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Four Natural Ways I Fix My Joints, Bones And Injuries Fast (Without Drugs And Surgery)

Published on December 8, 2014

Now that I'm doing a lot of obstacle racing (see photo above, in which I'm clambering over a wall in my last Spartan race), I'm getting a fair share of scrapes, bruises, sprains, and strains – more than I experienced when racing Ironman triathlon.

These bone, muscle and joint injuries aren't happening because I'm weak or unprepared, but are rather just natural consequences from shoving the human body to it's limits. Living life to it's full extent.

Dying empty.

Whatever you want to call it.

And while my 26 Top Ways To Recover From Workouts and Injuries with Lightning Speed is a really comprehensive primer for accelerating recovery and managing injuries, I'll readily that admit some of the things I talk about in that article can seem excessive, inconvenient or expensive. Let's face it – it can be tough to drive to the acupuncturist every week, fly to Europe for stem cell therapy, or hunt down a good therapist with a decent cold lasering device. Instead, I'm often asked about the more practical stuff and nitty-gritty details of the easy-to-implement things that I personally do on a daily basis when I need a bit of fast fixing up, accelerated recovery, or when the athletes I coach write me for quick and easy-to-implement solutions after they've tweaked an ankle, knee or hip.

So rather than giving you a big, intimidating list of a few dozen things to do when you're injured, here instead are four simple, practical and natural ways I fix my joints, bones and injuries fast (without drugs and surgery).

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1. Hot-Cold Contrast

OK, quick confession: I actually now have an endless swimming pool called an “AquaFitness” pool at my house. I keep it next to a hot tub. Both are non-chlorinated and are instead kept clean with an ozone filter and ClearChoice Enzymes.

I keep the pool at 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the hot tub at 104 degrees Fahrenheit.

Once per week, no matter what, I do a hot-cold contrast session in which I swim, tread or move in the cold water for 8 minutes, soak in the hot tub for 2 minutes, then repeat for a total of 30 minutes. To enhance blood flow and decrease inflammation, I'll do this protocol as often as every day if I'm injured or if I'm tapering for a race.

This is just one example of what is called a “hot-cold contrast session”. This therapy has several physiological effects that can enhance recovery, including reflexive vasoconstriction to cold followed by vasodilation from heat (blood vessel “pumping”), slowing of nerve conduction velocity (which decreases pain and muscle spasming/guarding), decreased firing of the muscle spindles (which can reduce the stiffness that occurs when injured) and increased flow of inflammatory byproducts out of muscle tissue, which is especially useful in acute inflammation stages in which swelling can cause pain and discomfort.

What are some other examples of hot-cold contrast that you can implement?

-Take a 5 minute shower with 20 seconds cold, 10 seconds hot, 10 times through.

-Go to the gym and sit in the sauna for 5-10 minutes, then jump into a cold shower for 2 minutes, and do rounds for 20-30 minutes.

-Take a 20 minute hot magnesium salts bath, then follow it up with a 5 minute icy cold shower.

Want something slightly more complex? Here's one that I assigned to one of my athletes last week. He called it the “Killer Cold Pool Protocol”, and it involves 10 minutes of cold pool immersion (use an underwater .mp3 player if you get bored) and then a transition into a hot sauna for 10 minutes of yoga “sun salutations”, followed by going back into cold pool for 10 minutes, and so on, with a goal of completing 3 rounds for a total of 60 minutes.

Afterwards, he said: “Wasn't as bad as I thought, after the first 60 secs or so. By the 3rd “set”, I waded right in and was no issue. Amazing how much of this is psychological. Felt like a fu&%#*g beast afterwards. Haven't felt like that in a long time.”

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2. Deep Tissue Work

So here's the deal: I've written many times before about the benefits of foam rolling and deep tissue work, and extolled the virtues of book like “Becoming A Supple Leopard” and “Ready To Run” as the best resources to learn how to do deep tissue work the right way.

But once again, this particular article you're reading now is about the practical application of deep tissue work, and exactly what I do in my own program, so here you go:

-Every Tuesday and every Friday I do a full body foam rolling session that takes about 20 minutes, starting with my low back and progressing to upper shoulders, neck, under armpits, chest, hips, hamstrings, calves, quadriceps, IT band (outside of thighs) and adductors (inside of thighs). By the time I finish, I am usually dripping with sweat, and I count this rolling session as “workout time”. I use something called a Rumble Roller, which has ridges in it that help dig into muscle tissue. See, the #1 problem I observe in the athletes I advise is that they initially think foam rolling involves about 2 minutes of messing around with a foam roller. This doesn't count. It's just foreplay. Instead, you need dedicated, scheduled and planned sessions of rolling around on the floor and making sweet love to your foam roller as you grunt, twist and grind.

-Every day before breakfast, I use a tiny little ball with ridges in it (called a “Beastie Ball” and made by the same folks who make the Rumble Roller). I roll each foot for about one minute, and then roll the outside of each hip for about one minute. Why these sections? I know from experience that the bottom of my feet and the outside of my hips are the two areas of my body that get the tightest when I'm in training, so I prioritize hitting those every day, and it makes a night and day difference.

-Once per month, I do a 60-90 minute full body massage or full body foam rolling session. Make it deep, make it hard, make it hurt so good.

If you can just start doing those three pieces of deep tissue work, you're going notice your body change in – drumroll please – 9-12 months. Yep, you heard me right. Get committed. Just like muscle gain, fat loss, getting to the extreme edge of cardiovascular fitness, and any other beneficial positive change, it takes patience to change your body, and it takes that long for your fascia, ligaments and tendons to begin to adapt and become more mobile.

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3. Topical Treatments

Truth be told, about once a week some beauty or health care product company sends me some fancy bottle of some new magical potion or lotion that is supposed to instantly make soreness and injuries vanish.

As I've discussed in a previous podcast, not only do many of these creams, lotions, and topical treatments contain unhealthy active ingredients, but most of them simply don't really seem to work for me at all.

So when it comes to topical treatments for muscle soreness and injuries, what does actually work?

-Every day, post-workout, I step out of my cold shower, completely dry my body, and then apply transdermal magnesium lotion (not spray) to any major muscles I've worked. I rub it in for about 30 seconds. Compared to magnesium spray, magnesium lotion absorbs much better and doesn't leave me with a dry, scratchy or itchy feeling, or any white residue. The magnesium relaxes muscles and creates “tissue saturation”, which allows the mineral to travel to the body’s tissues and cells at a high dose without losses through the gastrointestinal tract. 

-If I have a muscle that has been strained, sprained or seems to be in a constant state of spasm or guarding, or a sore joint, I apply topical frankincense oil. Yes, frankincense, just like they brought little baby Jesus. The stuff works.

Incidentally, if you really need to amplify delivery of magnesium or frankincense into your muscle tissue, here's a tip I learned last month from Dr. Jeff Spencer as I was interviewing him for my REV conference: if you happen to have an electrostimulation device (listen to my podcast with MarcPro to learn more about these) you can slap it on over whatever topical treatment you've just applied, wrap an ace bandage around it if that helps the electrodes to stick better, and the electrical stimulation effectively drives the topical treatment deeper into the tissue.

I think that's a pretty cool biohack, especially considering it comes straight from the guy who is responsible for ensuring Tour De France cyclists bounce back as quickly as possibly between grueling stages.

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4. Nutrients

Finally, we get to nutrients.

If you're into health, you've probably read about everything from glucosamine chondroitin to ginger to turmeric to tart cherry juice to proteolytic enzymes for easing joint pain, healing muscles faster, or decreasing inflammation. Heck, just head down the supplements aisle of your local health food store and pharmacy or do a search for “natural anti-inflammatories” on the internet and you'll find all these and many more often recommended.

Just like I've done with smart drugs, sleep aids, and everything else I do as a human guinea pig health blogger, I've tried them all. I've ground up ginger root by hand, I've ordered shockingly sour bottles of tart cherry extract and lemon bioflavonoids, I've scooped powdered glucosamine and chondroitin into smoothies, and I've even sent my wife back to the grocery store three times in a single month to stock our kitchen back up on turmeric…

…and most of this stuff works. A little bit here, a little bit there, and you notice some significant changes in the way your muscles feel the day after a hard workout, or how “lubed up” your joints feel after a tough season of racing.

But it also gets exhausting to throw everything and the kitchen sink into your body, and to try to keep track of everything you're supposed to be taking if you're injured, you're sore or you've really beat up your body.

It'd be nice if all this stuff was somehow compressed into a single capsule.

It turns out that all this stuff now does actually exist in just ONE bone and joint healing supplement. So now I just use that single supplement for recovery. I don't take it every day, but when I'm injured, I've finished a race, or I'm really sore, I use 6 capsules in the morning and 6 capsules in the evening. The supplement is called “NatureFlex“, and it contains four different blends:

NatureFlex-Osteo-Mineral Blend: Naturally occurring minerals to assist in maintaining a proper electrolyte balance while at the same time keeping calcium dissolved in solution, preventing the calcium from depositing in your arteries and joints (this is damn important if you're using anything that has calcium in it). This blend contains Goat Milk Mineral Whey, Di-calcium Phosphate and Acetyl-L-Carnitine

-Collagen Blend: This blend contains chicken collagen type II, the principal structural protein in cartilage that provides strength, flexibility and support, along with Lutein Esters. Unlike most collagen blends, the collagen used in NatureFlex comes from chickens free of growth hormones, antibiotics, pesticides and insecticides. This form of collagen is a whole food concentrate that has no known side effects and provides maximum absorption.

-Flex Blend: This blend contains natural anti-inflammatory ingredients that are also known for their alkalizing effects and potent antioxidant properties, including White Willow Bark, Tart Cherry Juice, Feverfew Leaf, Valerian Root, Ginger Root, Turmeric Root (curcuma longa) Acerola Cherry and Lemon Bioflavonoids.

-Enzyme Blend: Finally, you may have heard of proteolytic enyzme supplements like Wobenzymes and Recoverease. Rather than taking those separately, those same enzymes are now actually mixed in with the blends above, and include Protease, Bromelain, Papain, Amylase, Lipase and Cellulase.

So yes, it's basically a shotgun approach.

And again, I don't recommend dumping all that stuff into your body every day unless you're got some pretty serious joint arthritic issues going on, but when you need rapid recovery from a nutritional standpoint, or you're injured and you want to pull every last nutrient trick out of the closet, this stuff works and it works fast. The stuff is made about 4 hours from my house at a local organic goat farm, and you can get bottles of it here

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Summary

So that's it. Those are my staples.

If you have questions, comments or feedback about hot-cold contrast, deep tissue work, topical treatments or nutrients, then leave your thoughts below.

Also, if you have your own fast recovery tricks that you've found to be particularly potent, I'd love to hear about them, so feel free to share those below too. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy living life at a slightly faster pace than the rest of the general population.

40 thoughts on “Four Natural Ways I Fix My Joints, Bones And Injuries Fast (Without Drugs And Surgery)

  1. Thanks for the article Ben. I’m going to try the deep tissue work. My supervisor from work calls us industrial athletes. I’m noware built like you but still deal with the occasional strains and muscle soreness.

    As far as nutrition I Take Thrive by a company called le-vel. I not exhausted when the weekend gets here. I can actually do stuff with the kids instead of feeling like I have to sleep part for the weekend away just to be ready for the work week. It supposedly fill in nutritional gaps.

    But any way thanks again

  2. Do you do any stretching or mobility work while in the hot tub part of the hot cold therapy? Possibly after?

    I made the plunge today. 60 degree pool and 104 degree hot tub. Legit.

  3. I was in an auto accident 2 weeks ago trying to regain my range of motion to my left shoulder. Will the Nature Flex completely heal my ac joint separation. I want to have the pain be completely gone and start working out again.

    1. I am not a doctor and nothing I say should be taken as medical advice. . I can't guarantee it will completely heal a joint separation but it will definitely help with the pain management. The also helpful soft tissue healing.

  4. Hi Ben, thanks for the awesome content, have listened to all of your podcasts. My mother-in-law is struggling to heal a broken ankle and the docs are threatening to put a pin in it soon if it doesn’t heal naturally (she’s had a cast in it for over three months!). She’s not the healthiest person: overweight diabetic on a bunch of different meds. Is Natureflex the. Eat thing to help heal the bone or is there something else you would recommend.

    Thanks!

    1. I am not a doctor and this is not to be taken, interpreted or construed as medical advice. Please talk with a licensed medical professional about this. These are just my own personal thoughts and not a prescription or a diagnosis or any form of health care whatsoever. But yes, NatureFlex can definitely be good for this. I'd also do everything in the article above!

  5. Hey Ben, just found your site. Your information is so full of knowledge. I use to be in Marathon shape. over the years I have developed too many issues to mention all of them. the main ones are Bone Spurs, Fasciacitis, with hx of chronic Fatigue and inflammation.

    1. I have bone spurs on top my feet and some days can bearly walk. I understand they are from the body not absorbing the calcium. Although I have tried different sources, your suggestion sounds very complete. I am going to try it.

    2. With lack of exercise & probably not too healthy of nutrition I have and am losing lots of fascia, Because it is so important, I do need to build it back and quick as I can. Where can I begin and continue?

  6. I have a cut on my ankle that is hurting , my bone around my ankle is the only thing that is sore right now. I’m lipping but I want to walk normal. What should I do?

  7. Any advise for someone who has developed Osteoporosis, had three spinal fractures, plus has thyroid and acid reflux. All the doctors want to do is give a shot of bone medicine which has sides effects. At present I am working with a doctor of physical Thrp and doing well.

  8. I tore my quad; had surgery and am now on the range of motion phase of rehab. Any suggestions on supplementation and exercise to get my knee bending?

  9. I am 60yr female.. It’s 3 wks since I’ve had rotator cuff complete tear op… Can I use natures flex for healing

  10. I bent my toes backwards when tripping on the staircase while ascending upstairs and wearing flip flops. Now I have 2nd toe capsulitis. It happened over a month ago. I tape it and ice and rest and elevate it but it is still painful and swollen. I’ve been to 2 podiatrist and 1orthopedist. 1st pod laughed at my foot, 2nd referred me to ortho who dx me. Any suggestions for healing.

  11. Hi Ben,

    Do you have any information that would lead you to believe that the above recommended magnesium bath salts, magnesium lotion and/or Nature Flex, Flex Blend (or other) would help with chronic myofascial pain syndrome (MPS), chronic muscle tension (or similar)? As of late, my workouts have been extremely limited due to trap and neck soreness and inflammation that causes head pain. Thanks in advance!

  12. Hi Ben,

    I've been taking the NatureFlex for a few weeks, 2-3 in the morning and 2-3 at night, to help heal my AC joint separation that looks like turned into osteolysis of the distal clavicle. Couple questions:
    1) Why is it important to take the NatureFlex on an empty stomach?
    2) Should I increase my dosage, and if so, how many should I take?

    Thanks for your help Ben!

    1. 1) If you take with a meal, the proteolytic enzymes in it will work on the food rather than on the inflammatory fibrinogens.

      2) I can tell you that when I am injured, I take 4 capsules, 3x/day. I'm 180lbs, if that helps!

  13. What about high-dose vitamin C, or cissus quadrangularis? I think I’ve had good results with them, but it’s hard to say how fast I would have recovered without them. N=1 experiments are just hard to do for injury recovery because of that issue, but have you tried either?

  14. I’ve found a good way to injest significant amounts of tumeric is to make “Golden Milk”. This is an Indian yoga type drink where you make a tumeric paste with tumeric powder, milk and a bit of black black pepper. Then you can just scoop out a teaspoon full to add to warm milk, or almond milk to drink.

  15. Great article – nice to see that I'm already doing several of your suggested treatment. This may be a bit nit-picky but as a swimming pool and spa contractor, I need to point out that you need a disinfectant in your spa and there are only three approved by the EPA that kill pathogens quickly enough: chlorine, bromine and Baquacil/biguanide/PHMB. Ozone has a limited life as a water purifier. It is effective for only a few seconds after coming into contact with water. Therefore, water purification will mostly only take place when the ozonator is working. Ozone is not effective against algae. Enzymes alone are not disinfectants and will not prevent the growth of bacteria nor the infection from a virus or protozoan oocyst.

      1. I do know of it but it’s not used professionally because it lacks EPA certification. It may kill bacteria over time but not quickly enough to prevent bather to bather transmission of infection. In their promotional material they they use, they claim their product uses the same process that keeps lakes and rivers crystal clear. Well, if you’ve ever hike in the back country, you know that drinking from those crystal clear mountain streams can expose you to Giardia, pseudomonas and other serious waterborne pathogens. CC can be used in conjunction with an approved sanitizer but it’s kind of a waste of money as the sanitizers also oxidize, which is what CC’s enzymes do.

  16. Hey, is that a yellow "LiveStrong" bracelet you are wearing in the photo? Maybe there's someone else that doesn't believe that Lance is the AntiChrist just for doing what all his peers did?

      1. I know this doesn't have anything to do with this article but I was wondering if you have ever thought about a podcast on training for shorter endurance races like the mile. I'm a high school track athlete and don't plan on moving to longer distance races till after college.

    1. Doing what all his peers did sure, but perhaps read a little about the peoples’ lives he tried to ruin while he went about doing it.

  17. Great Article Ben. Do you think this protocol and supplements would help with a shoulder injury? Have been waiting months for my rear shoulder to heal so i can continue to bench and shoulder press. Doing very light weight and calisthenics in the mean time.

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