Reviewed by Physician Brandon Yew and Dr Angelica L Dumapit on October 25, 2022
Best Natural Alternatives To Muscle Relaxers
Published | 7 min read
Millions of Americans take muscle relaxers to help with back pain or muscle spasms. However, these natural remedies work just as well without the serious side effects.
Are you one of the millions of Americans who use muscle relaxers to reduce pain? Research shows that around 6 million people visited their doctor for a new muscle relaxant prescription from 2005 to 2016. The number of office visits for continued drug therapy tripled from 8.5 million in 2005 to 24.7 million in 2016.
Using muscle relaxers in older adults can cause serious side effects, such as slowed or difficult breathing and death. Despite this, older adults accounted for 22.2 percent of all muscle relaxant office visits in 2016. Additionally, 67 percent of people who use muscle relaxers also use an opioid.
You don’t have to turn to prescription muscle relaxers if you’re suffering from pain. These natural remedies are non-habit forming and highly effective at treating pain.
What Are Muscle Relaxers?
A muscle relaxer refers to a group of drugs or medications that treat muscle spasms and neck, back, and other musculoskeletal pain. They can be purchased over the counter at pharmacies or prescribed by a doctor.
There are two types: antispasmodics and antispastics.
Antispastics work by improving muscle tightness and spasms within the spinal cord and skeletal muscles.
Antispasmodics reduce muscle spasms in the central nervous system by inhibiting pain messages sent to the brain.
Potential dangers and side effects
Muscle relaxers can vary in terms of their chemical structure and how they work. Generally, they act as a central nervous system depressant, causing a sedative effect and preventing your nerves from sending pain signals to the brain.
They work immediately and their effects last for 4 to 6 hours before wearing off. Because of this, muscle relaxers can be very addicting and habit-forming. Prolonged use can increase tolerance and lead to physical dependence.
Side effects may include:
- Dry mouth
- Reduced blood pressure
How Does TCM View Muscle Relaxers?
We asked Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) Physician Brandon Yew to explain why someone might need a muscle relaxer in the first place.
He stated that the following factors may contribute to the need for muscle relaxers:
- Work stress
- Poor work-life and rest balance
- Insufficient and poor-quality rest and sleep
- Prolonged physical inactivity or sedentary lifestyle
- Poor emotional management
- Unhealthy diet and poor eating habits
- Bad lifestyle habits and choices like binge drinking and smoking
- Work or exercise-related physical strain injuries
“These factors cause the formation and accumulation of pathogens like Wind, Cold, Heat, Dampness and Phlegm within the meridians located along the affected
“The abovementioned factors can also cause the
Natural Alternatives To Muscle Relaxers
You can relieve pain naturally and avoid muscle relaxers by using herbal remedies and acupressure.
“Due to their warm and pungent nature, both
Here are some herbal formulas that may help:
YiYi Ren Tang: Dissipates and dispels the combination of Wind, Cold and Dampness pathogens from the muscles and soft tissues
- Dang Gui Nian Tong Tang: Dissipates and dispels the combination of
Wind, Dampness, Heatand blood clots from the meridians; regenerates blood to nourish the muscles and soft tissues
- Si Ni Tang: Regenerates yang energy to warm the muscles and soft tissues, dispelling
Coldfrom the meridians
- Bu Yang Huan Wu Tang: Regenerates qi to move blood and dissipate blood clots from the muscles and soft tissues
- Fu Ling Wan: Dispels Phlegm and Dampness from the muscles and soft tissues
Muscle relief plasters that contain herbal ingredients are also useful for reducing pain.
“Please always bear in mind that the herbal formulas provided above are meant for varying body constitutions corresponding to different underlying imbalances. As such, it is strongly advised to not purchase any of them to self-medicate without first consulting a certified TCM professional,” stated Physician Yew.
Acupressure is an easy self-help remedy you can do by placing your fingers or a blunt object like a massage stick at certain acupoints. Apply an appropriate amount of pressure to elicit a tolerable sensation of soreness or tenderness. At the same time, massage in both clockwise and anticlockwise circular motion 20 times each. Repeat for at least 3 minutes per acupoint.
Acupoints for head, neck, and shoulder pain
- Bai Hui (DU20)
- Tai Yang (EX-HN5)
- Feng Chi (GB20)
- Jian Jing (GB21)
Acupoints for upper limbs muscle pain
- Bi Nao (LI14)
- Qu Chi (LI11)
- Shou San Li (LI10)
- Wai Guan (SJ5)
- He Gu (LI4)
- Lao Gong (PC8)
Acupoints for lower back and lower limbs muscle pain
- Xue Hai (SP10)
- Yin Men (BL37)
- Yin Bao (LR9)
- Zu San Li (ST36)
Yin Ling Quan(SP9)
- Yang Ling Quan (GB34)
- Feng Long (ST40)
- San Yin Jiao (SP6)
- Tai Xi (KI3)
- Tai Chong (LR3)
Do take note that acupressure provides only temporary and mild symptomatic relief. For those suffering from persistent and greater muscle pain, acupuncture is strongly recommended as it provides a much robust and more comprehensive therapeutic efficacy in tackling the actual root pathology,” stated Physician Yew.
- Penn Medicine News. 2020. Long-term Use of Muscle Relaxants Has Skyrocketed Since 2005.
- JAMA Network Open. 2020. Assessment of Physician Prescribing of Muscle Relaxants in the United States, 2005-2016 | Clinical Pharmacy and Pharmacology
- American Addiction Centers. 2022. Side Effects of Muscle Relaxers.
- Molecules. 2018. Study on the Structure of Ginseng Glycopeptides with Anti-Inflammatory and Analgesic Activity.
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