After a heavy workout or bouts of intense physical activity, your muscles will feel very sore. Despite this sore feeling in your muscles, you feel accomplished and want to do more but the aches and pains are too much. How do you proceed from there? Well you’re in luck, because below are five easy steps you can take to quickly provide relief for your sore muscles.
Step 1. Have an adequate resting period.
Especially if the soreness was caused as a result of a fitness routine designed to terrorize your muscles, you should allow yourself a minimum of 48 hours before working the same muscle groups again.
During this resting period, do not attempt to use more than 50% of the effort that you exerted in the first place that caused the soreness. This is so that you can still be active and have a reasonable limit to work rather than remaining sedentary.
If you are indeed weightlifting, schedule your workouts so that you are alternating between muscle groups on different days to allow certain muscle groups to relax even on workout days. For example, doing a chest workout and then doing a back workout the following day would be okay. Doing a chest workout followed by a tricep workout would be too much for your triceps, since they may not have recovered from the chest day workout (chest exercises often involve the triceps).
Step 2. Stretch the muscles.
Stretching your muscles is a great way to improve your posture, increase your flexibility, and it feels very satisfying in general. If combined with a weightlifting routine, stretch before and after the workout for the greatest effect.
Stretching before any sort of physical activity is good as improved flexibility can allow your body to move more freely and readily which will increase your performance and decrease the chances of injury.
Step 3. Massage your muscles
As a result of exercise, tiny micro-tears will open up in your muscle fibers. The body, as a natural response, will inflame these tears, causing swelling. A good massage can lower the amount of cytokines that the body produces, which will decrease the effect of the inflammation.
A good way to massage yourself can be with a foam roller. Foam rollers are a great, beneficial, and effective tool for myofascial release and to loosen up tight muscles. This also provides more flexibility, and can be done back to back with stretching for a great synergistic effect.
Some other ways to massage yourself can be through tennis balls. Get a tennis ball, place it on a tight spot on your body (e.g. middle of back) and press the ball hard on a wall and roll out your kinks. This is essentially a poor man’s foam roller, but it is also highly effective.
Failing that, you can massage yourself by hand or ask someone to help massage you. If you have the money, seek a massage therapist and direct them to the sore muscle parts that are aggravating you. Getting a massage is extremely therapeutic and healing.
Step 4. Ice the muscle
It is recommended to apply ice on the muscles immediately following physical activity, especially if you anticipate debilitating soreness setting in. Icing will help to reduce inflammation, thus providing more lasting relief.
It is important to remember that when you are icing your muscles, you are not directly applying the ice to the area. Wrap the ice up in a bag, towel, or anything that will prevent direct contact from occurring.
Step 5. Apply heat
After 24 hours since experience soreness, it may be a good idea to consider heating (before that, icing should be done). Applying heat to the tender area can help blood flow to that area. This assists with rebuilding the muscle as well as generally feeling good.
Taking a warm shower is probably the easiest solution in this case, as you can envelop your entire body in warm water. At this point, you can also try a hydrotherapy treatment by alternating between warm and cool water (don’t get too extreme here) for 30 seconds each, alternating for 5-10 minutes.
Bonus step: Take some medications such as NSAIDS
NSAID stands for non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. These can be acquired in various forms, some with names you may not be familiar with: Ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), aspirin, naproxen (Aleve) or some of the common ones.
It is important to note that if you are under 18, of the person you’re helping is under 18, avoid aspirin as it can potentially cause a hazardous disease known as Reye’s syndrome to occur. This can result in brain damage.
On a closing note, try to avoid taking medication on a regular basis. The body can build up an immunity over time, and medication can have a wide range of side effects that you may be flirting with each time you take one. In this case, NSAIDS can eventually negatively impact the body’s ability to repair its muscles. Try to keep to more natural ways (i.e. not involving medication) of treating muscle pain if possible.
Photo Credit: Kensington Osteopathy Adelaide