Real Remedies for Muscle Soreness

After I started working out at home, the first thing that I reflected on was,  “OW this really hurts!” Even the most hardcore atheletes still experience muscle soreness after an intense workout so I knew it was par for the course no matter what I did, even if I took it easy. However, I did not want to fall into the trap of getting so sore that I would lose my motivation to keep going. It’s so easy to take 3-4 days of rest due to muscle soreness then just forget to keep exercising.

Again, I turned to the internet for ways to treat my muscle soreness. It might shock you to find that the real cause behind muscle soreness is still debated to this day. In high school I was told that lactic acid build up from anaerobic cellular activity was the culprit, but in my searches on muscle soreness, lactic acid was never once brought up.

Today it seems that microscopic tears are to blame for muscle soreness, with cramping and inflammation closely associated. Despite so many studies done on how to fix muscle soreness, there is very little hard evidence for what remedies actually work.

With that, I made it my ultimate goal to find the very basic remedies that would help regardless of the cause. I also wanted remedies that would be relatively inexpensive, can be done at home and easily incorporated into my routine.

Hot/Cold Contrast Therapy
Most people immediately want to turn to either heat or cold as a way to soothe muscles, but the jury is still out on which one is better. In truth, both work well in what is called “contrast therapy” in which you apply cold to an area followed quickly by heat. You can do this with a shower, bath or hot/cold packs. The idea is to first constrict the blood and lymph vessels with cold, then relax them with heat. This gets all of the fluids moving throughout the area to aid in repairing the muscles and dealing with inflammation.

While a professional massage would be great, I would classify that under “not practical” just like acupuncture. Instead I recommend that you give yourself a nice massage, whether it’s with your hands, a shower head or a handheld electric massager. Get your spouse or even your kids to help out. Not only will this help remove generalized tension throughout your body, but it also helps move fluids in and out of the muscles. Using coconut oil during massage is a great way to get some healthy, cell-repairing fats back into your system, too.

Admittedly I do not fall in the camp of drinking tons of water every day. No human ever sat around a water hole guzzling it down every hour of every day or carried around jugs and jugs of water. Given sufficient fat intake, fresh vegetables and moist meats, most of our hydration needs will be met with food.

However, modern humans are not meeting that criteria and during times of exertion with sweat and increased stress on our bodies, making sure we’re staying extra hydrated will help. The extra fluids not only help blood flow, but also eases the burden on our kidneys as they filter out the toxins that get shaken out of the muscles during exercise. If you want to go with my line of thinking about food being the source of hydration, you can always drink an extra smoothie, bone broth, kombucha, water kefir, fruit water or coconut water.

Like most of the problems afflicting humans, a good diet plays an incredibly big role. Getting enough fats, proteins and nutrients into the body is critical in repairing muscles and getting your body back to normal. Refer to the above commentary about water. A nutrient dense diet is also critical in building new muscle, so if you’re not nourishing your body, your workouts aren’t going to be as effective either. By the way, don’t worry about the calories too much, they’re not as important as you think. 😉

Trust me, I’m the first to admit how insanely tempting it is to turn right back into a couch potato when the pain sets in the next day. All I want to do is curl into a ball with a pile of food, watching movies all day and moving only when absolutely necessary. But fortunately for me I have a crazy 2 year old who won’t let me, so I actually stumbled upon this concept by accident.

Simple stretches shockingly didn’t help me very much, but continuing to partake in my active daily routine really helped keep the stiffness that comes with the muscle pain at bay. It should be obvious, but by continuing to move, you’re keeping the blood flowing through your muscles. If you’re stuck at a desk job, try going for a long, slow walk on your lunch breaks, or do an extra lap around the office on your way to the bathroom.

One of the concepts about the cause behind muscle soreness is toxins. It is true that your muscles will store toxins and then release them during exercise, but again, the science just isn’t there for 100% definitive proof. Regardless of what the science says though, I had a big help from using bentonite clay and dry brushing at the same time. You can use clay both internally and externally to help remove toxins. Also, when you ingest the clay, your body does get some trace minerals from it, which is more fuel for your body to repair damaged tissues. There are a number of other ways to detox. Any method will probably help simply because it’s one less thing taking up bodily resources that could be spent on your muscles.

What was my number 1 remedy for muscle soreness? Magnesium oil. This was the last remedy I tried and I was blown away by the difference it made, cutting my usual second day soreness in half. Mind you, this was after I started using the increased weight kettlebell, which means I worked twice as hard and had half as much pain. That’s a big deal! While taking magnesium orally can help, it is definitely not the most efficient way to get magnesium into your body. Magnesium is meant to be absorbed through the skin from our water supply, but due to modern filters, that all gets taken out and most of us are now magnesium deficient.

Using a pure, high concentrate magnesium oil gets you a huge boost of bioavailable magnesium right into your muscles. It will ease pain and tension in the muscles, aid cellular repair and also help you sleep! The stuff is really amazing. I happened to get a bottle on a whim, but the pure oil is generally out of my price range, so I also have magnesium flakes on hand to make my own oil (50/50 water and flakes) or you can dump some flakes in a bath. You won’t get the same huge benefit because the flakes are not the same as what is in the pure oil, but it will still help.

What do you find works best for your post-workout soreness?

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  • Anne
    October 4, 2012 at 11:46 PM

    Can you point me to a good resource on dry brushing? I only recently heard of it, and would like to know more.

    • Cassandra
      October 4, 2012 at 11:49 PM

      I honestly don’t know of a resource that would be any better than what you can find by doing an internet search, sorry.

  • Scarlett
    October 17, 2012 at 12:46 AM

    Thanks for the post, Cassandra. Thought I could add a little bit more if you don’t mind 🙂 As a pharmacist, I have seen magnesium work wonders for those who suffer from muscle soreness/fatigue. However, be careful of what magnesium salt form you choose (if you choose to take orally.) For example, magnesium citrate can result in the unwanted side effect of diarrhea because the unfortunate laxative effect (hence it’s in the green bottle in the laxative section, so it wouldn’t help with absorption). Magnesium glycinate is the best tolerated, absorbed, and easiest on the digestive system. It is best to take it at nighttime (between 300-1200 mg, start low and go slow), especially for those who also experience restless legs/muscle cramping when trying to fall asleep.

  • sheri
    March 3, 2013 at 8:50 PM

    Hi. Thanks for your great blog! I am learning so much. What about Epsom Salt baths for soreness? I’m pretty sure this has magnesium.

    • Stephanie
      March 4, 2013 at 3:34 PM

      That is great to hear Sheri! So glad you are here. Yes, Epsom salt is a great remedy for muscle soreness and it does have magnesium in it.