“The problem with typical prescription or over-the-counter muscle relaxers is that they do not heal the problem. They just shut off communication between your nervous system and brain…the entire body is affected in ways that are not intended or desirable.” – Dr. Josh Axe
Certain injuries of the body are a direct result of excess muscle tension. When this tension is extreme, it can cause severe (sometimes debilitating) pain. Numerous back injuries – particularly in the lower-back region – fall under this description. In order to alleviate this pain, the muscles must revert back to their original state – or, relax back into position.
There are two options for reducing pain resulting from muscle tension: naturally or medicinally. The former can be time-consuming and extremely painful; while the latter usually involves a trip to a doctor. The problem with the second option is that medical doctors – as is the case with many medications – have a tendency to overprescribe drugs with nasty side effects.
Muscle relaxants are one of these drugs.
According to WebMD, common side effects of muscle relaxants include:
– Drowsiness or dizziness
– Dryness of mouth
– Possible addiction or dependence
– Retention of urine
WebMD adds: “Use of muscle relaxants is restricted to short-term use to avoid addiction.” Well, they should be restricted; yet, many people simply go back to the doc’s office and get another prescription.
But, what if there was a way to relax the muscles and reduce pain without the need for a prescription?
As it would happen, there are many natural muscle relaxants that may help. Perhaps the most promising thing: natural relaxants do not carry the risk of dependency. Further, if any side effects do surface, they are far less likely to be of a severe nature.
(Side note: severe back pain – particularly of the debilitating kind – requires medical intervention. This advice is not intended to substitute for that of medical professionals in this circumstance.)
Here, we present eight natural muscle relaxants that may help:
1. Arnica Oil
In a 2013 study published in the journal, the Public Library of Science (‘PLOS’), researchers made some important observations about this versatile oil. Importantly, that the topical application of arnica was demonstrated to be effective in reducing inflammation, pain and muscle damage.
Thymol – a chemical ingredient within arnica – acts upon the body’s inflammatory response. Inflammation of body tissue, of course, is a main driver of muscle tension.
2. Cannabis Oil
Plenty of people, both in and outside of the medical community, have been praising cannabinoids pain-relieving properties for years. The mechanism of which is similar to an Rx muscle relaxant: it suppresses the brain’s pain receptors.
Now, we know that the oil variety has the same properties – both as a pain-reliever and anti-inflammatory. Professionals note that quality control in particularly important in this product. As such, it’s highly recommended to find a trustworthy distributor.
3. Peppermint Oil
Might as well stick with the oils, eh?
Essential oils are perhaps the most versatile subcategory of oils in the world. Relative to this topic, it has been uncovered that peppermint oil is both a terrific pain-reliever and muscle relaxant.
In a 2009 study, peppermint oil was found to relieve pain in patients suffering from fibromyalgia and myofascial pain syndrome.
4. Dietary Changes
Certain foods are unofficially labeled “pain foods” for their ability to worsen related symptoms. Alcohol, caffeine, sugar, and trans fats are all inflammatory agents. Sugar and trans fats have also been shown to increase pain for certain conditions.
A high-calorie diet often leads to obesity, which can further aggravate pain symptoms.
5. Epsom Salt
The use of Epsom salt effectively increases the body’s magnesium levels – an important nutrient for preventing pain and certain medical conditions (e.g. fibromyalgia). Epsom salt also contains inherent properties that stabilize the body’s inflammatory response.
6. Staying Loose
When we experience a lot of pain, it is our natural instinct to rest up. However, with severe pain (e.g. muscle spasms) as the exception, bodily movement is important in limiting inflammation.
It is a good idea to continue normal, daily activities if possible. Should pain surface, adjust accordingly by going at a slower pace.
7. A Chiropractor
Some studies show that effective chiropractic techniques, such as a general body “adjustment,” can be more efficient at reducing pain than prescription medicine. Chiropractors (most of whom possess doctorate degrees) tend treat patients without the use of drugs.
8. A Massage Therapist
Likewise, a licensed massage therapist may be able to alleviate tension and pain without the need for drugs, surgery, or other “traditional” medical interventions.
In a 2011 Taiwanese study, scientists tested the effects of massage therapy on a group of cancer patients. The team was specifically testing the muscle pain and muscle relaxant effects of therapy, if any. The scientists concluded that “results from this study support employing MT (massage therapy) as an adjuvant to other therapies in improving bone pain management.”
Chandola, H.C., Chakaborty, A. (2009, October). Fibromyalgia and Myofascial Pain Syndrom – A Dilemma. Indian Journal of Anesthesia, 53(5), 575-581
Jane, S., Chen, S., Wilkie, D. J., Lin, Y., Foreman, S. W., Beaton, R. D., . . . Liao, M. (2011, July 29). Effects of massage on pain, mood status, relaxation, and sleep in Taiwanese patients with metastatic bone pain: A randomized clinical trial. Pain, 152(10), 2432-2442.
Lauche, R., Materdey, S., Cramer, H., Haller, H., Stange, R., Dobos, G., & Rampp, T. (2013, June 07). Effectiveness of Home-Based Cupping Massage Compared to Progressive Muscle Relaxation in Patients with Chronic Neck Pain—A Randomized Controlled Trial (J. Miles, Ed.). PLoS ONE, 8(6). Retrieved December 13, 2016, from U.S. National Library of Medicine.
Muscle Relaxants. (2015, May 22). Retrieved December 13, 2016, from http://www.webmd.com/back-pain/muscle-relaxants-for-low-back-pain
Russo, E. B. (2008, February). Cannabinoids in the management of difficult to treat pain. Therapeutics and Clinical Risk Management, 4(1), 245-259. Retrieved December 13, 2016, from U.S. National Library of Medicine.
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