Given how sore I am today, it feels apropos to reblog this article I wrote last year about my favorite natural pain relievers.
Originally posted at http://hexchromosome.tumblr.com/post/32518634338/natural-pain-relievers-by-pyro-maim-ya
Natural Pain Remedies by Pyro Maim Ya of Pynk Fitness
[or as my daughter calls them, “Mommy’s hippie medicines”]
I’m not a big fan of painkillers. Well, I take that back. I was a HUGE fan of painkillers after my leg surgery, along with whiskey and poor decisions in general. These days, my body is a gaudily decorated temple that I’m nourishing as naturally as possible – I really don’t even like to take OTC painkillers anymore. I’m an old busted-up derby gal though, so the need for pain management frequently arises. When it does, I’m really thankful to have these supplements on hand.
Most of these are anti-inflammatories, just like your over the counter drug of choice. They’re also mood boosters, which helps when you’re hurtin’. It’s important to note that the simplest remedies – rest, ice and elevation – are also frequently the most effective remedies, so please add those to your pain treatment plan for best results.
[Standard boilerplate disclaimer: I’m not your nutritionist or your doctor, I can’t prescribe or diagnose or cure anything, blah blah blah, purple giraffes and David Bowie. I’m just a trainer with a big mouth who likes the vitamin section @ Whole Foods a LOT.]
- Turmeric: I already knew turmeric was pretty much the most awesome spice on the rack after I successfully treated a staph infection with it a couple of years ago. It’s an antiseptic and antimicrobial, so it’s great for disinfecting wounds and treating infections. I didn’t realize until recently what a powerful pain reliever it is too. The active ingredient curcumin in turmeric lowers the levels of enzymes in the bodies that cause inflammation. Research has shown its positive impact on rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis and other inflammatory skin conditions and even depression. You can find either turmeric or curcumin in supplement form – I take a brand called Curamin that I found at Central Market. I also eat a lot of curry and frequently throw a little turmeric into meat rubs, stews, eggs and roasted veggies.
- Fish Oil: Most of the health benefits of fish oil can be attributed to fish oil’s omega 3 essential fatty acids – and the health benefits are numerous. Fish oil is an antidepressant and an anti-inflammatory that is useful in treating anxiety, ADD/ADHD, arthritis and cardiovascular diseases, to name a few. It also helps your body burn more fat when you exercise – and a lighter frame equals less pressure on your joints. I take fish oil supplements daily and try to eat salmon or tuna 2-3 times a week. It’s a great excuse to splurge on sushi. Flaxseed and walnuts also contain small amounts of the omega 3 ALA, so they provide some of the same benefits.
- Green tea: Besides lowering your risk for cancer and heart disease, green tea is a powerful anti-inflammatory. Its antioxidant properties help boost your immune system, which can speed your healing time if you’re injured or under the weather. (Squeeze in some lemon, lime or orange for a dose of Vitamin C.)
- Bromelain: Bromelain, an enzyme compound, is an effective inflammation reduction agent that also inhibits some types of tumor growth. One of the best natural sources of bromelain is pineapple, which further supports inflammation reduction with its high vitamin C content. Extracts of bromelain have proven to be as effective as some non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. There is evidence that bromelain supplements may reduce swelling, bruising, inflammation and pain after surgery and injury. A topical form of bromelain is even being used experimentally for burns.
- Quercetin: Quercetin is a flavonoid with antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. The real magic, though, is in its analgesic effect on nerves. By boosting production of nerve-relaxing nitric oxide and elevating serotonin levels, quercetin enables nerves to naturally feel less pain. I’ve noticed it gives me more energy, more endurance and more overall muscle strength – I don’t feel fatigued during bouts or workouts when I’m taking it regularly. It has worked wonders for friends with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, and while poking around online I found a study that showed how quercetin significantly improved recovery after spinal cord injury. It’s found in onions, apples, berries, grapes, broccoli and squash, or you can buy it in pill form at GNC or most health food stores.
- Capsaicin: Magnum’s gonna say that I’m using this article as an excuse to eat spicy foods, but there’s a method to my madness that goes beyond my love for anything that tastes like burning. Capsaicin is the active component in chili peppers and is an irritant that produces a burning sensation in anything it touches, causing the brain to release endorphins that can produce a state of euphoria for heat-seekers like me. Capsaicin temporarily desensitizes pain-prone skin nerve receptors, which makes it effective in topical creams. It also interferes with pain signals to the brain, which can translate to increased endurance and less muscle fatigue for athletes.
- Cherries: Tart cherries may relieve pain better than aspirin, according to a recent study. Their anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties may help relieve arthritis and gout pain while protecting the body against cardiovascular disease – cherries can even help inhibit the growth of tumors. Plus they taste AMAZING, especially this time of year. I’ve noticed lately that I constantly crave cherries – I think my body is crying out for the Vitamin A and potassium for their bruise-healing properties and the vitamin B-6 for its natural energy boost.
- Glucosamine: Glucosamine is proven to slow progression of osteoarthritis of the knee – studies show it works as well as or better than ibuprofen, but with fewer side effects. In four 2005 studies that gave glucosamine sulphate versus NSAIDs, the glucosamine worked better in two, and was equivalent to the NSAIDs in the other two. I used to take a glucosamine/chondroitin/MSM blend GNC makes called Triflex, but I recently started using Instaflex and love it even more (it has glucosamine and MSM + other natural pain relievers like turmeric, cayenne pepper, ginger and boswellia).
- Olive oil: The key ingredient here isoleocanthal, which is chemically related to ibuprofen (though it has none of the negative side effects ibuprofen does). This is SUCH a lovely excuse to dip a crusty chunk of bread into a nice dish of high-quality extra virgin olive oil, don’t you think?
- Positive visualization: Yes, you absolutely read that right. I believe firmly in the power of the mind – what we think, we become. Look, circumstances are what they are. You’re in pain and that’s stressing you out, but you can control how you react to that. Close your eyes, take several deep breaths and picture yourself pain-free, injury-free, and rockin’ the track (or the gym or your knitting needles or the pole or whatever it is that you rock so very hard when you are able-bodied and feeling sassy). It helps to have to have some like-minded friends who will also send good thoughts your way (my dear friend Stevie Nicks & Licks has sent healing vibes out to me more times than I can count, for which I am ever grateful). If you’re more into prayer you can definitely do that too – whatever works for you. The important thing is focusing on the belief that you WILL be 100% again very soon. I’m more than happy to send my own hippie-ass healing vibes to anyone who needs them – I have plenty to go around! You can also try guided imagery, yoga or meditation – all have measurable effects on your stress response to pain.
Have you ever used one of these natural solutions before? Did it work for you?