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Health & Wellness

Natural Remedies for Reducing Muscle Pain and Tightness

If you are an athlete who works out regularly, then you will probably experience some stiffness, pain, and tightness from time-to-time. Aches and pains are a natural response to strain on the body and can be a sign that your body is adapting to new stressors. Mild aches and pains and the phenomenon known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) are nothing to worry about.

However, if you experience sudden, severe, and unexplained pain or pain that does not go away after a few days, then you should see a doctor in order to rule out anything serious. Mild pain, however, can usually be remedied successfully at home.

woman rubbing neck in pain on couch


Natural Remedies for Muscle Pain


Before you reach for the deep heat gel or some Ibuprofen, consider trying some natural remedies for your muscle pain. There are many home remedies that have been shown to be quite effective for mild muscle pain and typically have fewer side-effects than most pharmaceuticals. Let's take a look at some of the best natural remedies:

Epsom Salt Baths


A relaxing soak in a tub of warm water with some Epsom salt will help reduce swelling and promote relaxation. The magnesium sulfate in the Epsom salt is what helps reduce pain.

In recent years, the use of Epsom salt has become controversial as many companies have made overblown claims about the effectiveness of the salts for “detoxing” and treating numerous unrelated health conditions. Historically, however, Epsom salts have been popular as a way of soothing aches and pains. 1

Contrast Treatment


Hot and cold compresses are useful for treating pain. Cold reduces inflammation, and heat helps boost blood flow. The old idea of using ice to reduce swelling by itself has started to fall out of favor. Today, studies show that contrast therapy—using cold water for a while followed by hot water—is more effective than passive treatments at reducing soreness. 2

essential oil dripping from leaf to bottle


Aromatherapy


Essential oils are incredibly versatile. It's easy to forget how useful they can be. Additionally, they can be used topically after dilution with a carrier oil or aromatically in a room diffuser or terpene pen. For instance, a blend of ginger, helichrysum, and spikenard is excellent for reducing tension and soreness.

A blend of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice is anti-inflammatory and soothing, while also providing you a breath of autumn air anytime you might miss it. So, whether you inhale essential oils or use them topically in massage treatment, you’ll find that they may help melt some aches away.

Studies show that ginger can be useful for individuals with joint pain, and cinnamon is thought to be helpful for reducing the symptoms of DOMS. 3 , 4 If you find that aromatherapy with a diffuser works well for you, then consider massages as well for those days when you are really sore and stiff. A good massage can work wonders.

Garlic


Garlic contains several important micronutrients, including sulfur and selenium. These can help reduce inflammation and improve circulation. Garlic is particularly popular with those who have mild arthritis since it is thought to help combat some of the inflammation that can exacerbate arthritis symptoms. 5

Active Recovery


You may have heard people joke about the “hair of the dog” in the context of hangovers. This is the idea that you can cure a hangover by having another drink. While that's not something that’s actually recommended for hangovers, the principle can apply to exercise quite effectively. If you are stiff and sore after a very heavy workout, then a gentle workout could actually be an effective way of reducing some of that pain.

Active recovery helps reduce muscle pain and tightness by promoting circulation. When you move your body, blood flows more readily, which can help remove the lactic acid build-up in your muscles. Regular movement also helps improve your range of motion, which reduces stiffness. Additionally, studies show that active recovery can reduce the perception of fatigue. 6

Of course, active recovery works only if you’re not injured. If you have a serious injury, rather than just some stiffness and soreness, then it is important that you take some time away from activities that might make the injury worse. If the pain is very severe, or it does not get better after a few days, make sure to see a doctor for professional advice.

woman doing plank


Yoga


Yoga is a traditional form of meditation that incorporates breathing and stretching. Yoga can be helpful for reducing stress and muscle soreness while improving strength and mobility. Many people who have back pain issues find that yoga offers relief from that pain. 7

Most importantly, yoga is a practice that anyone can try. While those who have been doing yoga for many years might be fans of extreme and challenging poses, beginners can benefit even from simpler poses. Start gently and work towards increasing your balance, and flexibility.

Final Thoughts


Pain is something that the body uses to warn individuals that there is something wrong. For instance, it can be a signal that you overexerted yourself yesterday or it can be a warning that something is damaged. Because of this, it’s important that you learn how to listen to your bodies and understand any warning signs you may be getting.

It can be tempting to ignore pain or take painkillers to manage it, especially if your job depends on you being able to use your body every day. However, trying to train through pain can potentially make mild, acute pain even worse. Learn to listen to your body and rest when you are in pain and use self-care measures like the ones mentioned above to reduce pain and promote healing.

Sometimes, self-care won't be enough, and you may need to talk to a doctor who can send you for physiotherapy or offer other advice about what may be causing the pain you are experiencing. Remember that it’s better to seek advice early so that the cause of the pain can be identified. The sooner you get treatment, the better the outcome is likely to be.

Photo credits: fizkes/shutterstock.com, AfricaStudio/shutterstock.com, lzf/shutterstock.com

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