Natural Muscle Relaxers and Soothers
I went on a hike that was way too steep and long. My muscles don’t recover quite as fast as when I was younger. What can I do or take?
—H.N., Boulder, Colorado
Answer: If it were me, I’d take a hot bath with Epsom salts and a few drops of essential oils. The most important muscle relaxers include cypress, wintergreen, rosemary or basil. In fact, if you plan on working out hard, just rub a few drops of the oil into your muscles. If you feel the need, you could always ask your doctor if an over-the-counter pain reliever is okay for you. Even though they are sold without prescription, they have interactions, they affect the stomach or liver, and they have cautions so I’m not sure what is right for you.
Here’s the thing though, most people suffer with chronic muscle soreness, they don’t just overdo it from a hike or a horseback ride. If your muscles hurt all the time, or feel weak, I suggest you look in your medicine cabinet! Over 300 medications rob your body of CoQ10 (ubiquinol) and can lead to muscle weakness, spasms, leg cramps, charley horses and other problems. Cholesterol drugs and blood pressure pills are the most infamous culprits, but it can also happen with diuretics, estrogen hormones, steroids and antibiotics. I wrote the book on this topic of nutrient depletion, so please refer to your copy of Drug Muggers for more on that. Let’s get back to acute muscle pain now.
The three most popular pain relieving medications are acetaminophen (Tylenol), ibuprofen (Advil) and naproxen (Aleve). Natural anti-inflammatories won’t work quite as fast, but they deserve honorable mention because they have other incredible health benefits. For example, boswellia, curcumin and bromelain are known to have natural pain-relieving and anti-inflammatory properties.
Moist Heat Therapy Pads: These non-medicated, odorless pads are sold by various companies. Some of them are air-activated, so they get kind of toasty on your skin, very similar to the moist heat of a shower. They help ease muscle/joint aches or pain associated with PMS, overexertion, and strains for up to eight hours.
Menthol Medicated Patches and Creams: This creates a unique cooling sensation on the skin, but it doesn’t support muscle health or heal the problem.
MSM Creams and Lotions: There’s debate about whether this goes into the skin or not, but I think it does. In fact, many people report benefits from these products, especially with flexibility, muscle cramps, spasms, minor joint pain and knee pain.
Capsaicin: It’s the active ingredient in chili pepper and you can buy it at pharmacies nationwide. I suggest the patches or roll-on for ease, but you can use a lotion (just wash your hands after application). These work fabulously for me. You get even better results with repeated applications.
Malic Acid and Magnesium: These are two supplements that I consider a one-two punch for muscle pain. They help with anxiety and muscle tenderness.
About the Author: Dr. Suzy Cohen, America’s Pharmacist
People call me “America’s Most Trusted Pharmacist®” because I’ve been a licensed pharmacist for over 22 years and I am able to share the pros and cons of medication use as well as offer natural substitutions for most any of your health concerns. While I pride myself in ‘thinking outside the pill’ let me just say that I am still very proud to wear my white coat because I realize that there is a time and place for medications. We need to consider all of our options, and often, a combination is best. I’ve spent the the last 13 years writing a syndicated column called “Dear Pharmacist” which focus on health and explores the use of natural supplements, as well as the safe use of medications if you are taking them. This has been printed in many newspapers nationwide. You might say I’m the ‘Dear Abby’ of health. My syndicated column reaches millions of people each week via newspapers, magazines and Internet health sites.