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Whether you’re suffering from a charley horse or a headache, it goes without saying that you want to alleviate the pain as quickly as possible. But prescription painkillers, even over-the-counter pills, come with a long list of potential side effects. Here are some safe (side effect–free), proven alternatives that can help you feel like your old self again.
Hops are used to flavor beer, but research shows there is more to this flowering botanical. Extracts from hops called alpha acids have been shown to be nearly equally as effective as the NSAID drug ibuprofen at inhibiting COX-2, an enzyme responsible for inflammation and pain. Moreover, it doesn’t have the gut-related side effects (including upset stomach, constipation, and diarrhea). This is because ibuprofen also inhibits the so-called “good” COX-1 that produces prostacyclin, which protects the gut lining, while hops extract does not.
Magnesium relaxes muscles, so it makes sense that it helps to lessen strain from workouts, back pain, and menstrual cramps. But this mineral has also been shown to alleviate nerve pain, such as that in fibromyalgia and diabetes. A study published in The Journal of Physiology shows that magnesium may work to ease nerve pain by quelling excessive stimulation of a pain-carrying neurotransmitter called NMDA.
Turmeric, the yellow curry spice, contains curcumin, a powerful anti-inflammatory used in the traditional Indian practice of Ayurveda for hundreds of years. Like anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), curcumin blocks the formation of the pro-inflammatory prostaglandins and leukotrienes. This translates into reduced pain, including that of sore muscles and even achy joints. The spice is also popularly used for headache relief.
A recent study, published in the Journal of Pain, showed that women who were exposed to low and moderate levels of pain, delivered by pulses from a heat probe on their palm, experienced reduced pain intensity and unpleasantness while practicing slower, yoga-style breathing compared to breathing at a normal rate. The findings suggest that yogic breathing (about half normal respiration speed) could offer a complementary approach to help relieve chronic pain, possibly by helping to balance the sympathetic (“fight-or-flight”) and parasympathetic (“rest-and-digest”) nervous system responses.
RESERVEAGE ADVANCED SOLUTIONS Fast-Acting Hops Science contains Perluxan, a patented proprietary hops extract standardized to 30% alpha acids that has been shown to help relieve pain from overexertion.
THE VITAMIN SHOPPE Magnesium Citrate boasts 100% of magnesium citrate, a form of the mineral that is readily absorbed by the body.
SOLGAR No. 7 features turmeric extract, along with a blend of natural anti-inflammatories, and is especially recommended for joint pain brought on by exercise.