Have you have ever strained or pulled a muscle or had muscle spasms? Chances are that you might have popped a pill or taken a prescription muscle relaxer. These drugs provide temporary relief and do not heal the problem.
It is easy to believe that these medicines are harmless as they are readily available without a prescription. These medications can also lead to side effects like drowsiness, light-headedness, headaches, and even addiction.
Natural muscle relaxers like arnica oil, cannabis oil and treatments like chiropractic adjustments and massages are very effective when it comes to relaxing your muscles and easing the pain.
Let us learn more about the advantages of using natural muscle relaxers and the side effects of synthetic muscle relaxers.
What causes muscle stiffness?
The most common cause of stiffness in muscle is injury due to physical activity. Sometimes when you exercise without adequately stretching first, it can cause muscle stiffness.
Age-related problems like arthritis and rheumatism can also lead to sore muscles. The joints and muscles of overweight people are under a great deal of strain, and this can cause stiff muscles. Mental stress can also lead to stiffness in muscles.
Natural muscle relaxers
These natural muscle relaxers can bring great relief from pain and help to relax your sore muscles.
1. Arnica oil
Arnica flowers resemble sunflowers and are found in Canada, European Alps and the Northern United States. Arnica oil contains chemicals like thymol and helenin, which help reduce swelling and inflammation.
Inflammation and swelling are a major cause of muscle tension. Arnica oil also helps in improving blood circulation, which decreases healing time for injuries and wounds. It can be used topically in the form of salve, ointment, cream or lotion.
2. Cannabis oil
Cannabis oil can relieve chronic pain and inflammation. According to studies, cannabinoids help in pain modulation as they inhibit neuronal transmission in pain pathways (1).
Cannabis oil is commonly used as a muscle relaxant, as a treatment for glaucoma, cancer and chemotherapy side effects. However, make sure you purchase cannabis oil from a company that sells pure, lab-tested oils.
3. Castor oil
Castor oil is the oil pressed from the beans of the castor plant. It has been used for centuries as a natural remedy for constipation and other illnesses. This oil also has analgesic and anti-inflammatory properties.
You can use castor oil as a massage oil. You can also make a pack by warming this oil and soaking a folded flannel with this oil. Wring out the excess oil and place this warm and oily flannel over your stiff muscles.
Castor oil increases the blood circulation and energy in the area where it is applied, and this helps relieve muscle spasms, tension, and aches
4. Essential oils
Many essential oils like peppermint oil, lemongrass oil, lavender, rosemary, and chamomile are effective muscle relaxers. They help soothe sore muscles and aid in relieving tensions.
- Peppermint oil contains menthol, which has a cooling effect on sore muscles. It has anti-inflammatory, antispasmodic and analgesic properties, which make it an excellent remedy for aching muscles.
- Lemongrass oil helps improve blood circulation, which helps relieve muscle spasms and backaches. It makes a great massage oil when mixed with sweet almond oil.
- Lavender oil is a natural muscles relaxer with sedative properties. It can help relieve muscle spasms, tension, headaches, and joint pain. It can be used in the form of tea, oil, pill or liquid extraction.
- Rosemary oil can work wonders on achy and stiff muscles. It is a natural muscle relaxant, and also has anti-inflammatory properties which are extremely useful for the treatment of cramped muscles during menstruation.
- Chamomile oil is very relaxing and calming. It helps promote restful and restorative sleep. You can massage this oil on the affected area or have camomile tea.
5. Epsom salt
Epsom salt ( magnesium sulfate heptahydrate) is beneficial in relieving inflammation and easing the pain. Adding Epsom salt to warm bath water is an effective way to stimulate blood flow and increase magnesium levels in the body.
Magnesium can help relieve inflammation and swelling by drawing excess fluid away from the area.
Epsom salt also helps in relaxing tense heart muscles and improving irregular heartbeat, which may result in high blood pressure.
Catnip (scientific name Nepeta cataria) has been cultivated for centuries and has been used as herbal medicine and also in cooking.
Catnip is a muscle relaxant and a mild sedative and is often used to relieve headaches and migraines. It is used for insomnia and other sleep disorders.
You can also use catnip for easing the menstrual pain which is caused by uterine cramps. Catnip powder can be brewed as a tea.
7. Tart cherries
Tart cherries have anti-inflammatory properties that have beneficial effects on arthritis and muscle pain. According to studies, drinking tart cherry juice can help reduce muscle pain during running (2).
Tart cherry juice contains anthocyanins and flavonoids that possess potent anti-inflammatory properties which work by inhibiting COX enzymes. COX enzymes produce prostaglandins that cause pain and inflammation.
The soothing properties of ginger are not limited only to the stomach; it is also beneficial in relieving sore muscles. According to a study published in the Journal of Pain, ginger helps ease muscle pain caused by exercise-induced muscle injury.
According to the experts, daily consumption of raw and heat-treated ginger helps reduce injury-related muscle pain.
You can also use ginger powder along with Epsom salts in bath water to ease cramping of muscles. Drinking ginger tea also helps to relieve pain.
9. Cayenne pepper
Cayenne pepper has many medicinal benefits. It helps alleviate muscle cramps, reduces pain-causing inflammation, lowers cholesterol and heals digestive issues.
Cayenne pepper contains capsaicin, which has antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory and pain relieving properties. It relaxes muscles and speeds up healing.
Mix two teaspoons of warm olive oil with one teaspoon of cayenne pepper powder and massage it on to the affected area.
10. Valerian root
Valerian root is a natural sedative and antispasmodic. It contains sugars, phenols, flavonoids, sterols, resins, iridoids, alkaloids, and tannins.
It helps to relax muscles and suppresses muscle spasms. It is an effective remedy for menstrual cramps. It calms the severe uterine muscle contractions which help in easing the pain (3).
Potassium is an essential mineral, and it helps in the maintenance of muscles and nerves. A deficiency in potassium can lead to fatigue, muscle cramps, and spasms.
Drinking potassium citrate dissolved in water can help relieve muscle pain and cramps after a workout. Potassium also helps relax the muscles in the body, which makes it easier to sleep.
So, include potassium-rich foods like bananas, avocados, salmon, sweet potatoes, and coconut water to your diet.
12. Chiropractic adjustments
Chiropractic adjustments are very effective in treating pain. According to a study on patients with low back pain, chiropractic was more beneficial than muscle relaxants in reducing pain (4).
Chiropractic treatment focuses on the alignment of the spine. If the spine is not aligned correctly, chiropractors bring it back to alignment and help alleviate pain.
13. Massage therapy
A good massage from a licensed massage therapist can help loosen tension and relieve pain. If you have chronic muscle spasms or pain, you must get a massage at least once a month.
During one study, cancer patients in Taiwan were given massage therapy to ease their pain. The study showed that regular massage improved pain, mood, muscle relaxation and sleep quality in these patients (4).
14. Avoid pro-inflammatory foods
Certain foods can worsen inflammation and pain. Sugar and alcohol can increase inflammation and pain. Caffeine can have a dehydrating effect on your body and can also increase pain.
Trans-fats also increase pain. So, avoid these foods if you have sore muscles or pain.
15. Light activity
If you have muscle spasms and the pain is not too severe, it is a good idea to keep moving. Avoid movements that may cause pain, but continue with the light activity. Light activity helps keep the muscles loose and speeds up the recovery.
Side effects of synthetic muscle relaxers
Though synthetic muscle relaxants can provide temporary relief from muscle pain and spasms, they can cause certain side effects. Here are some of the side effects of synthetic muscle relaxants:
- Dizziness and drowsiness
- Fatigue or weakness
- Dry mouth
- Decreased blood pressure
- Mood changes and hallucinations
- Difficulty in breathing
- Allergic reactions
You must avoid taking alcohol if you are taking muscle relaxants. Combining such medication with alcohol can impair your thinking and reaction time and make you more prone to accidents.
Muscle relaxants can also be addictive for some people. These muscle relaxers are fast acting, and patients run the risk of developing a physical and psychological dependence on them.
If a typical dose is skipped, the patients can feel withdrawal symptoms. Patients can also develop acute liver toxicity.
There are many natural ways to deal with muscle tensions. You do not have to take pills and muscle relaxants that can have serious side effects and can also lead to addiction and withdrawal symptoms.
Various oils, herbs, and therapies like massage and chiropractic adjustments can help deal with stiff muscles. These natural products also provide additional benefits like better heart health, lower blood pressure, and weight loss.
Go on, heal your muscles with these good natural muscle relaxants.