Exercise is so much more than just getting into shape and looking fit. We work out to feel our best mentally and physically, challenge our minds, and boost our energy. It's exhilarating to witness the strength of our bodies and the lengths they will go — I mean, we are even capable of climbing mountains!
But, in all its glory, our bodies still experience pain. Feeling sore after a strenuous workout is unavoidable and a healthy part of advancing to the next level in fitness. But what about when we challenge our bodies just a little too much?
We explain the difference between muscle pain and soreness and how to recover from both naturally.
What is the difference between muscle soreness and injury?
Exercise is incredible for the health of our minds and bodies, but with activity comes stress on the body. Muscular soreness is an entirely normal and healthy response to exercise, but if you are experiencing pain, this is abnormal and likely related to an injury.
When starting a new workout regimen, it's important to understand your threshold to minimize your risk of injury. Everyone's body is different, so it's critical to take it slow and not push your body beyond its natural limitations. After several weeks of gradual progression, you'll be happy to see you're moving closer and closer to your goals.
Discomfort, like muscle soreness, is expected. But how can you differentiate between soreness and injury? The main difference between the two is how the pain feels during physical activity and during rest. When muscles are sore, they will feel tender to the touch with a slight ache at rest and feel tired while exercising. Muscle soreness usually starts 24 to 72 hours after the workout and feels better following light movement and stretching.
An injured muscle or muscle strain is characterized by sharp aches and pains during both exercise and rest. The onset of injury is also usually immediate or within 24 hours of the activity, and you'll see improvement with rest and ice therapy. It's important not to push through the pain and visit your healthcare provider if you don't see any improvement in 7-10 days.
How to relieve sore muscles naturally?
It may be hard to believe, but behind muscle aches and tenderness, your body is actually repairing itself and becoming stronger than before. So, even though you may be feeling uncomfortable, know that sore muscles are a sign of progress.
You may experience achiness and tightness when you wake up the morning following intense exercise. This is called acute soreness. Alternatively, you might be feeling muscle aches 48 to 72 hours after the body experiences a new and unfamiliar strenuous exercise routine. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness, caused by microscopic tears in the muscle fibers that increase inflammation and pain response. But like we said, your body targets these small tears and goes into repair mode, leaving you stronger and more prepared for your next intense workout.
Although delayed onset muscle soreness is unavoidable, several amazing natural remedies can help ease the pain.
- Ice packs. Icing is a critical step to reducing inflammation in muscle and joint injuries, but it can also be helpful within the first 24 hours of muscle soreness. If available, Contrast Water Therapy - moving from ice cold to hot temps - is incredible for muscle pain relief.
- Heat therapy. Applying heat patches or a heating pad to aching muscles not only feels fantastic but speeds up the healing process by increasing blood flow to the affected area.
- Topical gels. Topical gels and creams that contain arnica and a natural menthol, like peppermint leaf essential oil, work wonders to ease muscle soreness.
- Foam rolling. Reducing your tension and tenderness with a foam roller may feel intense, but the relief will be worth it. The rolling pressure acts like a massage, increasing blood flow and stimulating muscle repair.
- Rest. You'll actually recover faster by taking a couple of days off from working out and resting instead. Your body needs this time to repair the tiny tears in the muscle fibers that occur during strength training or HIIT exercise. Why not take the freed-up time to strengthen or start a meditating practice with essential oils? Our Pocket Savasana Aroma Concentrate brings your mind back to the most relaxing moments on your mat, easing you into a meditative state.
- Gentle yoga. Lighter exercise like walking, stretching, or gentle yoga are wonderful natural remedies for muscle spasms and tightness. The easy movements relax and lengthen tight muscles, increasing circulation and range of motion.
- Warm bath. Similar to heat therapy, the warm temperatures of a bath can increase blood flow to the whole body. This is an excellent remedy if a large portion of your body is achy, like your legs or back. For bonus relief, add in a scoop of Epsom salts. The natural remedy has been used for centuries to ease aches and pains.
- Hydrate. Last but not least, make sure you are drinking plenty of water. Water flushes out toxins and carries tissue repairing nutrients throughout the cells of the body. Try enhancing your water with lemons, mint, and cucumber to entice your taste buds and boost your H2O intake.
Treating muscle injury the natural way
We aren't doctors here at YUNI, but we do know a thing or two about natural remedies. As we touched on above, Mother Nature has provided us with several accessible ways to treat muscle pain and soreness so you won't need to rely on medication.
Slight muscle overuse or strain can usually be remedied using our protocol above, but if your pain is intense and you suspect joint or muscle injuries, immediately rest and ice the area to reduce swelling. And if you don't see an improvement in about 1-2 weeks, you should visit your healthcare provider.
Your doctor can order imaging tests to determine a proper diagnosis and even recommend a physical therapist to assist in the natural healing process. Physical therapists can aid in pain management and, most importantly, ensure your reintroduction to physical activity is safe.
How to prevent muscle soreness and injury?
Sore muscles are essential to becoming stronger and healthier. So, unfortunately, there's no way to completely avoid tender muscles after working new muscle groups or upping weights. But there are ways to lessen how sore you'll feel the following week after a new challenge.
At the same time, muscle injury is a real risk, especially when you are beginning a new sport or fitness routine. And the only way to avoid injury is to take preventative measures and know your limits.
Try these tips before and after your next rigorous workout.
- Warm up. Warming up your muscles is critical to avoiding injury and minimizing soreness. Do light movements like arm circles, running in place, or jumping jacks to increase blood flow to your muscles and joints.
- Cool down. Stretching is the perfect way to cool down after a workout. Your muscles are already warm and flexible, allowing blood to circulate and aid in recovery.
- Drink water. Do you ever experience muscle cramps during a workout? Or even dizzy spells? They could be caused by dehydration. Adequate hydration keeps you cool and your joints loose so you can perform at your very best.
- Use proper technique. You will benefit from using the appropriate technique with almost every form of exercise, whether it's running, yoga, or weight lifting. Try instructor-guided classes or hire a trainer to hone in on your technique and avoid muscle strain and injury.
- Supplement with vitamins and minerals. Sufficient levels of Vitamin D can encourage adequate muscle movement and prevent muscle spasms. According to Thorne, the mineral magnesium is responsible for "almost all of the body's major cellular metabolic and biochemical processes," including muscle and nerve function. But surprisingly, nearly half of America isn't meeting their magnesium needs.
- Switch muscle groups every 48 hours. Working out the same muscle groups when they haven't had a chance to recover can cause muscle strain and injury. Switching up your workouts so you aren't working the same muscles every day will add variety and keep you safe.
Our go-to natural muscle recovery gel
Sore muscles can be irritating and uncomfortable, but having a cooling muscle recovery gel on hand can make all the difference in your relief. YUNI's Chillax Muscle Recovery Gel is an all-natural, plant-based formula dispensed with an easy-to-use rollerball. The lightweight gel quickly soaks in without any need to massage or use your hands. All you need to do is sit back and allow Chillax to work its magic on your tired and sore muscles.
Peppermint essential oil instantly cools using its natural menthol effects, and arnica helps reduce discomfort and the appearance of swelling and bruising. Just as our bodies have an innate desire to move, nature provides us with the resources to recover and heal.
Do you have friends and family who would benefit from these tips and tricks? Click below to share!
DISCLAIMER: THIS WEBSITE DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE
The information contained on this website is for informational purposes only. No material on this site is intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment and before undertaking a new health care regimen.
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