It happens. You work out, you work out, you work out, and you get sore muscles. Or tight muscles. Or muscle cramps. You stretch, but nothing doing. What to do?
10 Tips & Tricks for Sore Muscles
1. Try PNF Stretching. If you tried doing static stretching , which is what most people do, and it didn't do much, try doing PNF stretching. Essentially, you are tensing the opposite muscle to the one you are stretching. You can read more Here.
2. Get a Massage. Nothing like unwinding and releasing that stress with massage. While a Swedish massage is nice an relaxing, go for deep tissue if it's really bothersome.
3. Get to Foam Rolling. As also explained in the same article I wrote previously, foam rolling helps to release tension in the fascia, which is connective tissue overlaying the muscle. It's a cheap alternative to getting a massage as you can buy a foam roller from a big box store for about $30. Rolling over the tight area you'll feel that sensitivity, so go easy and use a lighter pressure initially. Here's a How-to Foam Roll for Muscles of the Legs. Yes, it does works.
4 & 5. Try Gua Sha or Moxa. These are treatments used in acupuncture/acupressure, and you can read more about them HERE (scroll down to the end of the page). Basically, gua sha is where a spoon or other object is scraped along your back and neck, excellent for releasing back and neck tension. Don't worry about the marks left, they fade in a few days and aren't painful. Moxa is like a fat incense stick that is placed closed to certain points on the body. Since it's a heat source, it can help to release muscular tension, especially useful for sciatica and lower back pain.
6. Cupping. Cupping is another Chinese medicine technique that you can do with or without acupuncture/acupressure. In fact, you can buy the cups on your own and DIY, or get a friend to help you. These silicone cups create a suction effect on your skin and are great for releasing shoulder, back and neck tension. Like with gua sha, the marks will fade in a few days and aren't painful. The darker the color, FYI, the more "stagnation" (aka muscular tension). Personally, I find cupping to be great for releasing shoulder, neck and upper back tension (think traps, scalenes, sternocleidomastoid, rotator cup muscles and lats). Also nice for the pecs as well.
7 & 8. St John's Wort & Comfrey Oil. Both of these oils are tools you definitely want to have in your arsenal. They are great for sprains, strains, bruises and muscular tension. Comfrey is excellent to help heal broken bones while St John's Wort excels in repairing nerve damage. You might want to take Comfrey internally as an infusion for further healing. You can buy the seeds for either plant and grow them yourselves, then infuse the top 1/3rd of the flowering plant in oil.
To do: chop the plant with scissors to small pieces and place in a mason jar, slightly packed. Pour olive oil to cover, ensuring all the herb is submerged under the oil. Cap and let sit for 6 weeks. Use a sieve lined with a coffee filter to strain out the oil. Store the oil in a dark bottle in a cool location. Apply liberally and massage into the area.
You can also buy these oils online, although making it yourself is much cheaper!
9 & 10. Magnesium & B12. This might be an obvious one (or not), but muscular tension can sometimes be attributed to a lack of magnesium in the diet. Get in a good quality supplement (often paired with calcium in a 1:1 ratio) and take before bedtime (also helps with sleep). Good sources of magnesium include chocolate or dark cacao (go for bitter 70% +), grains, dark leafy greens, pumpkin seeds, avocados, bananas and dried figs.
If you happen to be a vegan for a while and haven't been taking any B12 supplement, your muscle cramping might due to a deficiency. Make sure you get a blood test to check your levels. B12 sublingual is a cheap supplement that can easily be purchased from most health food stores or online.
Combination Therapy. You can obviously pair a few of these tips and tricks together. For example, you can stretch and do foam rolling after a workout, go for a massage using St. John's Wort oil and take magnesium at bedtime--- or however you like to combine different these different therapies :)
And did I mention that Rest, by the way, is another good option? ;)
To pain-free days ahead,
Fit Tips & Workouts by Cat Wilson
Go ahead, Get Fit! Your Body Deserves It...and So Do You :)
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