Natural treatments for muscle, tendon and ligament pain do not involve masking the pain so you can carry on with your day as usual. As renowned chiropractor Dr. Ben Kim says:

“Acetaminophen primarily decreases registration of pain in your brain. It doesn’t decrease inflammation outside of your central nervous system (brain and spinal cord).

So if you continue to burden injured tissues while taking acetaminophen to numb your senses, you will almost certainly prolong recovery time and possibly cause long term damage.

If complete rest is not possible and you absolutely must use an injured body part to some degree, the better choice is any over-the-counter pain medication that actually decreases inflammation throughout your body. Examples of pain killers that have system-wide anti-inflammatory properties are ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve), and aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin).

But even with intake of any of these anti-inflammatory drugs, it’s best that you take the lowest possible dose and do all you can to rest until the injured area is fully healed.

Inflammation is a process that you want to proceed in full force after experiencing any soft tissue injury. Inflammation brings blood, nutrients, white blood cells, and several natural chemicals that work together to repair injured tissues one cell at a time.

If you deny injured tissues a full bout of inflammation, it’s quite possible that the tissues won’t return to full strength, especially if they’ve been injured before. Which is to say that by suppressing inflammation, you predispose an injured area to further injury.

When this principle is repeatedly ignored, the result is reduced strength and flexibility for the long term. This is why I don’t typically recommend using ice to decrease inflammation in most cases of acute muscular or ligamentous injury.”

Wholistic treatments address the underlying causes of pain and inflammation and help the body to speed healing. 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. Traumeel is another excellent topical cream that contains arnica along with other powerful homeopathic remedies.

2. 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.

3. Warm Castor Oil Packcastor 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 – 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, night time urinary frequency, inflamed joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons and general detoxification.

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.

Note: If this procedure is way too complicated for you, 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. 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.

Natural Treatment for Muscle Pain and Strained Back

11 thoughts on “Natural Treatment for Muscle Pain and Strained Back

  • We always have a tube of arnica with us – especially during training season or if we were going hiking. I was surprised that it isn’t as well known in N. America as it is in Europe. Two things that has always helped with muscle and ligament injuries or fatigue is: 1) deep massage therapy – it really helps to get the blood circulating and warm the tissues which helps augment the healing process; 2) anti-oxidant intake from either food or supplements (or both) since a lot of the damage is associated with oxidative stress. NAC (n-acetyl cysteine) is proven to be particuarly effective (competitive cyclists take it for faster recovery). I have mixed feelings about castor oil – more because of the cost on the health of those who harvest and process the castor plant (the ricin is very toxic and the workers – mostly from developing countries – suffer from terrible health effects).

  • Hi Ashley, I asked the company who makes the castor oil we sell (Heritage Products) about the workers doing the harvest and here’s their response:

    “We have used our current supplier for many years and they source fine oils from around the globe. They are used to dealing with international issues, including worker safety. We have questioned them in the past regarding this and they have assured us that they monitor the safety of the workers when they conduct their audits of their suppliers.”

    Not very hard or provable, I know. Not sure how you would even go about getting any kind of ‘certified’ safety document or assurance in these countries anyway – as they are largely unregulated.

    Still, it is good to raise this concern and let manufacturers know that we are thinking and talking about this issue.

    On the positive side, it doesn’t look like the harvest would cause problems, since the ricin has to be ingested, inhaled, or injected to cause toxicity:

    The reference Wikipedia gives for its assertion that there are allergenic compounds on the leaves of the plant which harms workers, is also unsubstantiated:

    Since castor oil is used in the industrial sector as well as health sector, there is a fairly large production going on. One would think that providing workers with gloves or face masks would be a fairly cheap/easy protective measure, rather than having to continually find more workers, or having lowered production due to sick workers…

    Who knows?

  • Hi Jini, Thank you for raising the issue with your supplier – you are definitely a rare one to have taken up the matter so promptly. It is gratifying that you think it is important to raise the awareness level regarding the potetial negative impact of the harvesting and processing of the products we use for our health benefit.

  • I look forward to the day where we don’t even have to think about questioning such basic human rights issues – because every business responsibly looks out for its workers and mother earth, understanding that if we damage our world and each other, we have not gained very much. Naive perhaps, but then Ricken Patel ( is my brother, so I guess it runs in the family!

  • It may not surprise you (given the overwhelming success of Avaaz) that I am a long-time and ardent supporter of your brother’s work. The satisfaction from being able to mobilize progessive change and help others must be tremendous, but I can imagine the constant burden of the tasks at hand – and the fact that he is dealing with some pretty powerful players – can be an unenviable stress to carry. However, the fact that both of you have been so successful in forming your own self-designed way to make a positive difference is a testimony to the value of good stock. I think part of what sets you two apart is your wonderful communication skills – both of you are incredibly articulate as well as being very good at problem-solving (and the hard work doesn’t hurt either). May the success continue.

  • You are too kind Ashley! We all joke about how our mother brainwashed us with compassion from infancy, so we didn’t stand a chance! My older brother (a medical geneticist) is active in a similar way in his sector – he founded the Rare Disease Organization. Pharma’s will not pay attention to drugs for kids with rare diseases, because there’s not enough money there – even when they have a drug that will help, they will shelve it because it won’t be profitable enough. So they founded a private organization to counter this and do lots of their own fundraising to carry out research, etc.:

    So even though his mandate (drug-based!) is completely different to mine, in terms of motivation (relieving suffering) we are completely aligned. Interesting the way life unfolds…

  • Serrapeptase can be quite useful having an enzymatic effect on non-living tissue – a kind of nibbling away of scar-tissue, fibroids and perhaps mineral buildup in blood vessels.
    After abdominal surgery my mother used it to remove fibroids blocking the movement of gas. It took a couple of months.

    After straining the muscles in my back after attempting to catch myself while falling backward I healed over two years to a place where I did not feel discomfortr if I did not work those muscles. If I did some activity I would have aching for the rest of the day. After taking Serrapeptase 3x a day the pain went away in a few weeks.

    A small half-pea size formation appeared in my thumb joint after an injury. It has disappeared. I don’t know how long that took because I was not focusing on it.

  • Georgia – I’ve been experimenting myself with serrapeptase lately. From my trials so far, it doesn’t seem to have much effect on acute muscle sprain/pain – but as you described, for any longer-term condition where scar tissue is involved, it is definitely helpful to break down the scar tissue (which restricts movement and causes pain). You would probably really enjoy my latest video on this topic (scar tissue, adhesions, etc.):

    All About Abdominal Adhesions and Obstruction

  • zyllion shiatsu massage pillow worked wonders for me. I don’t get paid for recommending it – but if you have neck and back pain (I have both) then you will appreciate the advice. You can buy it at amazon.

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