Go to page content
Heather Hanks
Written by Heather Hanks

Reviewed by Physician Brandon Yew and Dr Angelica L Dumapit on October 25, 2022

Best Natural Alternatives To Muscle Relaxers

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.

Back massage min scaled

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?

Muscle relaxers may cause drowiness, headaches, and even difficulty breathing.

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.

Additionally, many people use them with other drugs to produce feelings of euphoria or disassociation. They can be extremely dangerous for the elderly as they may lead to difficulty breathing. Muscle relaxers should never be taken with alcohol as it can lead to other dangerous and severe side effects. 

Side effects may include:

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:

  • 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 muscles, obstructing the flow of qi and blood. The normal functioning of the muscles are affected, thus giving rise to aches and pains,” stated Physician Yew.

“The abovementioned factors can also cause the Deficiencies of the Spleen and Liver, both of which directly govern the health of the muscles and soft tissues, respectively. As a result, the muscles and soft tissues are unable to obtain proper nourishment, losing the ability to function normally,” Physician Yew continued.

Natural Alternatives To Muscle Relaxers

You can relieve pain naturally and avoid muscle relaxers by using herbal remedies and acupressure.

Herbal remedies

“Due to their warm and pungent nature, both turmeric and ginger are good for relieving muscle aches and pains induced by Wind, Cold and Dampness pathogens. As such, they should be used discreetly or even avoided in cases caused by Heat pathogens, and Deficiencies of the Spleen and Liver,” stated Physician Yew.

Here are some herbal formulas that may help:

  • Yi Yi 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, Heat and 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 Cold from 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. American Wild Ginseng and Tian Qi capsules have also been shown to contain pain-relieving abilities. They work by reducing swelling and inflammation and promoting the flow of qi and blood circulation.

“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)
  • Wei Zhong (Bl40)
  • 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.

Share this article on

Was This Article Useful to You?

Want more healthy tips?

Get All Things Health in your mailbox today!

Subscribe to our newsletter

Related Articles

Gum disease min scaled
General Health

How To Identify The Early Stages Of Gum Disease

Dental care isn't covered by all American health insurance plans, meaning you'll need to keep a close eye on your oral health. Learn how to spot the signs of gum disease here.

Read More
Fibromyalgia min scaled
General Health

Can TCM Help Reduce Fibromyalgia Symptoms?

There are several things you can do at home to help cope with your fibromyalgia symptoms naturally. Our experts explain how here.

Read More
Work stress min scaled
General Health

Quick Tips To Help You Loosen Up A Stiff Neck

Sleeping wrong, repetitive motions, and stress can all lead to a stiff neck. Discover how to get rid of it and when you should seek medical help here.

Read More
Leukemia patient min 1024x683 1
General Health

Why Is Bone Marrow Health Important?

Bone marrow transplants are commonly needed among leukemia patients. Here's how to best support your blood and bone marrow health - and why this is so important.

Read More

The contents of the All Things Health website are for informational and educational purposes only.
Our website is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.