Natural Treatment for Muscle Pain and Strained BackNatural 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. We also carry an Arnica Muscle Soak that helps soothe the body and muscles while you soak in the bath. Arnica and birch extracts help relieve feelings of fatigue and tiredness, while lavender and rosemary essential oils provide an uplifting herbal fragrance. 🙂

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 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 the 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. QuikPlus Atom-Sized Ionic Muscle Matrix – Magnesium and potassium are two minerals that work in tandem to relax muscle tissue, and calcium and zinc work in synergy with magnesium and potassium to balance muscle contraction and relaxation. I formulated QuikPlus Muscle Matrix for myself, to be perfectly honest! As you may know, I have a bunch of horses, so I’m often doing hard labour for 4-6 hours at a stretch. GREAT for staying healthy and vibrant, but, I would often wake up with leg cramps – not so great.

This threw me into a ton of research because magnesium alone didn’t work well enough for this level/intensity of muscle cramp. And it turns out there’s a fair amount of research showing that electrolytes or single minerals are not very effective with muscle cramps. There’s more research to support the theory that muscle cramps originate with over-excited alpha motor neurons – the nerves that project from the spinal cord to skeletal muscle fibers. When these motor neurons get hyperactive, they fire off commands for all the connected muscle cells to contract, resulting in a cramp. So how do we get these motor neurons to calm down? By activating TRP channels.

After researching the minerals involved, I formulated Muscle Matrix in atom-sized (nano) form – so by swishing around the mouth and swallowing, the formula is interacting with all the TRP receptors in the mouth, tongue, and esophagus and is absorbed through the mucosal tissue. Many days, this was enough. But on particularly intense labour days (muscle fatigue), I combined Muscle Matrix with Ginger Chews! Because the gingerol in ginger is a powerful TRPA1/TRPV1 agonist and it actually tastes good! Feel free to use fresh ginger if you like, too.

I hope that helps you understand more of the theory behind the Muscle Matrix formulation. I can tell you that it works way better than just magnesium on its own. I used to bolt awake from a dead sleep with off-the-charts painful cramps from my foot all the way up my calf. Sometimes even my quads got involved. But if I take Muscle Matrix before bed, I sleep without any issues!

4. 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, nighttime urinary frequency, inflamed joints, muscles, ligaments, tendons, and general detoxification.

Just remember to use 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 the 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 bedsheets. 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.

Reader Story

This is such an amazing story from a reader who used the information in this blog post to save her sister’s life when her bowel was impacted. She was in sepsis, in extreme pain, and she hadn’t had a bowel movement in 2 weeks…

Original post dated July 2011. Most recently updated February 2022.