Desperately seeking relief for sore muscles after a hard workout or a day on the slopes? Look no further.
Linda Melone, CSCS 1 / 6
You take a new fitness class like TRX or CrossFit, and it completely demolishes your muscles. You can barely lift your arms to pull a shirt over your head, and your quads and calves feel like rocks lodged in your legs. We’ve all been there—athletes and average Joe’s alike. But unlike professional athletes, we don’t have a slew of high-tech equipment like hot tubs, cryotherapy chambers, or electric stimulation at our disposal to help relieve our aches and pains.
But there are some simple, inexpensive solutions you can try in the comfort of your home the next time you get a little ambitious at the gym. We picked the brains of health and wellness experts and scoured research to bring you the best ways to ease muscle soreness so you can get back to doing the things you love.
Whirling cherry juice into your post-workout recovery drink may ease muscle soreness, according to a 2010 study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. Antioxidant compounds found in tart cherries called anthocyanins are believed to work by reducing inflammation. Try drinking tart cherry juice on workout days for less pain and inflammation.
Your morning Starbucks may be doing more than waking you up before an early morning workout. Studies show drinking coffee prior to a workout reduces muscles soreness and fatigue by nearly half. "Assuming no medical contraindications to the use of caffeine, I recommend two cups of coffee prior to workout," says Ann Kulze, MD, author of the best-selling Eat Right for Life series. "You’ll also take advantage of caffeine’s well-documented ability to boost endurance."
A hot bath may feel better initially, but giving muscles the cold treatment via ice treatment (known as "cryotherapy") after exercise is most beneficial, says Joseph Bosco, MD, a spokesman for the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgeons (AAOS) who specializes in sports medicine. "A hot bath will provide overall relaxation and mild pain relief, but icing actually prevents further muscle damage and speeds healing," says Bosco, who recommends soothing achy muscles with crushed ice in a waterproof bag, wrapped in a towel.
An herbal version of Bengay based on the arnica plant is just as effective as ibuprofen in easing pain, according to a 2007 study published in Rheumatology International. "The plant can be applied to the skin in a gel or cream form and can help with swelling and soreness," says Thomas Kouo, Licensed Acupuncturist and Pacific College faculty member.
Deep tissue massage following exercise has been shown to increase blood flow to muscles and speed up the removal of inflammatory chemicals which produce soreness, says Dr. Bosco. A study published in the journal, Science Translational Medicine, showed the positive effect of massage. "Massage above and below the area and then work into the sore part of the muscle," says Kouo. You can also use a self-massage device such as a Thera-Cane or apply pressure to sore muscles using a tennis ball.