Although it’s been available in Europe for many years, it was only approved for use in the United States in 2007. Also, other topical treatments (salicylates and capsaicin) have shown little potential in the past. And Arnica montana creams (Traumeel, for example) are extremely popular, but it’s unlikely that even full-strength arnica is medically potent, let alone when it is diluted down to traces.3
The powerful anti-inflammatory ginger is more effective than drugs like ibuprofen for pain relief, according to a 2013 study published in the journal Arthritis. The study revealed that drugs like Tylenol or Advil do block the formation of inflammatory compounds. Ginger, however, “blocks the formation of the inflammatory compounds–prostaglandins and leukotrienes–and also has antioxidant effects that break down existing inflammation and acidity in the fluid within the joints,” reported care2.com.
As part of your exercise routine, you may want to consider doing yoga regularly for lower back pain relief. One study of over 960 people with low back pain found that those who completed a 12-week yoga program experienced greater improvements in back function and reduced pain compared to controls who did not participate. (4) There’s even evidence that mindfulness meditation, often practiced in some form with yoga, can also help people deal with chronic back pain more effectively. (5)
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1., 2., and 3. Ginger, Turmeric, & Holy Basil – This set of herbs forms a sort of trinity in Ayurvedic medicine. All of them have anti-inflammatory properties. Turmeric (a curry ingredient) contains curcumins which ease inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis, according to the Methodist Research Institute in Indianapolis. “Each herb has its own scientific database of evidence,” says James Dillard, MD, author of The Chronic Pain Solution.
Studies have shown that the gel from this medicinal plant is able to relieve the pain and improve joint movement and stiffness in individuals with arthrosis in the fingers at the same level as ibuprofen. It demonstrates that arnica is an effective alternative to the use of NSAIDs (such as ibuprofen) against this type of conditions, as arnica also prevents the gastric irritation caused by treatment with ibuprofen. Its use is therefore particularly recommended in individuals with stomach problems.
You may already have tried exercise and over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers you take by mouth. These include nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen. Another option is to try one of the many OTC topical creams that can help relieve arthritis pain. Here’s the low-down on these products to help you decide which arthritis cream might be best for you.
Diclofenac topical gel (Voltaren) is used to relieve pain from osteoarthritis (arthritis caused by a breakdown of the lining of the joints) in certain joints such as those of the knees, ankles, feet, elbows, wrists, and hands. Diclofenac topical liquid (Pennsaid) is used to relieve osteoarthritis pain in the knees. Diclofenac is in a class of medications called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs). It works by stopping the body's production of a substance that causes pain.
Uncaria tomentosa and Uncaria guianensis are Peruvian herbs derived from woody vines with small claw-like thorns (hence the vernacular name, cat’s claw) at the base of the leaf, which allow the plant to climb to heights of up to 100 ft. Traditionally, the bark of cat’s claw is used to treat arthritis, bursitis, and intestinal disorders. The active ingredients appear to be polyphenols (flavonoids, proanthocyanidins, and tannins), alkaloids, and sterols. Various studies indicate that this Peruvian herb induces a generalized reduction in proinflammatory mediators.
Topical treatments: One potential concern with dietary supplements is that some may interfere with medications you’ve been prescribed to treat back pain or other health conditions. For this reason, Grossman suggests topical treatments: “Gels and creams can be very helpful and won't interfere with supplements or medications,” she explains. “They're generally inexpensive, too.”
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.
Menthol, Levomenthol, Eucalyptus, Camphor and Oil of Wintergreen are often added to topical joint treatments. These essential oils are absorbed into the skin and stimulate skin receptors to produce either a warm sensation or a cooling sensation as they numb the pain. They work by overwhelming nerve endings with these sensations so pain messages do not get passed on. This is known as a counter-irritant effect. Wintergreen is also a rich source of methyl salicylate, a natural anti-inflammatory painkiller related to aspirin. These essential oil creams and gels tend to have names such as Deep Heat or Deep Freeze to describe how they feel during use.
"Yoga Tune Up Therapy Balls ($15; yogatuneup.com). Hands down. They're like a surgeon's scalpel to your fascia. I use them on myself and with clients both pre-and post- workout to improve soft tissue and enhance mobility. They've really helped change my body for the better. Also, they're super easy to travel with." — Adam Rosante, fitness and nutrition coach and best-selling author of The 30 Second Body (BTW, we've got exclusive HIIT moves from his book here.)
Rolfing not only relieves physical muscle pain rooted in your fascia, but also improves your emotional well-being and energy. Whether you’re an athlete looking to improve your game or someone suffering with TMJ pain, chronic back pain or spine pain, rolfing is something worth exploring. It’s a potent natural painkiller that impacts your neuromuscular system in a positive, pill-free way.
Topical ointments, such as sports and muscle creams, have been around for centuries. After noticing their peculiar properties ancient civilizations began infusing plant ingredients into salves and ointments to help relieve pain. Taking our inspiration from these time-tested traditions, Body Glide Relief was developed with a blend of menthol and methyl salicylate. These plant derived ingredients combine to temporarily relieve muscle and joint pain.
Meditation and mindfulness. Mindfulness meditation, which focuses on awareness of the present moment, can reduce the way we perceive pain. In one study, only four days of training led to a 40% reduction in pain rating and a 57% reduction in pain-unpleasantness. This kind of meditation can help you to control back pain, fibromyalgia, and migraines. Read more about meditation and mindfulness for pain control here.