I am a science writer and a former Registered Massage Therapist with a decade of experience treating tough pain cases. I was the Assistant Editor of ScienceBasedMedicine.org for several years. I’ve written hundreds of articles and several books, and I’m known for readable but heavily referenced analysis, with a touch of sass. I am a runner and ultimate player. • more about me • more about PainScience.com
"I am a true believer in Biofreeze ($15; performancehealth.com). My football coach introduced me to it years ago. It's a topical cooling pain reliever that works very similarly to ice but since it's a gel, I can apply it before teaching classes and training clients to keep function in my muscles and joints. In addition to relieving muscle pain or soreness, it can be used to help arthritis and other muscular and joint discomforts too. " —Mat Forzaglia, The Fhitting Room instructor
"There are three that I swear by. I use Icy Hot Roll-On ($5; walmart.com) on my feet at the end of the day after I do my exercises to stretch my feet. It's also great for traveling because it doesn't get messy! I like Salonpas Spray ($8; walmart.com) because it can get hard-to-reach places on my back or shoulder blades. And since Tiger Balm ($5; walmart.com) is strong, I use that when my legs are sore and I sleep with it on. I wake up the next morning and feel great." —Nicole Winhoffer, founder NW Method
How much do you have to use at once and how often? Is it easy to apply too much? Generally, roll-on applicators are the best choice for reducing waste since it’s hard to put on too much when using them. It is also important to note that if you need deep muscle penetration roll-ons often don’t provide the same effect as hand rubbing gel or cream into the affected area. So be sure to keep that factor in mind as you review these products.
LoveHemp CBD Body Salve is an infusion of cannabidiol within a lovely base of organic coconut oil, beeswax and argan oil. It is scented with organic rosehip and geranium oil and has a soft, waxy texture at room temperature. A 50 ml pot contains 300mg cannabinoids and you only need to apply a small amount to relieve muscle aches, joint pain and skin irritation.
Break out that bag of frozen peas (or an ice pack, if you want to get fancy) for the first 48 hours after the pain sets in, and put it to use for 20 minutes a session, several sessions per day. After those two days are behind you, switch to 20-minute intervals with a heating pad. Localized cooling shuts down capillaries and reduces blood flow to the area, which helps ease the swelling, says Lisa DeStefano, an associate professor at Michigan State University College of Osteopathic Medicine in East Lansing. Cold also thwarts your nerves' ability to conduct pain signals. Heat, on the other hand, loosens tight muscles and increases circulation, bringing extra oxygen to the rescue.
Arnica is a natural anti-inflammatory, which is why you’ll find it in many pain relief gels and creams. It is a powerful natural medicine that comes from the perennial flower Arnica Montana. It that makes natural quick and easy pain relief possible, and it is also one of the biggest reasons why most pain relief gels and creams that use Arnica are available over the counter without a prescription or a doctor’s visit.
Capsaicin creams are another topical option for pain relief. These contain the active component in chili peppers that cause a burning sensation. I know its sounds like this would cause more pain, but in fact the low levels of capsaicin in these creams block pain by temporarily depleting the nerves of certain chemicals that transmit pain impulses. Application of this cream three times daily was shown to significantly improve pain scores for fibromyalgia in one study done in Spain.
Omega 3 fatty acid supplements are one of the most powerful ways to reduce oxidative stress and inflammation which are the underlying markers we see on labs with individuals who are suffering with chronic pain. Omega 3’s help provide better cell membrane receptor activity and suppress genetic transcription factors associated with inflammation and pain.
Cayenne pepper is also a potent candida killer. Scientists found it’s active against 16 different fungal strains, including candida, a common internal infection linked to joint pain, among other candida symptoms. (1) Cayenne also provides external pain relieve. Capsaicin, an important natural painkiller found in cayenne, helps treat muscle soreness, tension and even skin infections. Look for it in natural painkilling creams.
According to Susi Hately, owner of Functional Synergy, Inc., in Alberta, Canada, and author of several international best-selling yoga books, yoga can be very therapeutic for people with back pain as well. A review of scientific studies published in 2013 in the Clinical Journal of Pain found strong evidence that yoga can help reduce chronic low back pain. Yoga may help improve back pain by loosening tight muscles, building strength and range of motion, and improving breathing, explains Hately. Yoga also focuses on relaxation, which may help to relax your muscles as well as reduce pain perception.
An ancient mind-body practice, meditation has been found to increase pain tolerance and promote management of chronic pain in a number of small studies. In addition, a number of preliminary studies have focused specifically on the use of meditation in the management of low back pain. A 2008 study published in Pain, for example, found that an eight-week meditation program led to an improvement of pain acceptance and physical function in patients with chronic low back pain. The study included 37 older adults, with members meditating an average of 4.3 days a week for an average of 31.6 minutes a day.
Note: The cream is hot to your skin and should be used with caution. The heat comes from capsicum (capsicum annuum) oleoresin a hot pepper. Try a small amount the first time at your inside wrist and wait a half hour to see how it feels. Do not bathe or shower after putting it on because that will only make you feel hotter. Let your body cool down first. Never put the cream near your eyes or mucous membranes such at the lower nose. Do not use on your private area. Wash your hands after you have rubbed the cream into your skin.
How it works: When back muscles hurt, the pain is usually caused by inflamed tissue. Cold reduces the swelling and discomfort, says Jason Highsmith, a neurosurgeon in Charleston, South Carolina. As soon as you feel pain, apply cold several times a day, 10 minutes at a time, for about three days. A bag of frozen peas works, or try a cold pack, like an Ace Reusable Cold Compress ($10 at drugstores).
Since herbal therapies for pain management have yet to be thoroughly studied, be careful when embarking on this treatment path. Regardless of the herb you try, remember that they're not benign. Research into their safety and efficacy is still limited, and the government doesn't regulate herbal products for quality. The best course is to talk to a health-care professional before testing out a herbal remedy.