Written by: Tara Sabo
Published: May 2017
Strength training is funny. In order to build muscle, you need to break it down. This sounds counterintuitive, but actually makes sense. The basic explanation: When you lift weights, you create tiny tears in your muscle fibers. They ultimately repair themselves, creating bigger, stronger and more effective muscles. It’s a seamless process that you’ll hardly notice, unless one or two things happen:
1) You injure a muscle to the extent that it inhibits muscle function.
2) You wake up sore. If you injure a muscle so badly that you can’t move it, if the surrounding area swells up or produces a bruise, then you need to see your doctor. If you wake up sore, but otherwise fine, there are some at-home remedies you can try to alleviate the discomfort:
1) Get a massage. Massage therapists are trained to relieve tension. If a massage is not in your budget, jump on a foam roller. To a certain degree, this inexpensive tool can become your athome massage therapist.
2) Take an epsom salt bath. You can find epsom salts anywhere. Follow the instructions on the bag you buy, then soak away your soreness. How does it work? Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate, which is known for its ability to relieve tired muscles. Your body will absorb it as you soak in the tub. (Try adding a drop or two of essential oils: Lavender if you want to relax, or peppermint if you want to feel refreshed.)
3) Apply a topical treatment. But first, you should speak with your doctor if you have any concerns about adding an over-the-counter treatment to your regime. If there are no concerns, you might try arnica—this herb can be somewhat potent, but when used in a diluted form, it is generally safe. So look for arnica gels or oils. You can also look for BioFreeze or IcyHot. Less potent, but also temporarily effective.
4) Pay close attention to your nutrient intake. A proper diet gives your muscles everything they need to recuperate from an intense workout. Of course, protein is the key nutrient here as it provides amino acids—the building blocks for muscle tissue growth and repair.
5) If you can take an anti-inflammatory, it might provide relief. Again, you should speak with your doctor first. Most certified fitness professionals will recommend this option last, but it’s certainly not least. An anti-inflammatory can do just that: Reduce inflammation in sore muscles.
Of course, one of the best remedies for sore muscles is rest and relaxation. This is why certified fitness professionals will often recommend at least 48 hours between strength training sessions. This is not enough time for your muscles to relapse into old ways, rest assured. But it will give them enough time to get ready for their next session.