Feeling the after effects of working out at the gym, or planting all those beautiful flowers you couldn’t resist at the garden center over the weekend? If so, try these natural ways to relieve sore muscles.
Your body utilizes water to repair and rebuild muscles. Water intake assists in flushing out toxins, hydrating your body, replenishing water in your muscles, and preventing or relieving muscle cramps, spasms and soreness. Drink water before and after exercising (or working in the garden) to keep hydrated and to reduce soreness.
Moist Heat Therapy
Heat increases the blood flow to joints and muscles, naturally easing soreness. Heat also increases the flow of oxygen to the muscles, which reduces the transmission of pain signals to the brain, and thus eliminates discomfort, while assisting in the healing process.
So, why use moist heat instead of dry? Moist heat therapy has been found to effectively soothe and relieve soreness as it penetrates deep tissues and muscles faster than dry. Moist heat is also less apt to dehydrate your skin. The choice is yours: sit in a steam room, Jacuzzi, or visit a chiropractic office for direct moist heat therapy while reclining. For basic at-home treatments you can sit in a warm shower, apply a hot water bottle, a moist heat pack, or gel-lined mitt (available in drug stores) to the sore muscle for 15 minutes. Whichever treatment you choose, ensure that the heat is warm and soothing, and not uncomfortably hot.
Epsom Salt Bath
This natural home treatment combines the benefits of moist heat with magnesium sulfate, known to relieve sore muscles. Add one-half to 1 cup of Epsom Salt (Magnesium Sulfate) to a tub of very warm, but not hot water. Sit back in the tub, relax and soak for about 15 minutes.
Laser Therapy (light amplification by the stimulated emission of radiation)
Laser technology first became popular in this country when it was used to heal injured race horses. This painless, highly effective treatment has since been FDA approved for use on humans and is widely used by professional athletes and sports teams for a variety of sports injuries.
How does it work? Laser causes the body to take in oxygen faster, reducing toxins and swelling. It eliminates pain, increases mobility, and speeds the healing process. Laser therapy is available in many chiropractic and other health practices.
Massage relieves pain by increasing blood flow, enhancing circulation, eliminating toxins, and stimulating the lymph fluids, muscles, and tissues. Dancers and athletes utilize massage before intense physical performance as part of the warm-up regime, to reduce the chance of injury. Massage is a safer way to warm-up and to prevent soreness or injury than stretching. Massage at post-workout reduces the likelihood of inflammation and pain, accelerates muscle recovery, and reduces soreness. Whether you massage the muscle region yourself, use a hand-held massager, a foam roller, or get a professional massage, these methods can help relieve tension, and soothe sore muscles.
Magnesium Oil, Rubs and Salve
Fitness experts and natural health practitioners recommend rubbing (or spraying) magnesium oil directly into the skin to reduce overworked muscles. Its oil-like quality makes it the ideal massage oil when working to relieve achy joints, muscle spasms and soreness.
Add drops of any one or a combination of these essential oils to your choice of massage oil to ease muscle soreness: clove, wintergreen leaf, peppermint oil, Helichrysum flower oil, or Osmanthus flower extract. (Make your own sore muscle salve or menthol rub.)
Protein provides the body with energy, helps build and repair muscle, and relieves soreness. After strenuous physical exertion, consume a healthy source of protein such as poultry, salmon, nuts, quinoa, eggs, or drink a protein shake to prevent or relieve sore muscles.
Vitamin C and other antioxidants flush the muscles of lactic acid, assisting in the prevention and relief of sore muscles. Since vitamin C cannot be produced by the body, daily we should consume foods rich in vitamin C or take it in supplement form. Discuss appropriate vitamin C dosage with your health care provider. Excellent food sources of vitamin C include berries, citrus fruits, broccoli, asparagus, avocados, sweet peppers, pineapple, cantaloupe, collards, kale, mustard and turnip greens, mangoes, strawberries, tomatoes and radishes. Sources of herbs containing vitamin C include alfalfa, cayenne, chickweed, fenugreek, kelp, peppermint, mullein, paprika, parsley, raspberry leaf, red clover, rose hips and yarrow.
How do you know when the pain you are experiencing is an injury instead of normal muscle soreness? Dr. Pamela J. Grant of Grant Family Chiropractic in Noblesville, IN, advises, “First, the pain you feel during intense effort is temporary and should subside fairly quickly as you move on to your next exercise activity. In contrast, pain that persists or increases during a workout or training session is probably not a good thing. If you continue to feel that pain throughout the course of the day and into the next day, then you should likely interpret that pain as an injury. In this context, it’s important to distinguish the pain of an injury from that of normal muscle soreness. Normal muscle soreness is generalized, not local. You feel such soreness in the entire muscle, rather than in a specific spot. Additionally, muscle soreness resolves within 24 to 48 hours with most usually resolving within a day. Pain that persists beyond 48 hours should be reasonably interpreted as an injury.”
“Importantly, not all injuries require professional treatment. Less severe injuries such as mild muscle strains may heal on their own with appropriate rest. In general, any injury that persists beyond seven days should be evaluated by a health care professional. Your family chiropractor will be able to accurately assess your health problem and answer questions regarding the nature of the injury and the recommended course of care.”
About the Author:
Deborah Tukua is a nonfiction author, and editor of Journey to Natural Living. She is author of seven books including, Naturally Sweet Blender Treats: 55 Fresh from the Blender Recipes, and Marketing Strategies for Chiropractic Success. Deborah has been a regular lifestyle feature writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.
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