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Natural Relief for Sore Muscles

3 Ways to Ease Post-Exercise Pain Naturally

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Updated July 27, 2013

Written or reviewed by a board-certified physician. See About.com's Medical Review Board.

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 (DOMS) 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.

1) Massage Therapy

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.

More about the benefits of Massage and learn about Trigger Point Therapy For Back Pain and Cupping For Pain.

2) Ginger

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.

See Ginger For Health and find out about other Herbs For Pain Management.

3) Arnica

Taking a homeopathic dilution of 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.

See Arnica: What You Need to Know.

4) Vitamin C Supplements

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.

More about Vitamin C.

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.

Sources:

Altman RD, Marcussen KC. "Effects of a ginger extract on knee pain in patients with osteoarthritis." Arthritis Rheum. 2001 44(11):2531-8.

Black CD, Herring MP, Hurley DJ, O'Connor PJ. "Ginger (Zingiber officinale) Reduces Muscle Pain Caused by Eccentric Exercise." J Pain. 2010 Apr 23.

Bryer SC, Goldfarb AH. "Effect of high dose vitamin C supplementation on muscle soreness, damage, function, and oxidative stress to eccentric exercise." Int J Sport Nutr Exerc Metab. 2006 16(3):270-80.

Cheung K, Hume P, Maxwell L. "Delayed onset muscle soreness : treatment strategies and performance factors." Sports Med. 2003;33(2):145-64.

Grzanna R, Lindmark L, Frondoza CG. "Ginger--an herbal medicinal product with broad anti-inflammatory actions." Journal of Medicinal Food 2005 8(2):125-32.

Tveiten D, Bruset S. "Effect of Arnica D30 in marathon runners. Pooled results from two double-blind placebo controlled studies." Homeopathy. 2003 92(4):187-9.

Vickers AJ, Fisher P, Smith C, Wyllie SE, Rees R. "Homeopathic Arnica 30x is ineffective for muscle soreness after long-distance running: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial." The Clinical Journal of Pain Sep;14(3):227-31.

Zainuddin Z, Newton M, Sacco P, Nosaka K. "Effects of massage on delayed-onset muscle soreness, swelling, and recovery of muscle function." J Athl Train. 2005 40(3):174-80.

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