Sprains & Strains

Whether caused by vigorous weekend activity, slipping on wet ground or stepping off a curb the wrong way, strains and sprains can affect anyone. Whatever the reason, it's surprising how much a program of natural therapies can help.

What is it?

Strain 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.

What causes it?

Strains and sprains results from physical stress to the muscles and other tissues. Lifting a heavy object, overswinging your nine iron or overstretching before a workout can lead to a strain. Sprains, on the other hand, 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.

What are the symptoms?


  • Stiff, sore muscles; tenderness and swelling.
  • Slight skin discolouration, which may appear after several days.


  • Mild to severe pain at time of injury; tenderness and swelling of the joint; bruising.
  • Inability to move the injured joint, or extreme pain in doing so.

Are there any natural therapies?

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

Various oral supplements can speed up the healing process. They can all be taken in combination and with conventional painkillers. Try vitamin A in high doses for five days; it help the body to 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 strengthens and protects the joints and ligaments. Bromelain, an enzyme derived from pineapples, may prevent swelling and reduce inflammation, thereby relieving pain; it also promotes blood circulation and speeds recovery. Although most people don't need to take manganese supplements regualrly, those with strains or sprains 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 marjorim oil or rosemary oil and water can have a soothing, pain-relieving effect and help to decrease swelling.

What else can I do?

  • Remember 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 10-20 minutes at a time; reapply it every two or three hours for one to two days following the injury. A bag of frozen peas is an effective substitute for ice, as it can easily be moulded around the injured area.
  • Once the swelling subsides, use a hot compress or heating pad on the area to increase blood circulation.

Did you know?

Sprains can weaken ligaments and lead to recurring injuries. Adapt your exercise program to take account of an injury, and be sure to warm up thoroughly before exercising. An elastic support bandage may help to protect weakened joints.