Whether you suffer from Fibromyalgia, you pushed it too hard at the gym, injured yourself, or you’ve run down your immune system and the latest virus has left you feeling weak and sore, there are a number of natural remedies you can use to relieve your muscle pain or soreness.
Here are the most effective treatments I have found – that have all been tried-and-tested by myself and my family members:
1. Topical Arnica Cream or Gel
This homeopathic remedy provides instant relief from aches, bruises, sprains and tissue damage. I’ve used it after all 3 childbirths, my husband and son use it after soccer injuries. You can get arnica as a homeopathic sublingual pellet, liquid drops, or a cream, or gel. It is widely available in health stores, pharmacies and organic grocery stores. Traumeel is another excellent topical cream that contains arnica along with other powerful homeopathic remedies. We also carry an Arnica Muscle Soak in our shoppe.
Many times muscle soreness, stiffness, cramping or lethargy can simply be a deficiency of magnesium. And since 40% of the population are already deficient, it doesn’t take much to tip the scales on this mineral!
If you tend towards constipation, or your bowel movements are normal, then you can use Magnesium Citrate: 250 – 1000 mg/day – adjust dosage according to bowel tolerance. If your stools get loose, then cut back the dosage. Available in capsule form that you can swallow or add to smoothies, or as a Raspberry-Lemon flavored drink called Natural Calm.
If you tend towards diarrhea, or more than 1 bowel movement per day, then you may not tolerate ‘regular’ magnesium – or you may not be able to ingest a high-enough dose to remedy deficiency. In this case, use an angstrom-sized (nano) magnesium that does not go through the digestive tract, but just goes straight into the cells. We use both straight atom-sized/nano magnesium, or magnesium in a blend called Bone Matrix is great for Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue, Mono, or other issues involving joints and the immune system.
Lastly, you can use Epsom Salts (Costco sells pharmaceutical grade in bulk) or Magnesium Oil in your bath water. Soak for at least 15-20 minutes to allow for absorption.
Note: You should also check for potassium deficiency. 1 banana or 1 cup of raw coconut water can give you the potassium you need, or you can use Potassium Citrate capsules. If you eat a lot of salty foods, or exercise a lot, you may be deficient in potassium too.
3. White Willow Bark
This is a natural painkiller derived from willow trees. It was first used by Native Indians who boiled the bark into a tea and drank it. Aspirin is derived from white willow bark. BUT, white willow bark won’t damage your gut lining or constrict your rectum (often causing constipation) like Aspirin will.
For kids, or elderly, who can’t swallow pills, you can mix the white willow bark with organic cocoa butter and mold into suppositories for rectal insertion. Absorption is just as fast from rectal tissue – perhaps even faster – than swallowing.
Note that this remedy is going to mask the source of your pain/problem, not heal it! So only use it if you need to; to buy yourself some breathing room while you use the other remedies on this page to help heal the root cause(s).
4. Hot Castor Oil Pack
Castor oil penetrates deep into the tissues and stimulates the lymphatic system, to get the good stuff in and the bad stuff out. As Dr. Carolyn Dean MD ND says, “Castor oil packs increase circulation to an area and stimulate the lymphatic system to mobilize toxins aiding in detoxification. They are excellent for organ pain, especially of the liver, pancreas and kidneys and help relieve muscle spasms.”
Due to its ability to increase circulation, castor oil also helps to break up adhesions and scar tissue in muscles – which can often be a cause of pain or repeated injury due to restriction. A castor oil pack has many applications and has also been used in cases such as non-malignant uterine fibroids, ovarian cysts, headaches, liver disorders, constipation, diarrhea, intestinal disorders, gallbladder inflammation or stones, poor elimination, inflamed joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and general detoxification.
My readers have been using hot castor oil packs for over a decade to hugely reduce, or eliminate, gut pain. This reader credits it with saving her sister’s life. My own mother injured her back to the point she had to crawl to the toilet and then back to bed – she could not stand or sit. I came over and administered this hot castor oil pack (along with some atom-sized magnesium) that evening and by the next morning she could walk. She continued the pack twice the next day and then again on the third day, and then she was completely normal.
Just remember to use a cold-pressed castor oil and 100% cotton flannel (or wool) – no synthetics. You can use either a hot water bottle or a heating pad as the heat source. Here are detailed instructions:
Castor Oil Pack Components:
• Cold-Pressed Castor oil.
• Two sheets of plastic (garbage bags OK).
• 1 yard cotton or wool flannel.
• Heating pad (if indicated).
• Large old bath towel.
• 3 safety pins.
Preparing a Castor Oil Pack
1. Fold flannel into three thicknesses to fit over your whole abdomen.
2. Cut a piece of plastic 1-2 inches larger than flannel.
3. Saturate the flannel with gently heated oil, but not so much that it is drippy. Fold it over and squeeze until it is oozing. Unfold.
4. Place plastic and old towel over flannel to prevent staining of surface you will be lying on.
5. Lie down, placing flannel over abdomen, putting fitted plastic over the flannel.
6. Now wrap the towel under you, around your torso and pin with safety pins.
7. Place a heating pad (low heat) or hot water bottle on top of the towel.
8. Rest for 30-60 minutes. Use visualization, meditation, or just sleep. A good time to use castor oil packs is just before bedtime.
9. When finished, it’s best if you don’t get up and walk around and be busy (except to go to the bathroom). Try to stay still and relaxed.
If you are doing your pack at bedtime, have a zip-lock baggie next to your bed, and a towel to remove any excess oil and protect your bed sheets. Fold the oily pack up and put it into the baggie, then drop it to the floor till morning. In the morning, put it in the refrigerator.
11. Store the pack in the covered container or baggie in the refrigerator. Remove it from the refrigerator 1-3 hours before you plan to use it, so that it is at room temperature when you are ready to use it.
12. Each pack may be used repeatedly. When it starts to smell stale, make a new pack.
The Quick Version
Note: If this procedure is way too complicated for you, then just apply a generous amount of castor oil to the skin of your abdomen. Cover that with an old cotton t-shirt or other cloth you won’t mind eventually discarding. Lay your heat source (hot water bottle, heating pad) on top of that.
You can keep the cloth you use to protect your heat source from the oil to reuse. Eventually it will smell like stale oil, but can be kept for a few weeks at least in a plastic bag.
Rest for 30-60 minutes. Stay covered and warm so you can relax. Have a soft cloth or rag handy to catch any oil dripping off your body. You may want to put a towel or plastic underneath your body so your bed doesn’t get oily. It’s not necessary to have a castor oil pack that you keep in the refrigerator. Just do what works for you.
Frequency of Use
To be effective, a castor oil pack must be used at least 3 times a week, although 5 times a week is better. In cases of long-term chronic pain, it works best to commit to a 6 week treatment period using a castor oil pack 5 times per week, then as needed for episodes of pain. It’s also wise to consult with a naturopathic physician for the best frequency of treatment for your specific health problem.
5. Effective Bodywork
Although some people may be helped by a simple massage, for muscle soreness that is chronic, or recurring, you should seek out a bodywork therapy that addresses the root of what is causing the soreness.
My son once had a lot of ankle/foot pain and whilst the remedies on this page were helpful, the cause of the pain was a restriction and slight mis-alignment of his hip. As soon as his hip was mobilized and he did the stretching/strengthening exercises from our chiropractor, the ankle pain completely disappeared.
My mother used to get a lot of shoulder and neck pain, but after doing Alexander Technique for a few weeks, she learned how to hold/move her body differently while playing the piano and didn’t experience any more pain. Of course, if she reverted to her old bad habits, the pain would start to come back. But she could quickly fix the issue now that she had the tool/knowledge needed.
Many others find therapeutic or restorative yoga helpful. And a bodywork therapist trained in craniosacral, visceral manipulation and myofascial release can also bring a lot of relief.
Lastly, if you’ve never tried Feldenkrais before, then give it a whirl – my fabulous Feldenkrais teacher has gifted us 24 Free Lessons! You’ll know after the first 2-3 sessions if it’s what your body needs at this time.
First published June 2015. Updated March 2020.