Written by: Bonnie Feldman, DDS, MBA, Anna Simon, BS, Ellen M. Martin
Having achy muscles and/or joints is one of the most common symptoms of autoimmune diseases, including lupus, fibromyalgia, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriatic arthritis, mixed connective tissue disease, and the Ehlers-Danlos syndromes. In addition to autoimmune disease, causes of joint and muscle pain can stem from overuse, stress, infection, and other disorders. We want you to feel like your best self, so we gathered some research on how to soothe your muscle and joint pain. Here are our best tips to relieve achy muscles and joints:
There are many different options to topically treat aches and pains. For immediate relief, use ice first, then apply heat on the affected area. An Epsom soak can also be utilized to reduce muscle pain and inflammation. Epsom salts are naturally anti-inflammatory and contain magnesium and sulfate, compounds that are crucial for bone and joint health. Creams, pain patches, and essential oils¹ such as peppermint and eucalyptus can help with pain relief as well.
Pictured below are some of the creams and pain patches I personally use. The patches are prescription and contain lidocaine, an anesthetic. The diclofenac gel is anti-inflammatory and is also a prescription. The container at the top of the photo is a cannabis cream, and I use Topricin for foot pain. When looking for topical treatments, typical pain-reducing ingredients include camphor, salicylates, capsaicin, and counterirritants (which cause a burning or cooling sensation) such as menthol. An old-fashioned liniment is oil of wintergreen, which is a source of methyl salicylate, a chemical relative of aspirin (acetylsalicylic acid) that is too toxic for oral administration, but very effective transdermally. Even more ancient (in Indian manuscripts of several thousand years ago) camphor is also an effective pain reliever with direct nerve block activity.
Avoid inflammatory foods
Arthritis is characterized by inflammation of the joints, leading to joint pain and tenderness. Inflammatory foods increase inflammation in the body and tend to exacerbate disease symptoms such as muscle and joint pain. These foods include processed meats, sodas and sugary beverages, salty snacks, packaged sweets, and refined carbohydrates. Avoid these foods as much as possible and instead focus on eating anti-inflammatory foods. If you suffer from joint pain, it is especially important to maintain a healthy weight, as extra weight can place increased strain on the body’s joints. Additionally, if you are a Rheumatoid Arthritis patient, we have a whole post on foods to eat and avoid here.
Eat anti-inflammatory foods
On the other hand, anti-inflammatory foods help to reduce inflammation in the body and may reduce symptoms, including joint and muscle pain; these are therefore the foods you should focus on including in your diet. Luckily, there are many anti-inflammatory foods, including turmeric, ginger, green leafy vegetables, berries, flax and chia seeds, walnuts and almonds, olive oil, and salmon.
There are a few things that more specifically help joint and muscle pain, and can be found naturally in foods or taken as supplements. Turmeric, omega-3s, collagen, and Vitamin C have all been found to reduce muscle and/or joint pain. Discover our favorite turmeric recipes here and experiment with some ideas on how to include this spice into your diet. Foods high in Omega-3s include fish, chia and flax seeds, and walnuts. Collagen can be found in bone broth and eggs, and foods such as leafy greens and berries help prevent collagen breakdown. Leafy greens, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and citrus fruits are good sources of Vitamin C. Check out our guide to food therapy to learn more about nutrition and how to experiment with food as therapy.
Drink water, not caffeine or alcohol
It’s always a good idea to avoid soda, sugary drinks, and alcohol, as these drinks can be inflammatory; opt for water instead. When drinking tea, coffee, juice, or alcohol, we recommend drinking water alongside (which is also optimal for oral health).
Get some morning exercise
It can be hard to get out of bed and feel energized in the morning with stiff and painful muscles and joints, but starting your day with some gentle movement can help: go for a walk, do some yoga, or stretch (which can be more beneficial than you think). Exercising in the morning also jump starts your metabolism and increases blood flow and circulation.
Revive yourself in the afternoon
After being sedentary for a few hours, muscles and joints can stiffen up. Try an active movement designed to relax your muscles and reduce joint pain such as Tai Chi & Qi Gong. If you feel stressed, try breathing exercises or meditation to relax your system. Remember, stress can cause joint/muscle pain. There are so many different ways to move your body, but it is important to find the right therapy cocktail for your body. Our guide to movement therapy can help you on this journey.
We hope these tips help you soothe your achy muscles and joints and feel ready to conquer the day, every day. What do you do to reduce muscle and joint pain? Let us know in the comments!
- Shaheen E. Lakhan, Heather Sheafer, and Deborah Tepper, “The Effectiveness of Aromatherapy in Reducing Pain: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis,” Pain Research and Treatment, vol. 2016, Article ID 8158693, 13 pages, 2016. https://doi.org/10.1155/2016/8158693.