24 Home Remedies for Muscle Pain

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Soreness is the body's way of letting you know you've overexerted your muscles.

It was just a pickup game of basketball with the guys, not a marathon. And it felt great to finally get back on the court. But a day and a half later, you can barely move. You're so stiff, it feels like you've aged 100 years nearly overnight. Every time you try to move, your muscles cry out in pain. What's going on?

Well, weekend warrior, you've overdone it, and your body is letting you know. Overworking muscles, especially muscles that aren't accustomed to much work in the first place, causes the muscle fibers to actually break down, and that's what's causing your pain. If you had been exercising regularly all along, slowly and gradually increasing the duration and intensity of your workouts, chances are that game of round ball wouldn't have left you feeling like you got hit by a truck.

In addition to the tiny tears that occur in muscle fibers during intense exercise, the muscles swell slightly, and byproducts of muscle breakdown accumulate. Together, they contribute to muscle strain, and the accompanying feeling of stiffness and soreness.

Another common source of muscle pain is a cramp, an acute spasm of the muscle that can send you to the ground clutching the offending muscle and howling in pain. Muscle cramps can be caused by anything that interferes with the mechanisms that cause muscles to contract and relax. The tight contraction of the muscle restricts the blood flow to the area, causing the intense pain of a muscle cramp.

Knowing how muscles contract and relax can help you understand why muscle cramps occur and how to prevent them. To cause a muscle to contract, the brain sends an electrical "contract" message through nerves to the muscle. When this signal reaches the muscle, the minerals sodium and calcium inside the muscle and potassium outside the muscle move, causing the signal to flow along the muscle and making it contract. For muscles to contract and relax properly, they need the right concentrations of these minerals as well as adequate supplies of sugar (glucose), fatty acids (components of fat), and oxygen.

If a muscle uses up its energy supply (called glycogen, which is the storage form of glucose), and if too many waste products have built up in the muscle, it may go into spasm. The spasm, in turn, slows the blood flow, causing pain.

While muscle soreness and cramps aren't generally life threatening, they can be uncomfortable and annoying and can dim your enthusiasm for physical activity, which in turn can negatively affect your overall health and well-being.

See the next section for some home remedies to ease muscle pain and prevent the problem from recurring.

For more information about remedies for pain, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Home Remedy Treatments for Muscle Pain

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. A massage can help ease muscle soreness and stiffness.

Overdid it again, eh? Ease those muscle cramps and other muscular aches and pains by following the home remedies below.

Stop. If your muscle cramps up while you're exercising, STOP. Don't try to "run through" a cramp. Doing so increases your chances of seriously injuring the muscle.

Give it a stretch and squeeze. When you get a cramp, stretch the cramped muscle with one hand while you gently knead and squeeze the center of the muscle (you'll be able to feel a knot or a hard bulge of muscle) with the fingers of the other hand. Try to feel how it's contracted, and stretch it in the opposite direction. For example, if you have a cramp in your calf muscle, put your foot flat on the ground, then lean forward without allowing your heel to lift off the ground. If you can't stand on your leg, sit on the ground with that leg extended, reach forward and grab the toes or upper portion of the foot, and pull the top of the foot toward the knee.

Walk it out. Once an acute cramp passes, don't start exercising heavily right away. Instead, walk for a few minutes to get the blood flowing back into the muscles.

Chill out. If you know you've overworked your muscles, immediately take a cold shower or a cold bath to reduce the trauma to them. World-class Australian runner Jack Foster used to hose off his legs with cold water after a hard run. He told skeptics if it was good enough for racehorses, it was good enough for him! Several Olympic runners are known for taking icy plunges after a tough workout, insisting that it prevents muscle soreness and stiffness. If an icy dip seems too much for you, ice packs work well, too. Apply cold packs for 20 to 30 minutes at a time every hour for the first 24 to 72 hours after the activity. Cold helps prevent muscle soreness by constricting the blood vessels, which reduces blood flow and thus inflammation in the area.

Avoid heat. Using a heating pad or hot water bottle may feel good, but it's the worst thing for sore muscles because it dilates blood vessels and increases circulation to the area, which in turn leads to more swelling. Heat can actually increase muscle soreness and stiffness, especially if applied during the first 24 hours after the strenuous activity. If you absolutely can't resist using heat on those sore muscles, don't use it for more than 20 minutes every hour. Or, better yet, try contrast therapy -- apply a hot pad for four minutes and an ice pack for one minute. After three or four days, when the swelling and soreness have subsided, you can resume hot baths to help relax the muscles.

Take an anti-inflammatory. Taking aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can help reduce muscle inflammation and ease pain. Follow the directions on the label, however, and check with your doctor or pharmacist if you have any questions about whether the medication is safe and appropriate for you. If aspirin upsets your stomach, try the coated variety. Over-the-counter salicylate (the active ingredient in aspirin) creams can also reduce pain and inflammation. They're greaseless, usually won't irritate the skin, and won't cause the stomach problems often associated with taking aspirin by mouth. For a list of precautions to take when using over-the-counter analgesics, click here.

Avoid "hot" or "cold" creams. The pharmacy and supermarket shelves are loaded with topical "sports" creams designed to ease sore, stiff muscles. Unfortunately, they don't do much beyond causing a chemical reaction that leaves your skin (but not the underlying muscles) feeling warm or cold. If you do use the topical sports creams, test a small patch of skin first to make sure you're not allergic, and never use these topicals with hot pads, because they can cause serious burns.

Do easy stretches. When you're feeling sore and stiff, the last thing you want to do is move, but it's the first thing you should do. Go easy, though, and warm up first with a 20-minute walk.

Take a swim. One of the best remedies for sore muscles is swimming. The cold water helps reduce inflammation, and the movement of muscles in water helps stretch them out and ease soreness.

Anticipate second-day soreness. You may feel a little stiff or sore a few hours after overexercising, but you'll probably feel even worse two days afterward. Don't panic. It's perfectly normal.

Massage it. As long as it's gentle, massage can help ease muscle soreness and stiffness.

Wrap up. In cold weather, you can often prevent muscle cramping by keeping the muscles warm with adequate clothing. Layered clothing offers the best insulating value by trapping air between the layers. Some people like the compression and warmth offered by running tights.

Warm up your muscles. One way to prevent muscle cramping and injuries is to warm up muscles adequately before exercise. Instead of stretching first, walk a little or bike slowly to "prewarm" the muscles. Then do a series of stretches appropriate for the exercise you're going to be doing. Even if you're only chopping wood or working in the garden, warming up and stretching before the activity will get your muscles ready for work and help prevent muscle cramping and damage.

Learn your limits. The key to preventing muscle pain, soreness, and stiffness is to learn your limits. You know you did too much if it makes you feel stiff and sore the next day. Instead of being a weekend warrior, aim to exercise regularly throughout the week. Start at a low intensity and short duration, and gradually, over a period of weeks or months, increase how hard, how long, and how often you exercise.

These tips should help you with muscle soreness during the day, but what about those strange, unexplained cramps you sometimes experience when you're fast asleep? In the next section, we'll discuss home remedies for this phenomenon.

For more information about remedies for pain, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

More Home Remedies for Muscle Pain

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Muscle cramps at night are usually caused by a pinched nerve.

You're sleeping peacefully when suddenly your leg is seized with a painful cramp. You're no longer sleeping and you're certainly no longer peaceful. You weren't even dreaming about exercise, so what happened?

Cramps that occur during the night are usually due to a pinched nerve or an exaggeration of a normal muscle-tendon reflex. A particular sleep position, for example, may cause a nerve to be compressed. Or, in changing positions, you may contract a muscle, causing an attached tendon to stretch. The stretched tendon sends a message to the spinal cord, which, in turn, sends a message to the muscle, causing it to contract even more forcefully and resulting in a cramp.

No matter what the cause of the cramping, the bottom line is that muscles that cramp at night have somehow gotten "stuck." The key is to short-circuit this cramping before it happens and disturbs your rest. Here's how:

  • Stretch before bed. Take a few minutes before retiring to stretch the muscles that are subject to cramping. Calves are often culprits of nighttime cramping. Stretch them out with the "runner's stretch": Stand facing a wall, your feet positioned two to three feet away from it. Place your palms on the wall at about shoulder height. Keeping your legs straight and your heels pressed against the floor, slowly bend your elbows and lean your upper body toward the wall until you feel a stretch in your calves. Hold for a count of eight, then return to the starting position.
  • Be sure you get enough calcium. Nighttime cramps are often associated with a lack of calcium in the diet. Eat plenty of calcium-rich foods like broccoli, spinach, and dairy products (opt for low-fat or fat-free varieties if you're trying to limit your fat or calorie intake). If cramping is still a problem, talk to your doctor about using a calcium supplement.
  • Lighten the load. Sometimes, cramps in the legs and feet can be caused by a pile of heavy blankets. Toss off all those covers and try either an electric blanket set on "warm" or a lightweight down comforter.
  • Massage the muscle. If you develop a cramp despite using prevention tips, massage the cramped muscle with long strokes toward the heart. Or do so even before you turn off the light for the night; sometimes a massage before you go to sleep can keep those muscles loose and free of cramps until morning.

For more information about remedies for pain, try the following links:

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.

Natural Home Remedies for Muscle Pain

©2007 Publications International, Ltd. Try eating one or two bananas a day to minimize muscle cramps.

Whatever the reason, when blood doesn't reach your muscles the way it should, your muscles can turn into balls of pain. Your first priority is to give your muscles some rest, and take a few ideas from the kitchen that will help you feel better, fast.

Home Remedies From the Cupboard

Bouillon. Sipping some warm soup before heading out for a long bike ride may not sound appealing, but it may help you skip the muscle cramps. Drink 1 cup beef or chicken bouillon before you ride. It helps you replace the sodium you lose when you sweat.

Epsom salts. Jump in a hot bath with Epsom salts to ease the pain of your strain (but wait at least 24 hours before you try this). Epsom salts contain loads of magnesium that is absorbed through the skin. Magnesium helps promote the healing of torn muscles. Add 2 cups Epsom salts to a tub of hot water. It also relieves any swelling.

Home Remedies From the Fruit Basket

Banana. Eat a banana or two a day, and you may cut down your cramping. That's because a potassium deficiency may be to blame for muscle cramps. Though there's no official recommendation for how much potassium you should have per day, the American Dietetic Association suggests adults get about 2,000 mg a day. One banana has 450 mg of the muscle-protecting nutrient.

Home Remedies From the Refrigerator

Milk. Getting adequate amounts of calcium in your diet may help curtail your cramps. Women, especially, seem to need plenty of calcium for muscle health. Three glasses of milk a day will meet the calcium needs of most adults.

Water. Yes, it's the elixir of life as well as your best bet for avoiding a painful muscle cramp while you exercise. When you exercise, you sweat. That sweat depletes your body of needed fluids that can cause your muscles to mutiny. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after you do your activity of choice. If you're running, aim to drink about a cup per hour. Don't overdo it, however, because drinking too much water can cause a dangerous imbalance in the body's mineral stores.

What about those sports drinks? You really don't need them unless you're exercising intensely for longer than an hour at a time. Water is better.

Home Remedies From the Spice Rack

Rosemary. A few leaves of rosemary can help reduce swelling in strained muscles. Use either fresh or dried leaves; fresh has more of the volatile oils. The herb has four anti-inflammatory properties, which can help calm inflamed muscle tissue and speed healing. Because rosemary is easily absorbed through the skin, placing a cloth soaked with a rosemary wash will help ease the pain. Here's how to make a rosemary wash: Put 1 ounce rosemary leaves in a 1-pint jar and fill the jar with boiling water. Cover and let stand for 30 minutes. Apply the wash to the area two or three times a day.

Stretch it, squeeze it, chill it -- these are just a few of the home remedies to use for muscle aches and pains. Even better, bone up on the preventative tips suggested in this article, and you'll avoid muscle pain altogether.

For more information about remedies for pain, try the following links:

Ivan Oransky, M.D., is the deputy editor of The Scientist. He is author or co-author of four books, including The Common Symptom Answer Guide, and has written for publications including the Boston Globe, The Lancet, and USA Today. He holds appointments as a clinical assistant professor of medicine and as adjunct professor of journalism at New York University.

David J. Hufford, Ph.D., is university professor and chair of the Medical Humanities Department at Pennsylvania State University's College of Medicine. He also is a professor in the departments of Neural and Behavioral Sciences and Family and Community Medicine. Dr. Hufford serves on the editorial boards of several journals, including Alternative Therapies in Health & Medicine and Explore.

This information is solely for informational purposes. IT IS NOT INTENDED TO PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. Neither the Editors of Consumer Guide (R), Publications International, Ltd., the author nor publisher take responsibility for any possible consequences from any treatment, procedure, exercise, dietary modification, action or application of medication which results from reading or following the information contained in this information. The publication of this information does not constitute the practice of medicine, and this information does not replace the advice of your physician or other health care provider. Before undertaking any course of treatment, the reader must seek the advice of their physician or other health care provider.