After starting a new workout routine, it's common to feel muscle aches and pains. Which is why we've come up with seven natural pain relievers to help you get past this pain and stay motivated to do your workouts!
Remember that it's important to listen to your body and know whether the post-workout soreness you're experiencing is the "good" kind of pain – caused by microtraumas in the muscles which are now repairing themselves and building new muscle (i.e. you're gettin' ripped) – or an actual injury. The kind of muscle soreness you want after a good workout is usually an all-over sensation. It will last anywhere from 24 to 72 hours and you can still train through this period – just swap out your routine to something a bit more gentle and maybe focus on a lighter cardio routine until the feeling of soreness subsides.
If you're feeling a natural soreness from working out, here are 7 natural remedies to help:
This is a powerhouse of a drink with so many health benefits. In particular, those of you with muscle pain will appreciate its anti-inflammatory properties. Curcumin, the most active phytochemical in turmeric, has a similar action in the body to non-steroidal anti-inflammatories (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, by inhibiting the COX and LOX enzymes, but without the damaging effect that these types of drugs can have on your gut lining with regular use.
Drinking turmeric in milk can be a bit hardcore, so if you want to integrate this into your diet as a regular addition for its long-term anti-inflammatory benefits, like many athletes do, try out this delicious and very palatable Golden Milk recipe made with a variety of antioxidant-rich spices and delicious raw cashew milk.
Essential oils can provide amazing pain relief. If they're going to work, make sure you're choosing a good therapeutic grade brand like Young Living, Do Terra or Plant Therapy. Lots of essential oils in health food stores will be labelled 100% pure, but can legally contain up to 95% propylene glycol (the stuff in anti-freeze), so make sure you're using a good brand. The reason these oils can work is because they contain highly concentrated amounts of the same biochemical components you find in conventional pharmaceutical remedies.
There are some fantastic muscle pain products out there made from essential oils, but you can make your own DIY pain relieving muscle rub for a fraction of the price by mixing up the following ingredients in a glass jar and rubbing it on to sore muscles as needed.
Pour in a jar until it sets. Because of the coconut oil, this muscle rub may get harder or more liquidy depending on the temperature in your home, but this won't impact its effectiveness.
Just rub it into your muscles when they're sore. (You won't want to use wintergreen or peppermint oil on children, so if you want to make a child-friendly rub, just use the lavender.)
Most people are a bit deficient in magnesium, and one easy way to get more magnesium into your body is through taking an epsom salt bath, as epsom salts are really just a form of magnesium. Magnesium helps your muscles to relax, so if you're deficient, you may find that you are more prone to muscle pain and may experience more muscle tension and cramping. Magnesium is especially important for athletes for a few reasons: It plays a fundamental role in optimal muscle contraction, it helps sustain the high oxygen consumption necessary for athletic performance, and most importantly its essential to energy production. Epsom salt baths are inexpensive and you can buy large bags of it at just about any pharmacy. Put 2 cups into a hot bath and soak for 20 minutes. You can add a couple drops of rosemary or lavender essential oil to the salts if you wish to. Do this 2-3 times per week and your body's magnesium stores will increase, as its been proven that transdermal absorption is adequate to meet ideal magnesium levels in humans. Not only does the hot epsom salt bath provide an immediate solution to ease the muscle discomfort you're feeling today, but once your magnesium levels are up to where they need to be, you'll experience far less muscle pain in future after working out.
Saunas are a great quick fix for providing temporary pain relief. Studies have found that saunas temporary increase the number number of anti-inflammatory hormones naturally produced by our bodies, and release more endorphins which are our bodies' natural painkillers.
Saunas have also been found to increase mobility, since tissues (largely comprised of collagen) increase in flexibility when exposed to the higher temperatures found inside the sauna.
CBD oil has become a buzzword in natural pain relief, but actually it's been used traditionally for thousands of years to treat various types of pain. It's only recently that its been studied by the medical community for chronic pain and inflammation reduction. And don't worry, even though its obtained from the flowers and buds of marijuana and hemp plants, you won't feel "high" ad there will be no munchies, as there is no tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or any psychoactive properties present in CBD oil.
While it's still early days for the mass marketing of this oil and the market is still somewhat unregulated, there are some great CBD products out there in the form of tinctures, sprays, creams, gels and salves, so speak to your local independent health food store for some good advice on a reputable CBD brand in your area.
You'll ideally want an organically grown product made without any imported CBD extraction concentrates. A great one to try is CopperGel ICE which has the added benefits of copper!
Massages help you relax and feel better when you're experiencing post-workout pain. Not only will the treatment increase blood flow, helping to repair the soft tissues (muscles, tendons and ligaments) throughout your body, but it will release the natural painkilling properties of endorphins. A highly trained and experienced Licensed Massage Therapist (LMT) will also know which essential oils they can incorporate into the treatment and which pressure points will help to ease your perception of pain.
Everyone should be eating anti-inflammatory foods on a regular basis especially if you're prone to muscle pain. Inflammation is the body's immune response when it perceives damage to living tissues. You'll want to reduce eating pro-inflammatory foods high in omega 6, like vegetable oils, refined grains, white sugar, meat and dairy. If you eat meat, try to think of it as a condiment on your plate, rather than the main part of your meal.
Eat your fats in their whole food form, as nature intended. Oils, even the "good" ones like olive and coconut oil, are still more inflammatory than fats in their whole state, so if you're eating a salad, instead of using an oil-based vinaigrette, mash up an avocado as a salad dressing, or make a drizzle by stirring together tahini with water in a 1:1 ratio and adding a pinch of sea salt. It will emulsify beautifully after around 20 seconds of stirring rapidly and you can drizzle it over lightly steamed vegetables, cooked whole grains or raw salads.
You'll also want to make sure you're eating enough omega 3 rich foods. You'll know if a food is anti-inflammatory if it's a bright colour in its natural, unrefined state. Fill your plate with a rainbow of fruits and vegetables, like steamed sweet potatoes, blueberries, strawberries, dark leafy greens, broccoli, red tomatoes, orange or purple carrots and yellow peppers, etc. Okay, well, mushrooms may not be that bright or rainbow-like, but they're great for reducing inflammation – especially shitake and reishi if you can get ahold of them, either fresh or dried.
These foods won't be a quick fix for sorting out your muscle pain, but they will make a difference in the long run and your body will feel less discomfort the next time you decide to change up your fitness routine. If you're not sure where to start, try incorporating one or more of these great antioxidant rich, anti-inflammatory plant-based breakfasts.
Kelly Harris is the founder/editor of the Our Little Organic Life blog and YouTube channel and is a nutritional therapist in her final year of training. This 30-something wife and mom set up Our Little Organic Life as a place to share her passion for eco-friendly travel, green/zero waste living and natural wellness. She loves vegan cooking, hiking and kayaking with her husband and three year old daughter and currently spends her time between Halifax, Canada and London, UK.