Went after some deep backbends for your yoga practice yesterday? Or was it the hard lifting two days ago that you can barely sit down on the toilet today? Maybe you slept on your neck wrong and you can barely turn your head to one side…
Whatever it is, you are now wondering how to relieve those aches and pains. Below, I’m sharing methods that have worked for me with alleviating muscle soreness that are not any sort of painkiller (see side effects here).
As a kind reminder, I’m not a health care professional. Certainly, if the pain is severe and unbearable, please go seek medical attention as soon as possible. This post is for informational purposes only.
And before we begin, I want to provide a little background about Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) since a few methods listed here are from this ancient treatment modality.
What is TCM?
TCM is a healing system that has been around for over thousands of years. The body is viewed as a whole, complete unit and TCM strives to balance out the flow of qi, or life force. The idea is to relieve stagnation in the body.
Different TCM treatments work effectively on their own or complementary together. Relief from symptoms can be felt immediately after one session. However, depending on how long and severe conditions have existed, it can require longer and more frequent treatments. Genetics, lifestyle, and your commitment will also contribute to how long the healing process will take.
If you’ve never heard of these terms before, no worries. Hopefully, they pique your interest to try them out.
LIST OF REMEDIES + WHY THEY WORK
1) Cupping Therapy (TCM) – From personal experience, I’ve found this to be one of the most effective methods to relieve sore muscles, especially along the back and shoulders. Negative pressure is created in the cups to draw up skin and underlying tissue. As a result, this improves blood flow to the surface, reduces inflammation, and calms the nervous system. There are several types of cupping techniques, which my preference is with fire because it provides the strongest and most secure suction. The results are circular marks that look like bruises. Don’t let the aesthetics bother you because cupping can aid in immediate relief.
2) Gua Sha (TCM) – aka muscle scraping/press-stroking or in modern Western terms, the Graston technique. This method is intentionally causing micro-traumas to bring heat or inflammation in a concentrated area. Similar to cupping, it’s to improve blood flow and break up any adhesions to promote healing. The colors of the markings provide different insights:
- Light red = deficiency in blood
- Dark red = acute condition
- Black/Purple = long standing condition
- Brown = dryness; lack of fluids
- Dark deep red = excess heat
3) Acupuncture (TCM) – TCM is based on the idea of your qi and how it flows through meridian channels in the body. What causes pain and discomfort is due to the blockages of these pathways. Acupuncture stimulates these acupressures under the skin to release qi that is blocked and thus, relieving pain.
4) Massage – Massage helps stimulate blood circulation to decrease inflammation and relax the muscles. Although this can be pricy, self-massage is a totally viable option or ask a friend/family/partner to help. Another option is to use a foam roller, massage stick, or lacrosse ball. One of my favorite devices is a hand held shiatsu back and shoulder massager.
5) Baths – One of my fave combos: warm water + 2 cups of Epsom salt (magnesium = natural muscle relaxant) + few drops of lavender essential oil + limited light source. A perfect way to reduce stimuli and a moment to drop in to relax all over.
6) Sauna – Saunas increase blood flow and makes fascia more supple. Perfect for muscle recovery post-practice. That is to say other heat therapy will work as well, such as a steam room. If you’re outdoors, a natural hot spring is an excellent choice. Check for conditions to be safe before jumping in.
7) Topical Pain Relief Products – Deep Blue, Salonpas, Arnica, CBD balms are items I keep on hand for immediate relief. They include active ingredients or essential oils that help soothe muscles by reducing inflammation.
8) Active Recovery – I like to move my body on a daily basis. However, when I’m extra sore, a walk around the neighborhood, light yoga practice, or gardening session is enough to get my blood flowing and body feeling good. There’s a new healing acronym in the fitness world: ARITA (Active Recovery Is The Answer). And the lesson here: don’t place more trauma on an injury but, don’t rely on complete rest which can delay healing.
9) Eat Foods with High Anti-Inflammatory Properties – My go to foods for muscle recovery include: pineapples, tart cherries, turmeric, sunflower seeds, blueberries, and dark leafy greens. These foods all include beneficial compounds that help fight inflammation and boost immunity.
10) Rest – If you are feeling like your pain, ache, or injury is getting more severe, give it a rest. You don’t always have to “go hard” with your practice or workout. Allow yourself to heal, recuperate, and regenerate in order to get back into your movement practice sooner.
What are some recovery tactics you’ve found that has helped with muscle soreness? Leave a comment below and share with us how you find relief.