If you’re noticing more stiffness lately, you’re not alone. Utah State researchers say this challenging year has ramped up most folks’ level of the stress hormone cortisol, which irritates pain nerves, fuels joint inflammation, and makes muscles tight and tender. Fortunately, pain relief can be simple: Try these strategies to chase away even the worst worry-based aches fast!
Soothe neck pain with the scent of grass.
Vetiver essential oil — an extract from an Asian grass — soothes stress as effectively as Valium, plus it can cut neck pain by 60 percent if you massage it into tight spots for two minutes twice daily, British scientists say. Thanks goes to vetiver’s active ingredients (sesquiterpenes), which calm the brain’s anxiety center, soothe overactive pain nerves and relax spasming muscles. To do: Mix five drops of the oil into one teaspoon of unscented lotion. One to try: Healing Solutions Therapeutic Grade Essential Oil (Buy on Amazon, $12.88)
Nix knee pain with sweet seeds.
Sweet-tart pomegranate prompts the brain to release stress-soothing alpha waves, Stanford University researchers say. And a half-cup of seeds (or 4 ounces of juice) daily can cut knee stiffness and pain by 62 percent. According to rheumatologist Alex Gurman, M.D., pomegranate compounds switch on enzymes that tamp down swelling and heal joint cartilage.
Banish back pain with a powerful oil.
Imagine a natural painkiller that cuts even chronic backaches by 75 percent in eight weeks. “That treatment exists, and it’s fish oil,” says neurosurgeon Joseph C. Maroon, M.D. Its healthy fats provide as much relief as prescription anti-inflammatories, plus boost production of calming serotonin, cutting risk of anxiety by 60 percent. The study-proven dose: 2,000 mg. to 3,000 mg. daily. Note: Check with a doctor before supplementing.
Halt hip pain with a bed stretch.
Just three minutes of bedtime stretching could cut hip stiffness by 65 percent, plus help you drift off 75 percent faster, Australian researchers report. Stretching boosts blood flow to achy joints and prompts anxiety-ending hormones, resulting in pain relief. To do: Sit on your bed; lie back with feet on floor. Pull your right knee to your chest and hold; switch legs, repeat.
This story originally appeared in our print magazine.