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10 Ways to Heal Sore Muscles

Pushed your body a little bit too far? Slow down and follow these 10 tips for relieving the pain of aching, sore muscles. 

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Dealing with delayed-onset muscle soreness

Everyone’s done it at some point: You pushed yourself at the gym, turned over the garden on the first warm day in early spring, or had a cleaning frenzy before the relatives arrived-and the next day you’re so sore and stiff you can barely drag yourself out of bed. While researchers aren’t quite sure what causes delayed-onset muscle soreness, they suspect it’s the result of microscopic tears in your muscles, coupled with the inflammation that follows an injury.

Take your soreness as a signal not to further overdo it. Gentle exercise is good right now, but overdoing it again could make you more vulnerable to muscle strains and other injuries. Whether you’ve just completed a bout of strenuous activity, or you’re already sore, follow these tips to relieve the pain of muscle soreness and inflammation.

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1. Give sore muscles an ice massage.

Freeze about 5 centimetres of water in a Styrofoam cup and peel off the top of the cup, exposing the edge of the ice but leaving the bottom of the ice covered. Hold on to the bottom part of the cup and rub the exposed ice over the sore muscle. Always rub in the direction the muscle runs so you stretch as well as massage the muscle. If the soreness is less than 48 hours old, massage for 20 minutes at a time, several times a day. The ice combats muscle inflammation and also numbs nerve endings, relieving pain. (Note: Ice is of little use starting 48 hours after the injury-we recommend switching to heat then.)

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2. Treat sore muscles with ibuprofen

Take 400 to 600 milligrams of ibuprofen or 225 milligrams of Aleve throughout the day, following the package instructions, for up to 2 days after exertion. These pain relievers reduce inflammation.

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3. Massage sore muscles with essential oils.

Add 10 drops lavender, calendula, rosemary, eucalyptus, ginger or St. John’s Wort essential oil to 1 ounce (25 millilitres) of massage oil and gently rub into the sore muscle. The oils enhance the effects of the massage by increasing blood flow to the sore area, removing toxins and relieving pain. 

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4. Apply a sports cream to sore muscles.

After the massage, rub a sports cream like Ben Gay or a natural product like Tiger Balm into the sore area. Thsee creams are thicker than the oils you used for the massage; they also help with the ache and stay on longer.

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5. Use a heating pad to relieve sore muscles.

If it’s been more than 48 hours since your strenuous activity, apply a heating pad to the affected area for 20 minutes at a time several times a day.

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6. Try a natural remedy for sore muscles.

The best natural remedy for reducing muscle soreness is bromelain. Studies find this enzyme, derived from pineapple stems, reduces swelling and bruising. Take 500 milligrams 2 or 3 times a day.

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7. Get a topical prescription.

Ask your doctor if a prescription for ketoprofen lotion is right for you. This anti-inflammatory is typically prescribed in oral form for rheumatoid arthritis. Mixing it into a lotion or cream and applying it directly to the sore muscle minimizes the amount that gets into your bloodstream, reducing toxic strain on your liver. The cream has to be mixed by a compounding pharmacy (a pharmacy that creates drug mixtures) and ordered by your doctor. The strength of the cream should be 10 per cent.

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8. Exercise.

Call it the hair of the dog that bit you. Studies find that gentle exercise or stretching can relieve muscle soreness-as long as you don’t overdo it. Try to focus on the parts of your body that aren’t as sore. So, for instance, if your arms are sore from the weightlifting session, take a walk.

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9. Take a warm bath.

Ideally, spend 20 minutes in a whirlpool or jetted tub. If your best option is a home bathtub, add 1/2 to 1 cup (125 to 250 milligrams) Epsom or Dead Sea salts, along with 15 drops lavender, calendula, rosemary, eucalyptus, ginger or St. John’s Wort essential oils.

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10. Take a homeopathic remedy.

Arnica 30X is a homeopathic remedy that is well studied for its ability to reduce pain and inflammation. Follow the package directions, taking every 15 to 30 minutes for the first 2 hours after exertion, then once an hour for the next 8 hours, then 3 to 4 times during the following 24 hours.

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