You don’t have to be an athlete to suffer from muscle pain; muscle pain affects people of all ages, regardless of the activity they were performing that irritated the muscle. Muscle pain (known as myalgia to doctors) is a common symptom of a multitude of conditions, and can be linked with certain diseases in serious cases. Typically, muscle pain is the result of an injury or sprain or from physical trauma. It can also frequently result from overuse or chronic tension. In these instances, muscle soreness is the result of microscopic damage to the muscle fibers. This causes inflammation, swelling, and general discomfort in the affected area.
In most cases, muscle pain is non-serious and will clear up on its own. Following the steps below can hasten your process to getting rid of your muscle pain by making it more bearable, and hopefully preventing it from happening again.
If after following the steps below your muscle pain does not clear up within a month or gets substantially worse at any point, it is time to pay your doctor a visit. While muscle pain is usually nothing to worry about, in rare cases it can be a sign of a bigger problem. Your health is important, make sure you keep it in mind.
1. Painkillers vs. Anti-inflammatories.
When you experience muscle pain, or any pain at all, the knee-jerk reaction might be to reach for a common painkiller like acetaminophen, or Tylenol. While this class of drugs can be very effective at reducing pain when used according to the label, they merely mask the problem without providing you with a proper solution. Instead of reaching for that bottle of Tylenol, try a painkiller that is a labelled anti-inflammatory (or NSAID, meaning non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug).
An anti-inflammatory does exactly what its name suggests. It reduces inflammation in the irritated muscle. This will help to reduce pain but also, more importantly, it will help the injury heal faster. Some common anti-inflammatory drugs available over the counter include: aspirin (Bayer, Bufferin, Excedrin), naproxen (Aleve), or ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin).
As always when using any type of pharmaceutical, be sure to do so according to the directions on the label.
2. Try out some muscle rubs.
There are several readily available muscle rubs to treat muscle soreness. These rubs vary widely in the active ingredient contained to relieve muscle pain. Some popular medicated muscle rubs are Rub A535 and Voltaren Gel.
Muscle rubs are also available in many natural varieties. These rubs contain plant-based active ingredients. Rubs containing Arnica montana (a plant in the sunflower family) have been shown to reduce muscle pain. Popular natural ointments also include Lakota and Penetrex.
3. Take a hot bath, sauna, or apply a hot compress.
By increasing the temperature of the muscle, blood flow is also increased. This brings oxygen and other nutrients to the muscle allowing it to repair itself. Heat is also effective at temporarily relieving muscle tightness and providing moderate pain relief. The relaxing effect of sitting in a sauna or in a hot bath can also calm your mind and help it to stop concentrating on the pain.
If you don’t have access to a bathtub or sauna, you can apply a compress like a hot water bottle.
4. Find release through massage therapy.
If you have medical coverage, see if it covers massage therapy. A properly licensed massage therapist is trained in treating muscle pain. This is a great solution if you want to ultimately fix the root cause of your pain.
Depending on the length and intensity of your treatment, you may feel more pain from massage in the short term. In this case it is a good idea to have a plan in place. Maybe take an anti-inflammatory before the appointment. As discussed before, a warm bath or sauna afterward would also help.
Be sure to communicate openly with your therapist. Let them know where you stand in relation to your muscle pain. If you feel like you are on a different level then the treatment they have to offer you, feel free to shop around. Your therapist should work alongside you and help you through your injury.
5. Establish a stretching routine.
A good stretching routine is essential to prevent future muscle injuries. You might already know that it is a good idea to stretch before and after any physical activity (a warm-up and cool-down stretch, respectively) but did you know that stretching daily is a good idea in general?
A daily stretching routine doesn’t need to be complicated. It will only take 5 to 10 minutes out of your day. If you have a muscle injury it is important to stretch daily. This will prevent the formation of excess scar tissue in the healing muscle.
You aren’t alone with your muscle pain. A physiotherapist can help you establish a stretching routine, or you could alternatively join a Yoga or Tai-chi studio.
Of course, when you start a stretching routine it is important to start gently. Don’t overexert yourself and end up with another injury.
6. Stay hydrated with plenty of fluids.
Staying hydrated is always important. It helps to remove toxins and waste from your body (produced from the injury). Experts recommend drinking around 2 liters (0.5 US gal) of water per day, depending on your weight.
Beverages that contain vitamin C or other antioxidants (like pomegranate juice or green tea) can help your injury heal faster.
7. Rest and rebuild for best results.
Healing your injury will take time. You can follow the above steps to aid on the way, but your muscle needs time to repair itself. This might mean taking it easy for a little while.
Use the time you are spending resting to catch up on the latest season of your favourite TV show, or to finally read that book you’ve been meaning to.
Muscle pain can be a frustrating experience that prevents you from getting on with your day, or your life. But with a little help you can get rid of muscle pain to get back to your normal self, hopefully in no time at all. Keep the above steps in mind on your road to recovery: you’ll be glad that you did!