When a tough workout leaves you with sore muscles, certain strategies may offer natural pain relief. In fact, some natural substances and alternative therapies may even lower your risk of post-exercise pain (a condition commonly known as "delayed onset muscle soreness").
Often occurring 24 to 48 hours after your workout, delayed onset muscle soreness is thought to be caused by tiny tears in the tissue surrounding your muscles. You're most likely to suffer sore muscles after increasing the intensity, frequency, or duration of your workout, or after performing a new kind of exercise.
Natural Relief for Sore Muscles
There is no proven way to stop sore muscles. However, studies suggest that the following approaches may help ease muscle soreness to some degree.
So far, research on massage therapy's effectiveness in soothing sore muscles has yielded mixed results. However, a small study published in 2005 found that a 10-minute post-exercise massage session alleviated delayed onset muscle soreness by about 30 percent. When administered three hours after exercise, the massage session also reduced swelling, but had no effects on muscle function.
In a 2010 study of 74 adults, scientists discovered that those who took ginger supplements for 11 days were less likely to experience muscle soreness after lifting weights. An herb known to fight inflammation, ginger has been found to ease pain in previously published research.
Taking a homeopathic dilution of the herb arnica may help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, according to a 2003 study of 82 marathon runners. However, an earlier study of 519 runners found that homeopathic arnica was ineffective for muscle soreness following long-distance running.
For a small study published in 2006, 18 healthy men took either a placebo or three grams of vitamin C in supplement form each day for two weeks. Next, all participants performed 70 elbow extensions, then continued taking either the placebo or vitamin C supplements for four days. Study results showed that vitamin C reduced muscle soreness, but had little effect on loss of muscle function.
Should You Try Natural Relief for Muscle Soreness?
Additional research needs to be conducted before any type of alternative medicine can be recommended as a treatment for sore muscles. Although no therapy is known to relieve delayed onset muscle soreness, standard approaches like stretching and topical application of ice may also offer some benefit.
If your muscle soreness lasts longer than 72 hours, make sure to consult your physician.
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