©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Try eating one or two bananas a day to minimize muscle cramps.

Natural Home Remedies for Muscle Pain

Whatever the reason, when blood doesn't reach your muscles the way it should, your muscles can turn into balls of pain. Your first priority is to give your muscles some rest, and take a few ideas from the kitchen that will help you feel better, fast.

Home Remedies From the Cupboard

Bouillon. Sipping some warm soup before heading out for a long bike ride may not sound appealing, but it may help you skip the muscle cramps. Drink 1 cup beef or chicken bouillon before you ride. It helps you replace the sodium you lose when you sweat.

Epsom salts. Jump in a hot bath with Epsom salts to ease the pain of your strain (but wait at least 24 hours before you try this). Epsom salts contain loads of magnesium that is absorbed through the skin. Magnesium helps promote the healing of torn muscles. Add 2 cups Epsom salts to a tub of hot water. It also relieves any swelling.

Home Remedies From the Fruit Basket

Banana. Eat a banana or two a day, and you may cut down your cramping. That's because a potassium deficiency may be to blame for muscle cramps. Though there's no official recommendation for how much potassium you should have per day, the American Dietetic Association suggests adults get about 2,000 mg a day. One banana has 450 mg of the muscle-protecting nutrient.

Home Remedies From the Refrigerator

Milk. Getting adequate amounts of calcium in your diet may help curtail your cramps. Women, especially, seem to need plenty of calcium for muscle health. Three glasses of milk a day will meet the calcium needs of most adults.

Water. Yes, it's the elixir of life as well as your best bet for avoiding a painful muscle cramp while you exercise. When you exercise, you sweat. That sweat depletes your body of needed fluids that can cause your muscles to mutiny. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you do your activity of choice. If you're running, aim to drink about a cup per hour. Don't overdo it, however, because drinking too much water can cause a dangerous imbalance in the body's mineral stores.

What about those sports drinks? You really don't need them unless you're exercising intensely for longer than an hour at a time. Water is better.

Home Remedies From the Spice Rack

Rosemary. A few leaves of rosemary can help reduce swelling in strained muscles. Use either fresh or dried leaves; fresh has more of the volatile oils. The herb has four anti-inflammatory properties, which can help calm inflamed muscle tissue and speed healing. Because rosemary is easily absorbed through the skin, placing a cloth soaked with a rosemary wash will help ease the pain. Here's how to make a rosemary wash: Put 1 ounce rosemary leaves in a 1-pint jar and fill the jar with boiling water. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Apply the wash to the area two or three times a day.

Stretch it, squeeze it, chill it -- these are just a few of the home remedies to use for muscle aches and pains. Even better, bone up on the preventative tips suggested in this article, and you'll avoid muscle pain altogether.

Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.