Every morning I woke up achy and stiff all over. The stiffness seemed especially concentrated in my joints and the worst in my hands and feet. This was in 2005, before I began looking closer at what I put in and on my body. I am forever grateful for the journey of learning and discovery that proved to me that simple dietary and lifestyle changes can and do alleviate pain and inflammation.
Inflammation is the body’s normal physiological response to injury. Inflammation is caused by inflammatory factors such as diet and lifestyle and Inflammatory triggers including trauma, toxins, infection, allergens, hyperglycemia, inability to breakdown amino acids, and oxidative stress (causing free radicals). Inflammation puts pressure on nerves resulting in pain.
In herbal medicine, there are many categories and therapeutic approaches in addressing the relief of pain. Each of these may focus on a specific issue such as individual tolerance, types and location of pain, specific indications for individual botanicals and the extent of sedation.
Categories of pain relief include antispasmodics, skeletal muscle relaxants, and anti-inflammatory. Many herbal remedies fit into a number of therapeutic categories. Finding a remedy that fits within a few categories for the specific situation you are treating will help increase the chance of finding the most appropriate medicine.
Supplements that are naturally found in the body are less likely to have side effects like brain fog or sleepiness. They’re also easier on your kidneys which have to process those drugs. Generally natural supplements are less expensive than drugs and, of course, available without a doctor’s prescription. Below are several natural substances you can use to ease pain:
If you want relatively quick relief to muscle and joint pain, magnesium is the first supplement to try. Magnesium is necessary for numerous body functions. It is used to maintain normal muscle and nerve function, regulate heart rhythm, and support the immune system. Magnesium also regulates blood sugar levels and blood pressure. For many people, a normal diet may not be enough for optimum magnesium levels so it’s wise to take a supplement. Also, medications such as diuretics and antibiotics may result in magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium is used in analgesics before surgery to help the patient’s muscles relax. Take it right before going to bed, and it will help you have a good night’s sleep. In the morning you’ll awake with relaxed muscles. The only negative to magnesium is diarrhea can occur if you take more than the recommended dosage. This is a temporary effect, however, and will cease when you reduce the dosage. Magnesium is available in tablets, liquid, or powder. It is basically tasteless, so if you’re averse to pills, the liquid or power can be mixed into smoothies or tea.
Like magnesium, glucosamine is found naturally in healthy cartilage. Early medical trials show it may be helpful in treating osteoarthritis, especially in the knee. It also shows promise for treatment of rheumatoid arthritis.
Often glucosamine is combined with chondroitin which, again, is also found in healthy cartilage. They work synergistically to rebuild cartilage. It is common to find glucosamine chondroitin combined with MSM or calcium. Taking it will not provide quick pain relief, but it will aid in rebuilding joint tissue over time. As far as side effects, there are rare reports of abdominal pain, loss of appetite or nausea.
MSM is odorless and tasteless. It is related to DMSO (dimethyl sulfoxide), an alternative treatment for arthritis. Like chondroitin, it is often combined with glucosamine. MSM is naturally found in cow’s milk, meat, seafood, fruits, and vegetables. While there is no dietary requirement for MSM, it is available in capsules, tablets, creams and lotions. Clinical trials have indicated that MSM is effective for osteoarthritis, but many people suffering from rrheumatoid arthritis have claimed it was helpful.
Hyaluronic Acid (HA)
Hyaluronic acid is found throughout the body as a component of connective tissue. Its main function is to cushion and lubricate. HA helps to support healthy skin, eyesight and joint function. Joints deficient of HA don’t move well and become stiff. Those taking the supplement report relatively quick relief to joint pain; however, it’s main benefit will be felt over time as it aids strengthening of connective and joint tissue.
About the Author:
Deserie Valloreo is a Natural Health Advocate and Certified Clinical Herbalist. She is a co-author of the book Transform Your Life and is featured in over 200 eHow.com instructional videos on natural remedies. Her company, HerbalWise, empowers people to make natural choices through educational workshops herbal remedies for pain, insomnia, anxiety, fatigue, digestive issues and weight loss. In addition, Deserie is Director of the Holistic Network of Tampa Bay and a certified yoga instructor. Deserie@herbalwise.net