Treating Sprains and Strains Naturally

Filed Under: Sprains and Strains, Bone & Joint Health

Learn at-home strategies for relieving pain, swelling, and bruising

Although sprains and strains are different types of injuries, there are several natural treatments that can be used to reduce the pain, swelling, and bruising associated with both problems:


Traumeel is a topical ointment that contains an herb called arnica (also called wolf's or leopard's bane, mountain tobacco, and mountain daisy). Traumeel works great as a natural treatment for both strains and sprains. It stops pain and reduces swelling almost immediately. As an added benefit, it breaks up any blood clots, helping to prevent bruising in the injured area (it also works to remove any existing ones). Traumeel can be applied as often as necessary.

Caution: Although it is rare, your skin may be sensitive to arnica. It's best to try a small amount before covering a large surface.

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You can treat sprains and strains naturally with dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO)—a clear, colorless, slightly oily liquid with a faint smell of sulfur. When applied topically, DMSO passes through the skin’s oily membranes and reduces swelling, inflammation, and pain.

DMSO is sold in both liquid and gel form. Use only the 99.9 percent liquid, as the creams and gels have been known to cause prolonged itching and irritation. Some people may still have a mild reaction to the liquid (usually warmth and a little itching at the site of application) when they first use DMSO, but it is temporary and no cause for concern.

To use DMSO, mix a solution of one part water and two parts DMSO (usually one capful of water and two capfuls of DMSO) and store it in a glass container. Using your fingers or a cotton swab, rub the DMSO directly into your skin. Most people suggest dabbing DMSO onto an area, but rubbing it on has been shown to improve the absorption time by up to 50 percent. A typical application is one to three teaspoons. Apply the DMSO at least three times a day.

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Castor Oil Pack

While most of us are familiar with its use as a remedy for constipation, castor oil is also an effective natural treatment for alleviating the pain of sprains and strains. One of the most economical and efficient methods of delivering the healing components of castor oil directly into body tissues is a castor oil pack.

To make a pack you will need:

  • Cold pressed castor oil (about one-half cup)
  • Standard heating pad
  • Plastic garbage bag
  • Two or three one-foot square pieces of wool or cotton flannel
  • One large bath towel

Place the heating pad on a flat surface, turn the setting to high, and lay the plastic garbage bag on top of the pad. Next, soak the flannel pieces with castor oil and lay them on top of the bag and pad. Then place the entire pack against your skin, with the oil-soaked flannel directly on the area where you feel pain. To help hold the pack in place and to keep oil from getting on surrounding surfaces, the body can be wrapped in a large bath towel.

The pack should remain in place for at least one hour and the temperature of the heating pad should be kept at the highest temperature tolerable. When you remove the pack, the remaining oil can be massaged into the skin or cleaned off using a little soda water made from 1 quart of warm water and 2 tablespoons of baking soda. The flannel can be reused if stored in either a zippered freezer bag or plastic container and placed in the refrigerator. Before the next use, let it warm up and add another one or two tablespoons of oil. (After a month of use, I would recommend using new flannel.)

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Turmeric Paste

The spice turmeric, which is often used in Indian food, is a great natural pain reliever because it has anti-inflammatory properties. As an ingredient in a topical "paste," it has been used since ancient times as a natural treatment for strains and sprains.

To make the paste, mix two tablespoons of turmeric powder and one tablespoon of lime juice. To this mixture, add a small amount of boiling water to help form a uniform thick paste. Apply the paste to the painful area and hold it in place with either cheesecloth or plastic food wrap.

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More Dr. Williams Advice on Sprains and Strains

DISCLAIMER: The content of is offered on an informational basis only, and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the guidance of a qualified health provider before making any adjustment to a medication or treatment you are currently using, and/or starting any new medication or treatment. All recommendations are "generally informational" and not specifically applicable to any individual's medical problems, concerns and/or needs.

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