Dull, throbbing pain is a day-ruiner, but let's face it—it's often a side effect of modern life. From the moment you wake up to the moment your head hits the pillow at night, your attention is pulled in every direction.
Packed schedules, hard deadlines, challenging daily workouts, and navigating sensitive social interactions—all that stress can manifest as tension and pain. But popping ibuprofen just to get you through it is not your only option.
Beyond the fact that painkillers have negative effects associated with prolonged use, it's just not practical to keep treating the symptoms of pain without addressing the cause. These nine natural remedies for joint and muscle pain can help strengthen your bones, ease tension, and even give you a good excuse to slow down and relax.
Magnesium can relax muscles and nerve endings and help mineralize bones, making them stronger and less prone to joint pain. Load up on nuts, legumes and dark leafy greens like spinach and kale to combat pain before it hits.
Epsom salt soak
Epsom salt is rich in magnesium. Soaking sore joints or muscles in a large bowl of warm water with a ½ cup of Epsom salt can help soothe pain. If your whole body feels like it's about to fall apart, submerge yourself in a full bath with about two cups of salt and feel the pain melt away.
Extra virgin olive oil
Sure, olive oil is great for cooking, but it's also helpful for pain. Try massaging a bit of it directly onto your joints. The oleocanthal in EVOO inhibits inflammatory enzymes the same way ibuprofen or aspirin does. (Make sure it’s extra virgin or cold-pressed, since heat diminishes oleocanthal.)
Turmeric and ginger tea
Turmeric and ginger have powerful antioxidant properties and can reduce inflammation-causing enzymes. Together they make a soothing elixir. Just heat a cup of water and add a ¼ teaspoon each of ground ginger and ground turmeric. Add honey to sweeten the taste and sip your pain away.
Dandelion is high in vitamins A and C, which can help repair damaged tissue and promote a healthy liver for clearing out toxins that could be causing inflammation. Chop the leaves and sprinkle them as an herb on food, or drink dandelion root tea as you decompress.
The active ingredient in aspirin is acetyl salicylic acid, which is similar to the salicylic acid that forms in the body when the active ingredient in willow bark, salicin, is broken down. In fact, willow bark is often called “nature’s aspirin”. Take a willow bark supplement to relieve body pain, particularly in the lower back.
Capsaicin in cayenne pepper depletes substance P, a peptide that transmits pain signals from the sensory nerves to the central nervous system. For a homemade version of a heating gel, combine ¼ to ½ teaspoon of cayenne pepper with one cup of warm coconut oil and apply it directly on sore muscles and joints. Just make sure to wash your hands afterwards to avoid getting hot cayenne on sensitive areas.
Apply some marjoram, peppermint, or lavender essential oils to muscles that feel tight, and lemongrass, basil, marjoram, peppermint, or Roman Chamomile oils to sharply painful muscle cramps or spasms (involuntary contractions of one or more muscles).
Studies have shown that anti-inflammatory omega-3 essential fatty acids can reduce joint and muscle pain as well as ibuprofen, without the side effects like risk of heart attack, heart disease, and stroke. Take a fish oil supplement, or knock back a couple of teaspoons of cod liver oil daily.
Chronic joint and muscle pain can also be a symptom of inflammation and allergies–check out the best foods to fight inflammation where it hurts.
Illustration by Karley Koenig