Will painkillers help aches and pains?
Painkillers such as ibuprofen, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) as they are also known, are commonly used to treat general aches and pains. These work by reducing inflammation, however, recent research has questioned their safety and effectiveness in certain circumstances.1
Those who participate in vigorous activity, and who rely on over-the-counter painkillers to ease the impending aches and pains, could be putting extra stain on the kidneys.2 This may be linked to the fact that painkillers prevent the production of a group of biochemicals called prostaglandins. These cause the blood vessels to widen and therefore aid blood flow around the body. If prostaglandins are curbed, though, it may prevent blood vessels from widening thus reducing overall blood flow to the kidneys. This may, in turn, make it harder for the kidneys to fulfil their role of filtering blood.
There is also some research to suggest that NSAIDs may not be as effective in easing muscle pain after a workout as we might expect.3 That’s because, by blocking the production of prostaglandins, painkillers may prevent the natural healing process that occurs in the in the muscles after exercise.
It isn’t just those who exercise regularly who can be at risk of side effects from painkillers. Opioids such as codeine can be accompanied by constipation and addiction when taken over a long period of time whilst ibuprofen and aspirin can be associated with stomach bleeding.4
Top tip 1 - don’t always rely on painkillers
As research has now found painkillers to have some negative associations, it makes sense to look elsewhere for an effective treatment. Natural remedies are a good option as they aren’t linked to the kind of side effects listed above.
Atrosan is made from extracts of cultivated Devil’s Claw and can relieve both muscle and joint pain. It is also helpful if you are suffering from rheumatic pain, backache or lumbago.
Can stress affect your muscles?
In response to stress, be it a work-related or otherwise, the muscles tense up. This is known as fight or flight and is an automatic reaction to help protect the body from the source of stress.
This mechanism is useful if the source of stress is short-lived but if it persists, so too will tension in the muscles. Over time this can contribute to headaches, back pain, shoulder pain and general body aches.5
This isn’t the only way that stress can contribute to aches and pains though. Stress also causes the release of a hormone called cortisol and if levels remain elevated for an extended period of time, it can contribute to chronic pain.6
Top tip 2 – stick to gentle exercise
Exercise can be very beneficial for those experiencing stress for a number of reasons. It releases feel good hormones known as endorphins, for example, which have the ability to boost mood. It is also a good way to ease any tension in the muscles and joints as it stretches them out.
Opting for low impact sports such as swimming, walking or cycling over something more strenuous such as running and hiking will avoid putting added pressure on the muscles and joints, whilst still offering the benefits listed above.
Can alcohol cause joint and muscle pain?
There are a few ways in which alcohol may contribute to muscle and joint pain. For one thing it can interfere with pain-relieving medications thus making any discomfort more pronounced.
Alcohol also contains high levels of purine which forms uric acid in the body when digested. Too much uric acid is difficult to excrete so instead it crystallises around the joints leading to problems such as gout, a form of arthritis, as well as general pain and swelling.7
Top tip 3 – drink lots of water
If you are experiencing aches and pains of any sort it is really important to drink plenty of water. After all, dehydration can worsen muscle pain and cramps.
Water can also be very helpful for the health of the joints as joint cartilage, which lines the surface of the joints and provides a layer of cushioning, is largely made up of water. What’s more, cartilage stays lubricated with the help of synovial fluid and this too needs plenty of water – too little and we risk cartilage deterioration and pain.
It is recommended we get 1.5-2 litres of water a day, though more is necessary when exercising or the weather is warm.
Why do muscles and joints ache with flu?
Aches and pains are a common cold and flu symptom. When fighting an infection the body’s white blood cells, which are part of the immune system, produce a chemical called cytokines which can trigger inflammation and pain.
White blood cells are also needed to repair and rebuild muscle fibres which are easily damaged through vigorous movements and other day-to-day activities like exercise. During a bout of cold or flu, however, white blood cells must focus their attention on fighting the infection and as a result, the muscles and joints can become achy.
Top tip 4 – relax
Hot water has a relaxing effect on the muscles and joints so a bath or shower can be a really good way to ease any aches and pains. As well as this, a bath takes pressure off the muscles and joints for a while which improve movement and pain levels when you get out the water.8
Also, once you get out the bath, a little Atrogel can bring further relief from stiffness and pain. Atrogel is made from freshly harvested Arnica flowers and be easily applied to the affected area.
What is the best supplement for muscle and joint pain?
There are a few supplements that can be beneficial for the muscles and joints. Magnesium is top of the list, though, as it plays an important role in muscle function and a deficiency will often contribute to cramps, spasms and pains.
Turmeric can ease inflammation so is another good addition if you are experiencing general aches and pains. The spice has this effect because of a compound called curcumin.
Muscle repair and healing can also be encouraged by zinc. That’s because the mineral is involved in creating new cells and cell division.
Top tip 5 – focus on natural vitamins and minerals
Many conventional supplements are often poorly absorbed by the body, despite the fact that they contain high quantities of their specified mineral. Therefore, I would always advise using your diet to get as much magnesium, turmeric or zinc as possible.
If you do wish to turn to a supplement, ensure it comes from a natural source and is in liquid form as this is better absorbed by the body than tablets. Balance Mineral Drink is a good option as it contains both magnesium and zinc, alongside calcium, potassium and vitamin D. This helps to support normal muscle and joint function, but may also help to reduce tiredness and fatigue.