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Unconventional Ways to Deal With Sore Muscles

Posted May 11 2012 12:53am

I am so completely creeped out right now. The ‘stache, the look on his face, the fact that she looks 16. Plus jeans shorts? The mesh tank wasn’t enough of a statement on its own?!

Last week found me kicking the laundry basket down the hallway with my foot. No, I’m not making my household chores into sports (although there’s an idea). It’s because my shoulders were too sore to lift the blasted thing. Of course it’s not just me who’s resorted to doing weird workarounds because of soreness. The DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness, also known as the reason why you hurt worse two days after your workout than you did the day after) are so frequent among the Gym Buddies that we’ve come up with our own subcategories. Toilet sore – my fave of the bunch – is when your legs are so sore you have to fall the last few inches to the toilet seat. Bra sore is when you can’t reach behind you to clasp your bra because your arms hurt so bad. Panty sore is where your hip flexors are so knotted up you can’t lift your leg up to step into your undies. And ponytail sore, well that’s what I had last week. Which sucks since I wear my hair in a pony all the time. (And a grey hoodie. I’m the mom from the yogurt commercials!)

Sore muscles are the plague of every exerciser. Whether you’re a fitness newbie or an old hand you’ll have to deal with the pain of a good workout at some point. Science to the rescue! Researchers have come up with some new ways to help you un-clench. Here are six ideas besides the usual rest, ice and compression tips ( excerpted from my slideshow for Shape )

Mushroom extract

Funny story: a bunch of Chinese goat herders noticed that their furry friends got a lot peppier after eating a certain type of mushroom. So they did what any curious goat herder would do; they ate some too. Fast forward through a bunch of lab and research experiments and now the cordyceps mushroom is available to all, no goat necessary. According to ShroomTech sports, the ‘ shroom works  by activating ATP, the energy powerhouses in your cells, to give you “clean” energy without resorting to stimulants. (P.S. I’ve tried these and was pleasantly surprised. They do seem to work but in a very subtle way.)

Cherry juice

You won’t need a spoonful of sugar to help this medicine go down! Tart cherry juice is rapidly become one of the hottest super foods thanks to its high level of antioxidants (more than pomegranates, even!) and other benefits — one of which is decreased muscle soreness. Try adding a splash to your post-workout smoothie.

Epsom salts

Bath salts, not just for grandmas anymore! Magnesium, the primary component of epsom salts, is essential for healthy muscles and is a gentle natural muscle relaxant . The salts, when added to a warm bath or compress, are absorbed by the skin and are actually more effective this way than by taking an oral magnesium supplement. But then do you really need a reason to go take a nice, hot bath?

Caffeine

Your favorite latte just got a healthy halo thanks to University of Georgia researchers who discovered that taking caffeine, about the equivalent of two cups of coffee, helped reduce muscle soreness in women after a strenuous workout. It works by blocking adenosine, a chemical released by your body in response to injury. Just be careful not to overdo this one though as excessive caffeine use can cause muscle spasms.

Foam rolling

Add a different kind of rock-n-roll to your workout with a foam roller . Cheap, easy to use and according to many very enthusiastic adherents, the best cure for sore muscles since ibuprofen, this humble piece of equipment is making huge waves. Foam rolling involves a technique called self-myofascial release which uses pressure and targeted massage to help prevent scarring of the connective tissue between your muscles (the fascia). Take it easy your first time though; while it looks as easy as falling off a log, falling off this particular log can be very painful until you get used to the amount of pressure you need to use.

Creatine

One of the few supplements to hold up under research scrutiny,  creatine has been shown  to help lessen the pain and duration of muscle soreness from an intense weight lifting workout. Creatine is an amino acid whose job in your body is to funnel energy to your cells, particularly that of your muscles. So more creatine in your system makes for more energy both for building and repairing those biceps you’ve been working so hard on. Even better, reported side effects like bloating or stomach upset are rare and generally mild.

Note: you do not have to be sore for it to have been a good workout. I’m not saying you should strive for sore but DOMS happen to the best (and worst) of us!

Any of you have a tried-and-true trick for dealing with sore muscles? Share, please! What’s your fave category of soreness? Anyone else kinda love being sore? I love a good burn but hate being crippled. There’s such a thing as “good sore” right?

Other Stuff I Wrote This Week:

7 Workouts Inspired by Pop Culture : Shoot like Katniss Everdeen, score like Harry Potter, and sweat like LMFAO (Speedo optional!)

Beyond Coregasm: Top 5 Workout-Induced Pleasures. Yep, coregasms are real. I’ve said it before but now science has proven it!

Should We Be Congratulating Women for Not Having Kids? This is something I’d seriously never thought about before I read the NY Times piece on it.

Top 5 Worst Lunch Foods for Kids . Anyone who’s ever handed a kid a juice box in the car only to watch them power wash the upholstery with it knows that those conveniently packaged sugary drinks can be dangerous.  (Seriously juice boxes have got to be the worst designed packaging EVER.)

Plus: Don’t forget to enter my Under Armour contest ! You know you want those slash capris too – we can be twinsies!

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