupuncture is a reasonable option for people with chronic pain.
Relentless body discomfort is a major contributor to poor quality of life for many individuals, young and old. Treating these aches and pains can be challenging for healthcare providers and long-term use of traditional treatments may not be everyone’s choice.
Incorporating some natural remedies such as adding anti-inflammatory foods to your diet, exercising daily, and prioritizing sleep may be the first steps towards finding relief.
Whatever options you choose, it’s important to remember that not every natural remedy works for all. You may need to do a few things to get the pain relief you are looking for. Keep an open mind, be patient and consult with your healthcare team about the different options available to you.