Okay, a show of hands…
Who else has ever experienced any sort of muscle soreness or pain?
I’m going to take a wild guess and assume that each and every one of you has been sore at one point in your life—and maybe even on a daily/weekly basis (I know I am).
And if you’re like most people, here’s how the pattern typically goes:
You work out hard, and you know that all the pull ups, push ups, squats, and burpees are insanely good for you and that not only will they keep you fit now, they’ll keep you strong, independent and happy later on in life.
But sometimes, you wake up the next day and realize you can barely move. Your neck hurts. Your legs burn. You wonder how you’ll make it through the day… let alone get through the next workout.
Well, unfortunately, there’s no magic button you can push to magically erase all your aches and pains. But there are several different ways to reduce and relieve muscle pain.
Here are some of my favorites:
I’m a pretty clumsy person, and happen to always be running into doors and sharp corners. Plus, I tend to get beat up in my Krav Maga workouts (especially since I usually fight guys who are at least 50 pounds heavier than me). That’s where Arnica comes in.
So what is it? Arnica is a homeopathic medicine that comes from a flower of the same name, with properties that reduce the swelling and pain of bruises, sprains, muscle and joint problems, as well as insect bites.
I’ve only known about Arnica for a couple of years, but I’ve been pretty much obsessed with it ever since. Before, when I would run into a table or get kicked really hard in the leg, I’d have a massive bruise that would last for weeks—and it would hurt! Now, I put Arnica on it right away and the bruise barely even shows up, if it does at all.
Arnica comes in both gel and tablet form, and you can use it up to three or four times a day. I have both at home, but I tend to use the gel more because you can apply it directly to your aching muscles. The tablets come in handy when you have more of an overall body ache or a deeper pain (such as back muscle pain).
The best thing about Arnica is that it’s cheap—you can get a giant tube for less than $10 (and it lasts forever), or a packet of tablets for less than $8. I like the Boiron and Hyland’s Homeopathic brands, if only because that’s what I’ve used before.
It’s made from a secret herbal formula that dates back to the times of the Chinese emperors, and apparently used to contain tiger bone (luckily, no tigers are harmed in the making of today’s product—it contains only herbal ingredients).
I like to put Tiger Balm on immediately after I work a muscle a little too hard or have a sore spot—the warming rub really takes the pain away.
As a bonus, aside from muscle soreness, Tiger Balm can help relieve pain from:
- Insect bites
- Stomach aches
- Nasal congestion
Tiger Balm comes in either an ointment rub or patch form, but I usually stick to the ointment. And just like Arnica, Tiger Balm won’t break the bank—you can get two packs of Tiger Balm (keep one at home and one in your car or gym bag) for less than $15.
If you’re constantly sore from your workouts, it might be time to add some extra anti-inflammatory foods to your diet. Foods high in Vitamin A, Vitamin C, and antioxidants can help reduce muscle soreness and help speed up recovery.
Here are some foods known for their anti-inflammatory properties:
- Berries (fresh or frozen)
- Green tea
- Pineapple (fresh or frozen is best, avoid canned if possible)
- Red pepper
- Tart cherry juice (not from concentrate)
The bottom line: Eat a variety of fruits and veggies, and think color!
Also, make sure you’re getting proper nutrition after your workout—a protein shake with berries within 15 or 30 minutes of your workouts will help your muscles recover quicker and keep you from getting too sore.
I’m not going to lie, I’ve never taken an ice bath.
Something about it (my aversion to cold water, possibly?) freaks the crap out of me. Plus, it’s usually my upper back, neck and shoulder muscles that get the most sore, and those are harder to target in an ice bath.
However, ice baths are a proven way to get rid of lower body muscular pain, strain, and inflammation, and can be a fantastic way to speed up recovery. Many athletes—including CrossFitters—swear by them.
If you want to try an ice bath at home, here’s how to do it:
Fill your tub with enough cold water to cover your entire lower body. Add lots of ice. Put on a sweatshirt, fleece, or something equally warm to cover your upper body (and maybe even a hat!).
Step in the tub and submerge your lower body for 10 minutes.
If you want, you can also have a cup of hot chocolate or tea to help keep you warm. And make sure and have something to distract yourself from the cold—an interesting book, magazine, or a TV show in the background can help make the time go quicker.
Give it a try (if you’re brave enough), and let me know how it goes!
Over to you
What are your favorite ways to reduce muscle pain and soreness after a hard workout?
Share in the comments below or on Twitter!