5 Ways to Combat Muscle Soreness

Fitness Tips

5 Ways to Combat Muscle Soreness

It's perfectly normal to feel mild to moderate muscle soreness in the days following a hard workout, especially if you've been doing workouts that emphasize the negative or eccentric part of a muscle contraction. Activities such as hiking downhill, step aerobics, jumping workouts, and doing negatives in the weight room force your muscles to act as brakes against gravity.

But you don't have to take that soreness sitting down. Try these five remedies to soothe the soreness away.

1. Prevention First

Staying well-hydrated helps keep your muscles working properly and cuts down on the risk of cramping. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends drinking three to eight ounces of water every 15 to 20 minutes during your workout. Drink a sports drink or other electrolyte-containing fluid if you're working out for more than an hour.

Don't forget to include a warm-up and cool-down in your workout. Although there's not a lot of hard science behind the idea that warming up and cooling down prevents muscle soreness, doing so gives your body more time to adjust to the demands of your workout.

Finally, take things easy the first time you try a new workout. Even the fittest people can end up sore when they try something new, because they're using muscles in a way that they're not used to. Use your body's response to that first workout to gauge the proper intensity for later workouts.

2. Epsom Salt

Add a few cups of Epsom salt to a hot bath to help soothe the inflammation that usually accompanies sore muscles. You can also soak a clean, soft cloth in the Epsom salt solution and wrap it around the affected area for localized relief.

3. Hot and Cold Packs

Within the first 48 hours after your workout, use cold packs to reduce the inflammation and pain from sore muscles. After that, hot packs or heating pads can help reduce pain by increasing circulation to the area, but don't use hot packs if the soreness is accompanied by swelling. In either case, use a towel or other barrier to protect your skin from direct contact with the heating pack or ice pack, and apply for no more than 20 minutes at a time.

4. Massage

There's nothing like a soothing massage to help ease tight, sore muscles. If you can't get a massage every time you're sore, try doing self-massage with your thumbs, or use a foam roller or knobby self-massage tool to apply gentle pressure to any knots in your muscles until they loosen up.

5. Did You Overdo It?

The American College of Sports Medicine says that delayed onset muscle soreness should only last for three to five days. If the soreness is at any point debilitating, or if you continue feeling soreness beyond a five-day period, you probably overdid your workout and may even have injured yourself. Sharp pains are usually a warning that there's an injury involved.

In that case, take your body's cue to back off and give it the time and any medical care it needs to heal, then take it a little easier during your next workout. Don't worry - you can crank the intensity back up once your body has had a chance to adapt to what you're asking of it.