Pain in your back, joints, and muscles – musculoskeletal pain – is caused by a range of lifestyle and genetic factors. Treatments for that pain must be personalized for every patient, based on your level of inflammation, how you experience pain, other health conditions, and current medications.
Creating personalized treatment plans can be simultaneously the most rewarding and challenging aspect of my physical medicine and rehabilitation (PM&R) practice. Several natural, medicinal, and procedural pain treatments are available, and patients respond differently to all of them.
In the U.S., musculoskeletal pain management is beginning to incorporate more Eastern and Ayurvedic medicine, which focus on natural mind and body treatments using exercise, foods, or herbs, as a complement to Western medicine, which treats physical symptoms with medication or surgery.
While anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or naproxen can be effective for acute pain, long-term use can cause harmful side effects, including kidney and gastrointestinal damage. Some natural supplements can be highly effective for certain conditions, and some have fewer side effects. However, not all supplements are effective or safe for everyone.
Natural medicinal approaches, commonly referred to as complementary medicine, continue to grow in popularity. Americans spend more than $30 billion each year on complementary health products and practices. Unfortunately, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate all supplements, so it can be difficult to know exactly what you’re buying and whether the product might benefit you.
In PM&R, we recognize that you know your body, and we want to help you find a treatment plan that relieves your pain without increasing other health risks. Following are seven natural supplements that our patients have said help them manage inflammatory musculoskeletal pain.
Natural supplements to consider
A plant from the ginger family, turmeric is often used in South Asian cuisine, such as curry. It contains curcumin, the key ingredient that can help decrease inflammation. To be effective as either a supplement or food – and not simply metabolized and excreted – turmeric should be absorbed with fatty oils, such as avocado or olive oil, and black pepper, which most supplements contain.
I recommend making turmeric a part of your daily diet for three to six months to gauge any benefits. Turmeric supplements can be expensive, and inflammation can be treated in other ways. So, if your pain hasn’t decreased after this amount of time, we can try something else