Whether from overwork or under use, most of us have had to deal with muscle aches and pains at one point or another. These home remedies for sore muscles will give you a variety of options to soothe everything from an aching back to a bruised skin.
What causes muscle soreness, cramps, sprains, and strains?
Micro-tears in the muscle typically causes general pain after exertion (Delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS). Over time as the muscles rebuild itself stronger to accommodate the activity, pain should decrease.
A muscle cramp may be linked to a variety of causes, including:
- Exercise, injury or overuse
- Blood flow problems
- Lack of minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium
- Certain medication
A muscle sprain is “an injury to a ligament (tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint). In a sprain, one or more ligaments are stretched or torn”. A muscle strain is an injury to a muscle or a tendon (tissue that connects muscle to bone). In a strain, a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn. Sprains and strains are caused by trauma (falls, twists, impacts) or overuse.
Always remember, if the pain is severe or incapacitating, please see your health care professional. This post is for informational purposes only and is not intended to replace qualified medical advice.
1. Epsom Salt and Magnesium Oil
A cup or two of Epsom salt dissolved in a warm tub of water works wonders for aching muscles. Use warm, not hot, water. Hot water will dry out your skin less. Soak for 15 minutes or until the water has cooled, up to three times per week. Not recommended for those with health conditions such as heart problems, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Magnesium oil is typically applied with a spray pump bottle, which makes it easier to target a particular area, such as a sore calf or foot.
How do Epsom salts and magnesium oil work to help sore muscles? Epsom salts are made up of magnesium sulfate, and magnesium oil is made up of magnesium chloride. Magnesium is a natural muscle relaxant, and as salts, these compounds help to pull excess fluids out of the tissues, reducing swelling.
2. Heat or Cold
A warm shower or bath is a natural muscle relaxer, which can be great for tension knotted shoulders or muscles tight from overuse. For bruising or inflammation, an ice pack applied to the affected area for up to 20 minutes can reduce swelling and soreness.
Low levels of magnesium in the body can lead to general muscle aches and muscle cramps. You may want to consider a magnesium supplement, but you can start by including foods that are high in magnesium in your diet. Some of the top food sources of magnesium are molasses, squash and pumpkin seeds (pepitas), spinach, Swiss chard, cocoa powder, black beans, flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds, and cashews.
4. Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
15 people on the Earth Clinic Muscle Cramp page give Apple Cider Vinegar a thumbs up for treating sore muscles and leg cramps. Most people mix a tablespoon or two in a glass of water and drink it down, and some drink a tablespoon straight like a shot, other rub the vinegar directly on the area of the sore muscle/cramp.
Another way is to combine ACV and molasses is the old fashioned drink called Switchel, commonly used before the age of brightly colored sports drinks and juices shipped from around the world. You can find the recipe how to make a Switchel here.
If you’re just stiff and sore, more of what got you that way may be the answer. Over time, your muscles will build and strengthen and you’ll be able to do more with less discomfort. I know if I sit too much, I get terribly stiff. Just getting up and moving around and doing some gentle stretching works wonders. Our muscles tend to want to stay doing whatever they’re doing unless we force them to change. If you’re tensed up, they’ll stay tensed up. Stand up, walk, run, stretch, garden – do whatever you can to be active, so you can stay active as you age.
6. Essential Oils
Some essential oils are helpful for relieving muscle pain.
- For muscle cramps, try lemongrass with peppermint and marjoram.
- For muscle spasms, recommended oils are basil, marjoram and Roman Chamomile.
- For muscle tension, try marjoram, peppermint, helichrysum, lavender or Roman Chamomile.
To use an essential oil for muscle pain, add one to two drops of the essential oil into one tablespoon of a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil or olive oil, and apply to the affected area.
Massage helps to stimulate blood circulation, which speeds healing. When combined with healing oils, such as the essential oils blends listed above or pepper rub below, you get a double benefit.
8. Hot Pepper Rubs – This one is not for everyone
Capsaicin, which produces the burn in hot peppers, has been used to relieve pain from arthritis, joint and muscle pain and general muscles soreness.
You can make your Pain Relieving Cream by mixing 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper with one cup of olive or (warm) coconut oil. Some people combine it with aloe vera gel instead.
Apply the rub to the affected area, and wash your hands after application. Keep it away from your eyes, nose, and mouth – it will irritate. Test on a small area to make sure that it does not make you more uncomfortable instead of relieving your pain.
Sometimes the best thing you can do is not do anything at all. If you rest up for a couple of days, general muscle soreness should pass on its own. Of course, for many of us, when things get busy in the garden or on the farm, rest isn’t easy to come by, so do what works for you.
10. Cherry Juice
The Science Daily article “Cherry Juice Reduces Muscle Pain Induced By Exercise” cites a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in which volunteers drank either a cherry juice blend or a glass containing no cherry juice. They state:
There was a significant difference in the degree of muscle strength loss between those drinking the cherry juice blend and those taking the dummy mixture.
The degree of soreness differed little between the two groups, but the average pain score was significantly less in those drinking cherry juice.
Average pain scores came in at 3.2 for those drinking the dummy mixture and 2.4 for those drinking cherry juice.
Pain also peaked at 24 hours for those drinking cherry juice but continued to increase for those on the dummy mixture for the subsequent 48 hours.
You can only find tart cherries available fresh in season or frozen, but tart cherry juice concentrate is available year round.
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