Try these four ancient remedies to soothe your achy joints

Joint pain changes how you live your life. And it’s hard to find safe, effective relief using mainstream treatments. In fact, I regularly field questions from readers who want to know about their drug-free options.

I’ve told you about a few safe alternatives, such as turmeric, boswellia, and ashwagandha.  And today, I’ve got four more pain remedies for you to try…heat, water, mud, and salt. You may have doubts about these simple remedies. But think again. These four elements have been used in folk medicine for thousands of years to combat pain. Plus, in a moment, I’ll tell you about two new studies might help you find a new way to soothe your achy joints.

But first, let’s back up for a moment.

Ancient folk medicine used hot mineral waters, salt baths, mud baths, and thermal springs to treat sore, inflamed joints. In European traditions, doctors sent patients with all kinds of ailments to soak in thermal springs and hot mineral baths. And they applied therapeutic mud to painful joints. In Mediterranean culture, people bathed in the highly concentrated salt water of the Dead Sea to heal their ailments. In ancient Ayurvedic medicine, they would pack painful joints in hot sand.

At the dawn of “modern medicine” in Europe, physicians still recognized these natural approaches. And today, physicians in Europe continue to use spring water, heat, and salt to soothe sore joints. Many doctors in Europe specialize in balneology–or the science of hot baths. (It comes from the Latin word balneum, for bath.) In fact, balneology is actually part of mainstream medicine in Europe today. (And it’s distinct from hydrotherapy, which was a cornerstone of the naturopathic medicine community.) European doctors routinely “certify” medicinal springs and baths.

In early America, physicians maintained these European traditions. Founding Fathers such as George Washington and Thomas Jefferson “took the waters” at Berkeley Springs, West Virginia. Then, in the 1700s and 1800s, Bedford Springs, Pennsylvania, developed as a major spa. It was originally a Native American sacred healing ground. Men and women went there to soak in the healing waters. Seven different natural springs have unique mineral contents. And you soaked in them for different ailments.

President James Buchanan actually kept a “summer White House” in Bedford Springs during the summers between 1857 and 1860. President Ronald Reagan also visited Bedford Springs to take in the healing waters.

Warm Springs, Georgia, boasts one of the country’s most famous therapeutic spas. President Franklin Roosevelt rehabilitated himself from an attack of polio at Warm Springs in 1924. He returned to soak in the pools at Warm Springs almost every year until his death in 1945.

Truthfully, we don’t really have all the science to explain how these simple, natural remedies work. We only know that they do work. For example, heat is classically associated with inflammation, redness, and pain. So why do your joints often feel better when you apply heat? Or immerse yourself in hot water? For others, cool, moving spring water seems to work better. Or maybe the temperature doesn’t really matter. Maybe it’s the minerals that help.

Fortunately, scientists are finally beginning to become interested in these simple, ancient remedies. In fact, five years ago, an interesting study from Italy looked at how men and women with osteoarthritis of the back responded to hot mudpack therapy.

The researchers recruited 48 patients with lower back osteoarthritis. They divided the patients into two groups. They treated one group for 12 days with hot mudpacks, thermal baths, and 500 mg acetaminophen (Tylenol) twice daily. (Of course, you know not to take Tylenol for anything. Ever. Period.) The other group just took 500 mg of acetaminophen twice daily.

Then, the researchers took blood samples of the patients to measure the levels of four pain-producing neuropeptides. Neuropeptides are proteins found in the nervous system. And certain neuropeptides contribute to joint pain, cartilage damage, and inflammation.

Both groups experienced reduced levels of these “pain proteins.” But the group treated with hot mudpacks and thermal baths showed greater improvements.

Last year, the medical journal Rheumatology published an analysis of 20 different studies that evaluated the use of mudpacks on osteoarthritis knee pain. They found that patients experienced significant improvements in joint function, quality of life, and pain perception.

So, as I said earlier, we may not completely understand how heat, mud, water, and salt work. Only that they do work. And that they have a long history of working. So, you should definitely give them a try if you have joint pain. Especially if you’re looking for a safe, drug-free alternative.

You can buy therapeutic salts and Dead Sea mud packs on the internet. (But check them out first.) Use them as often as you like, or can afford. Also, consider investing in a large tub or spa. You sit in the tub or spa and completely immerse your body in the water. This practice is good for soothing sore joints. Plus, there are walk-in tubs available that make it easier getting in and out of a bath.

Also, don’t forget about turmeric, boswellia, and ashwagandha. These natural remedies offer safe, effective joint pain relief. And they support your body’s ability to replace and rebuild healthy cartilage.