Best Ways To Relieve Sore Muscles

Struggling with sore muscles after practice? Check out the best ways to relieve muscle soreness from STACK expert Jim Carpentier.

Sore Muscles

Athletes on every level know the sting of deep muscle soreness. Whether caused by weight room squats or running up and down the bleachers this fall, sore muscles can leave you feeling at the bottom of your game. Below are some helpful ways to overcome muscle and joint inflammation.

Freeze It

Ice Packs

This is perhaps the number one anti-inflammatory treatment for sports injuries like strains and sprains. During the first 48 hours of an injury, apply an ice pack to the iarea for 10 minutes on and off. The ice will reduce the swelling and alleviate general muscle and joint soreness.

Ice Massage

The combination of ice and massage aids blood circulation and enhances recovery, making this a terrific method to lessen post-activity muscle soreness. Get a small paper cup, fill it with water and store it in the freezer until it turns to ice. Then rub the frozen cup gently over sore muscles with circular motions, gradually peeling off the cup's lining as ice starts to melt.

Sometimes heat works too. Learn whether to ice or heat your injury.

Rub It

Deep Tissue Massage

Besides working away sore muscles, deep tissue massage also breaks up scar tissue from old injuries. Scar tissue can prevent full range of motion around a joint or muscle. Apply firm pressure with your second and third fingers to rub out the "knots" that are causing your tight muscles. When you isolate a tender spot, use your thumb to press deeply and hold for 10 seconds, then release. Repeat twice more then search for tender spots in other areas.

Tennis Ball Massage

Perfect for those hard to reach areas like the lower/middle back, hips and shoulders.

For lower back stiffness, lie down with a tennis ball between your back muscles and a soft surface such as a carpet or mat. Avoid placing the ball against your spine. Use your body weight to press the tennis ball against your lower back muscles until you find a tender spot. Press down deeply into the sore spot, holding for about 10 seconds. Release and repeat twice more.

Sometimes tender spots in the hips are the cause of a sore or stiff low back. Roll the tennis ball along your hips searching for tender spots, and hold each for 10 seconds.

You can also apply tennis ball pressure for shoulder, middle and upper back soreness. Just make sure to angle the body properly while on your back or moving on to your side.

Or try foam rolling. Learn how to start foam rolling on your own.

Moisten and Heat It 

Epsom Salt Bath

This could be the most relaxing method for reducing inflammation. Soak your stiff, achy muscles and joints in a bathtub filled with warm water and one or two cups of Epsom Salt for about 15 minutes. Epsom Salt is available in supermarkets and pharmacies. Want more localized treatment for muscle soreness? Dissolve two cups of Epsom Salt in hot water and soak a towel in the mixture. Then use as the towel as a compress on stiff and achy areas for 10 to 15 minutes.

Apple Cider Vinegar Compress

As an alternative to the Epsom Salt compress, try soaking a towel in hot water mixed with a cup of apple cider vinegar. Use the same method of applying light pressure to stiff muscles and joints for 10 to 15 minutes.

Stretch It 

Static Stretching

Not only does it improve flexibility and range of motion, static stretching is a wonderful way to loosen tight muscles. Another benefit: stretching can help subdue lingering soreness from scar tissue from an old injury. When performing static stretches, breathe naturally (inhale/exhale) and gradually stretch the muscle to a comfortable range. Hold each stretch for about 10 seconds as you exhale, then slowly return to start position. Repeat, trying to stretch a little bit further, but not beyond a point of discomfort. Again hold for 10 seconds to enhance range of motion.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods and Beverages

Did you know that certain fruits, vegetables, fish and drinks like water, black and green tea can reduce inflammation? These foods also reduce soreness, but refined, processed carbohydrates (sugary cereals, cakes, pies, candy, chips), sugary soda, salty and fried foods and processed meats (e.g., salami, bologna) exacerbate it.

Think of water as liquid ice, your primary beverage choice for "putting out the fire" of inflammation. Ideal for healing, cherries and pineapples have natural anti-inflammatory properties, so snack away! Consume fish like tuna, sardines and shrimp at least once a week, because they all contain anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids. (See Six Top Anti-Inflammatory Foods.)

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