Sprains and strains

Strains are minor injuries to the muscles. They occur most often in the calf, thigh, groin, or shoulder, causing soreness and stiffness. Sprains are similar to strains, but are more serious and painful, and take longer to heal. They can entail damage to ligaments, tendons, or muscles-usually those surrounding a joint.

Strains and sprains result from physical stress to the muscles and other tissues. Lifting a heavy object, over swinging a nine iron, or overstretching before a workout can lead to a strain. Sprains are the result of a sudden force to a muscle, tendon, or ligament. Any unexpected movement, such as a fall or a twisting motion, can yank and tear these structures.

Supplements and herbs

Along with self-care measures, supplements-taken internally or applied externally-promote tissue repair, strengthen injured areas, and reduce inflammation. They can be very effective for sprains or strains, and most need only be used for a week or so, or until the injury begins to feel better.

Various oral supplements can speed the healing process; they can all be taken in combination and with conventional painkillers. Try vitamin A in high doses for five days; it helps the body use protein and repair tissue. The antioxidants vitamin C and flavonoids aid in healing and in limiting further injury to connective tissues and muscles. A builder of cartilage (the "shock absorber" of the body), glucosamine serves to strengthen and protect the joints and ligaments. Bromelain, an enzyme derived from the pineapple plant, may prevent swelling and reduce inflammation, thereby relieving pain; it also promotes blood circulation and speeds recovery, but just how much of this is absorbed orally is controversial. Although most people don't need manganese supplements on a regular basis, those with sprains or strains may benefit from a one-week course of this mineral, which plays a role in keeping tendons and ligaments healthy.

Topical therapies may also work. Apply creams or ointments containing the plant extract arnica to sore muscles or joints to reduce pain and swelling and encourage healing. Compresses soaked in a mixture of either sweet marjoram oil or rosemary oil and water can produce a soothing, pain-relieving effect and are useful in decreasing swelling.


In acute sprains a remedy can be taken in the 6, 12 or 30th potency, as frequently as the severity of the condition demands. This may from hourly to two or three times daily, reducing the dosage with improvement.

  • Arnica
    Sprains and injuries, overstretching of any joint; back, extremities, etc.
    Muscle pull, overexertion, dislocation. Intense soreness, swelling, bruising.
    Continued after-effects of sprain; restless, exhausted, weak, insomnia.
    Worse: motion, touch, jarring, damp, cold. Better: cold compress.
  • Bellis
    Soreness; bruised, aching feeling. Swelling and bruising remains after injury. Coldness of injured area. Muscular aching, overstrain, fatigue.
    Repetitive strains or sprains, staying long in one position, joint surgery.
    Worse: touch, chilling, hot bath or bed. Better: gentle motion, rubbing.
  • Bryonia
    Acute sprains; inflamed, hot, red swollen joint. Stitching, tearing pains.
    Sensitive to any motion, must lie still. Irritable, dislikes being disturbed.
    Worse: slightest motion, jarring, touch, morning, cold bathing, hot room.
    Better: immobility, local heat, pressure or tight bandaging, rest and quiet.
  • Calc fluor
    Chronic, recurrent, easy sprain or dislocation. Burning, grinding pain.
    Adhesions, nodules and fragments in joint. Weak, stretched ligaments.
    Weak, clumsy joints: Stiffness, restless. Tendency to arthritis. Worse: first motion, cold, damp, Better: warm compress, rubbing, limbering up.
  • Rhus tox
    Acute or chronic sprains of ligaments, tendon. Effects of overstretching, overexertion, chilling, exposure to damp. Tearing, burning pain.
    Extreme restlessness, stiffness during rest. Weak, trembling after exertion.
    Worse: initial motion after rest, damp, cold. Better: limbering, applied heat.
  • Ruta
    Strains or pulls where ligaments, tendons attach to bone; cartilage injury.
    Bruised, aching soreness. Affinity to knee, wrist, neck, low back, hip.
    Nodules, deposits in tendons, joints. Weakened ligaments, joints.
    Weariness, heaviness after rest, lameness. Easy dislocation & sprain.
    Worse: motion, a.m., p.m., cold, damp, touch. Better: warmth, rubbing.

What else you can do

  • Follow the RICE acronym: Rest the injured part; Ice the painful area; Compress the injury with an elastic support bandage; and Elevate the injured area above the level of the heart. Apply ice for 10 to 20 minutes at a time; reapply it every two or three hours for one to two days following the injury. A bag of frozen vegetables-peas work best-is a good substitute for ice and it can be easily molded around the injured area.
  • Once the swelling subsides, use a hot compress or heating pad on the area to increase blood circulation.

Usual dosage

Vitamin A
25,000 IU twice a day for 5 days.
Women who are pregnant or considering pregnancy should not exceed 5,000 IU a day.
Vitamin C / Flavonoids
1,000 mg vitamin C and 500 mg flavonoids 3 times a day.
Reduce vitamin C dose if diarrhea develops.
500 mg glucosamine sulfate 3 times a day.
Take with food. Not appropriate for diabetics.
500 mg 3 times a day on an empty stomach.
Should provide 6,000 GDU or 9,000 MCU daily
100 mg a day for 7 days.
Helps heal ligaments, tendons, and cartilage.
Arnica ointment
Apply ointment to painful area 4 times a day.
Don't put on broken skin; never ingest arnica.
Sweet marjoram oil
Add a few drops to a basin of cold water.
Soak a towel in mixture, wring it out, then apply.
Rosemary oil
Add a few drops to a basin of cold water.
Soak a towel in mixture, wring it out, then apply.

More useful herbs

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