Pain Management

3 Natural Cures to Quickly Soothe Back, Joint, and Neck Pain

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Between struggling up the steps with handfuls of heavy holiday packages and shoveling snow off the front stoop, you’re likely feeling achier than ever these days. You’re not alone: “Women over 50 tend to experience more aches and soreness because when our ovaries go ‘off line,’ the dip in estrogen triggers painful inflammation, especially where daily wear and tear on the body is greatest, in the joints and muscles of our neck, back, and knees,” reveals Susan Blum, MD, functional medicine expert and founder of the Blum Center for Health in Rye Brook, New York.

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Fortunately, there are plenty of natural cures for relieving pain fast. Read on for simple ways to soothe three of your body’s most pain-prone regions, so you can savor everything the holidays have to offer and truly enjoy the season of comfort and joy.

Neck pain? Try a Simple Stretch

When it comes to a stiff neck, movement is medicine, improving circulation, and allowing nutrient-rich blood to alleviate pain. A simple exercise you can do right now? “Place your right palm on the right side of your face and push gently against your hand, resisting slightly with your neck muscles,” advises George J. Kessler, DO, instructor of medicine at New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Count to three, then relax; repeat three times and switch to the left side, using your left hand. “This lets the neck muscles squeeze and relax, reducing pain.” For more moves, head to YouTube and search “isometric exercises, neck pain.”

Joint pain? Add This Supplement

Proteolytic enzymes, which break down protein in the body, ease joint pain, and speed healing by dialing down inflammation, says Dr. Kessler. “These enzymes help digest food, but if you take them between meals, they ‘eat up’ the compounds that cause inflammation instead.” Proof of the power of these enzymes: “When I had hip-replacement surgery, I took a proteolytic enzyme supplement between every meal, and I healed faster than others, with much less pain.” Dr. Kessler’s pick: Pure Encapsulations Systemic Enzyme Complex (Buy at Walmart, $63.70 for 180 capsules).

Back pain? Load Up on Good Fats

Pain receptors in our joints, including in our spine, are acid-sensitive. “So when we eat a highly acidic diet — sugars, processed foods, red meats — those pain receptors are turned on,” explains Dr. Blum. This phenomenon is more challenging over the holidays, when we’re indulging in all our favorite sugary treats (looking at you, butter cookies!). “It’s especially harmful for postmenopausal women, because in response to this acid, the body begins to dump calcium from our bones, leading to increased aches,” she says. Indeed, a calcium deficit is shown to increase musculoskeletal pain, particularly in the lower back. The delicious solution: Reach for olive oil. This alkaline fat helps tame acid overload. In fact, studies show that adding just 3 1⁄2 tablespoons of the Mediterranean staple to your daily diet tamps down pain as effectively as over-the-counter pain medicine and increases the body’s ability to absorb calcium for an added bone-boosting benefit.

This article originally appeared in our print magazine, First For Women.

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