Recent controlled and randomized clinical trials by the PNAS were run to explore the link between declining male reproductive health and the increased use of “over-the-counter, mild” analgesics in the general population, particularly by elite athletes.
Findings “report a univocal depression of important aspects of testicular function, including testosterone production, after the use of over-the-counter ibuprofen.” The studies show that ibuprofen use in men results in a state of “compensated hypogonadism,” which is a step toward overt primary hypogonadism. Symptoms include reduced libido, reduced muscle mass and strength, fatigue, and depressed mood.
So what should a man do to address pain without compromising health? Natural painkillers have been around for 1,000s of years, used by everyone from cavemen to samurais, and we are seeing a rise in usage by health-conscious modern athletes. Here are some of the top players:
Tart cherries: Full of nourishing antioxidants, cherries are shown to reduce muscle soreness. Add these, real cherry juice, or frozen tart cherries to your post-workout smoothie to reap the benefits. Furthermore, when consumed before bed, cherries have been shown to help insomnia and improve sleep quality, giving your muscles more quality time to rest and repair.
Epson Salts: Add them to a warm bath or a hot compress as a gentle, natural muscle relaxant. The salts contain muscle-friendly magnesium, which when absorbed through the skin is more effective than oral supplementation. The heat itself is great for relieving the tension of sore and knotted muscles that are tight from overuse.
Apple Cider Vinegar: ACV can alleviate sore muscles and leg cramps. Drink a tablespoon as a straight shot, or dilute 1 or 2 into a glass of water.
Foam Rollers: Actually touted as “the best thing for sore muscles since ibuprofen, foam rolling involves a technique called self-myofascial release, which uses pressure and targeted massage to help prevent scarring of the connective tissue between your muscles (the fascia). Take it easy your first time, though. While it looks as easy as falling off a log, falling off this particular log can be very painful until you get used to the amount of pressure you need to use.”
Chiropractics: I specialize in deep tissue massage, chiropractic pain reduction, and functional medicine. Ask for a calcium cuff rest when you're in my office, which will test you for your supplemental needs. We can alleviate internal and external muscle spasms with magnesium lactate and calcium lactate. I can also recommend Kava kava, a muscle relaxer and Nervagesiac by Medi-herb.
What about women? Females in pain can use any of the same remedies above! Exercise, applied heat, massage, herbal remedies, and hydration are particularly effective at treating menstrual pain naturally.