Stop Pain: Over-the-Counter and Natural Relief
Studies have shown that cayenne creams and ointments can help relieve the pain of inflammation associated with cluster headaches, lower back pain, and arthritis—to name a few. Capsaicin, a healing plant chemical in cayenne, desensitizes nerve endings that transport pain messages to the brain. Try topical capsaicin cream for localized pain. And if you like spicy food, add cayenne to your diet.
Arnica and calendula are tried-and-true natural remedies for bruises and muscle soreness, and they may help alleviate postworkout muscle fatigue. Try a cream or ointment that lists either as an active ingredient.
Available in both foods and supplements, omega 3s may help relieve pain by treating underlying inflammation. One recent study involving patients with rheumatoid arthritis suggests that cod liver oil—rich in omega 3s—may reduce the amount of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) required to reduce pain. Fish oil may also help relieve back pain and menstrual cramps. Flaxseeds, cold-water fatty fish, and walnuts are rich in omega 3s.
Ginger has been used for centuries to relieve joint pain, headaches, menstrual cramps, sore throats, and toothaches. This herb triggers the body’s natural pain-relieving endorphins and encourages rebuilding of muscles damaged by inflammation. While fresh ginger root can be helpful, a standardized extract may be the most reliable way to deliver ginger’s anti-inflammatory properties.
Research indicates that cherries contain compounds that counter inflammation as effectively as ibuprofen. Other studies suggest drinking cherry juice to prevent exercise-induced muscle damage, strength loss, and pain. Eating 10 to 20 cherries daily may be beneficial for some people with joint pain.
Acetaminophen and ibuprofen are popular over-the-counter pain relievers and can be safe alternatives to aspirin. Adults should not take more than 4,000 mg of acetaminophen per day. For long-term use, keep the daily maximum at 2,000 to 3,000 mg. Ibuprofen is not recommended for chronic use but rather for occasional pain relief.
When using more than one medication—over-the-counter or not—check labels to ensure that you don’t exceed the safe dosage of any ingredient. Or talk to your pharmacist or physician, who can tell you which medications and natural remedies are safe to take concurrently.
Suggested OTC Remedies
Acetaminophen, cayenne, cherry, fish oil, ginger, ibuprofen.
Acetaminophen, ginger, ibuprofen; for tension headaches, apply heating pad to neck muscles.
Low Back Pain
Acetaminophen, cayenne, cherry, heating pad, ibuprofen.
Acetaminophen, fish oil, ginger, heating pad, ibuprofen.
Arnica, calendula, cherry, ginger, ice pack.