How to Treat Your Sore Muscles

Sore muscles are the wages of exercise. Unfortunately. I almost always get them when I return to working out after a break, or when I change-up my workout in some way. I wrote a post about how to minimize soreness with the former.

But, I have had people ask me whether there's a way to prevent it or cure it. The answer is that I don't know of a way to prevent it from ever happening. When I'm exercising regularly, there's always some muscle of mine that's a little (sometimes a lot) sore. 

However, you can mitigate the discomfort in some simple ways. I'm going to share a few of my favorite tips for that here. I hope one or more of them help you!

Drink water. Staying hydrated helps everything feel and function better.

Stretch. Make sure you're stretching after your workouts (and not before), and that you're building active recovery days into your workout schedule once or twice a week. Stretching returns muscles to their healthy resting lengths, and can provide short and long-term relief from muscle soreness when done correctly.

Get enough sleep. Seven to nine hours is the recommended range. I tend to fall more on the nine hour end, but you may need less. One of the many reasons why getting enough sleep is important, is that it's the time when the muscles you broke down during exercise repair themselves. If you don't sleep enough then those muscles don't get stronger.

Eat protein, including some right before bed. Amino acids are cellular building blocks, and there is some evidence that ingesting them before sleep is especially beneficial to the repair and rebuild process. 

Epsom salt bath. Epsom salt in hot water can provide some relief for those sore muscles. And they are really inexpensive. A soak in a hot tub is great too, if you have access to one. 

Foam rolling. I haven't talked a lot about foam rolling on the blog, but I did a ton of foam rolling when I was recovering from a knee injury a while back and it helped. It can be really intense though, especially if you have really tight muscles. If you don't have a foam roller, or traditional foam rolling is too intense and uncomfortable, you can use a rolling pin to gently massage your achy muscles. If you've never done it before, I would highly recommend getting a professional to show you how to do it safely. A personal trainer or physical therapist can help you learn the basics.

Massage. I read an article recently about a personal trainer who swears by weekly massages to treat muscle soreness. If my bank account would let me, I would totally try this experiment myself. If you can afford it, regular massage makes life better. 

Take an anti-inflammatory. Ibuprofen can provide some relief for sore muscles, but it's definitely not something you want to be taking regularly. If you're in so much pain from your workouts that you need pain killers, you may not be dealing with normal muscle soreness. It may be a symptom of overtraining or injury. When mine is especially bad, I'll take ibuprofen. But it's rare that I do that, and far more common that I use the other treatments listed here.