On my last hiking trip, I covered over 2,000 vertical feet per day for three straight days and almost 22 miles combined.
Let me tell you a thing or two about sore muscles!
I’d get out of bed and my calves were just screaming. Did I mention we went halfway down into the Grand Canyon and then back up?
We met a guy at the top, however, who had just gone from one rim across the bottom to the other rim and back. It took him about 11 and a half hours to do 44 miles. I’m thinking he felt worse than we did the next day.
Our on-hand relief for sore muscles pretty much just included hot tub at night, stretching, and moving again the next day so we didn’t notice it until evening, but there are a lot of great ways to care for muscle and even joint pain without resorting to over-the-counter meds.
I thought it was interesting to learn that a lot of people will take ibuprofen preventatively before they go on a big hike or climb.
I guess this is to reduce inflammation in the joints. And while that may be protective, it just makes me wonder what the ramifications might be. Could you potentially push yourself too far because you’re already dulling your pain?
I prefer to include a lot of turmeric in my home cooking, which of course I do on vacation, for its anti-inflammatory benefits, andin my green juice to keep my joints in tip-top shape. But you’re probably here because you already have sore muscles and are looking for something beyond a $60 massage that will only last for a few hours of relief and a way to avoid over-the-counter pharmaceuticals.
Nature has your back.
Magnesium: a Great “Balm” for Sore Muscle Relief
When you’re just sore — whether you slept wrong or worked out too hard, magnesium is a super first line of defense. You can apply magnesium topically in many ways.
Epsom Salt Bath 2.0
It’s pretty common knowledge that soaking your sore feet in a tub with warm water and Epsom salts gives effective relief for sore muscles. People also know that taking an Epsom salt bath feels really good when your body is falling apart and yelling at you for working out too hard.
You can supercharge that process to 2.0 with these magnesium flakes from. They’re a different kind of magnesium (magnesium chloride versus magnesium sulfate in plain Epsom salts), and they’re even more well-absorbed.
Yes, they’re a bit more expensive, but if you’re really sore, buy the big tub and turn to the flakes. When I take my detox baths, I put in regular Epsom salts from my big box store, about a quarter-cup of magnesium flakes from Perfect Supplements, and a big handful of baking soda that I buy in bulk from Costco.
If you really want to go 3.0 on your sore muscle bath, put the salts in a jar with 5 to 10 drops of one of the essential oils listed below. Shake it up, and you’ll get some aromatherapy at the same time. Here’s a simple recipe for bath salts if you want to get really fancy!
Heat Can’t Be Understated for Sore Muscle Relief
Once again, you don’t really need special equipment to relieve your sore muscles with heat.
Most craft shows and Etsy shops sell rice or flaxseed-filled microwavable hot pads. We have quite a few because our kids tend to get growing pains at night.
They’re easy to make if you have even rudimentary sewing ability as well. Just fill a tube sock with white rice and tie it off. Voila. Homemade, practically free hot pad. Microwave these typically for one minute, then flip, then another minute.
Everyone loves the feeling of heat on sore muscles. And, of course, if you have or can rent some time in a hot tub, that’s a great way to soak at the end of the day.
When my husband and I go hiking, like when we reviewed these Xero Brand hiking boots, it is a non-negotiable that our Airbnb has a hot tub. We use it daily. And at home, I make my detox and anti-soreness baths as hot as I can stand.
Hot tubs on vacation, sauna at home after working out.
There are so many benefits to sweating when it comes to getting rid of toxins, but a sauna definitely relieves sore muscle pain as well.
It’s recommended to use a sauna after working out, not before, because it really will sap the energy you need to do a good workout. Better to get all sweaty and then get in the sauna to intensify the benefits of sweat.
Homeopathy for Sore Muscle Relief
I’ve mentioned this a lot lately, but after I took a homeopathy class in Fall 2020, I am trying homeopathy for everything.
I cannot understate how excited I am to have seen some genuine successes, such as with my skin, and with a time I knew I was going to throw up. There are some homeopathics for muscle soreness as well:
- Rhus tox is indicated for muscles that are “better with movement.” In other words, if you get out of bed and feel like you are a “rusty gate,” but as you go about your day, the soreness begins to dull, that means rhus tox is a great remedy for you to try. (Note: The fun mnemonic rhus tox calms a rusty gate.)
- If you feel the opposite, like perhaps somehow you injured a muscle and stretching it makes it worse, you might try bryonia, “worse for movement.” These two are sort of the quintessential twins when it comes to general muscle soreness or even headaches that are better or worse with movement.
- Joette Calabrese, a true icon when it comes to practical homeopathy, shared a Banerji protocol for sore muscles when her son went back to working out after a long break and pushed himself too hard. That remedy is rhus tox 200 mixed together in the mouth with symphytum 200 twice daily until the pain diminished. Read more about Joette’s story and methods here.
Homeopathic remedies can also be used topically, as in the case of this Arnica salve, from Earthley. It’s easy to apply and may make a great impact on everything from sore muscles to growing pains to bumps and bruises.
Earthley is one of my favorite natural health companies because they keep everything incredibly affordable, made in the USA, and excruciatingly well-sourced ingredients.
Essential Oils for Sore Muscles
Both applied topically and aromatically, there are many essential oils that can help that creaky feeling when you’ve slept wrong or pushed your muscles in a workout.
MadeOn hard lotion is one of my personal favorite lotions because its ingredients are so very simple. Renee takes just three ingredients — beeswax, shea butter, and coconut oil — to make her amazing hard lotion. She’s got a few products for those of us feeling sore that start with that base and just add a few essential oils like:
You can get easy access to that muscle relief in either the MadeOn foot rub stick or the BeeCool stick; both are very invigorating and smell so lovely you’ll feel like you’ve had a five-minute spa escape.
There are several more essential oils that claim to help relax muscle issues such as:
You can always grab some coconut oil or olive oil from your kitchen and properly dilute those oils for a soothing topical application.
Although of course, you could diffuse these oils in the air, I would go for the one-two punch of both the topical and the automatic aromatic effect of having essential oils on your body. You’ll be breathing them in as well.
And remember, you can shake any of these up with your Epsom or magnesium salts so that they evenly disperse in a bath and give you an extra supercharged soaking experience.
Additional Tips for Sore Muscles
I got these tips from a reader. Thanks Sharon!
Baking Soda: 1/2 to 1 full teaspoon of baking soda in a cup of water, works as a muscle relaxer, and can be put in coffee, or any drinks. My coffee consists of decaf instant coffee, dark cocoa, powdered coconut milk, baking soda, stevia, sea salt, and vanilla. It tastes more like a fancy desert than coffee. Then for the pain, I use vinegar: 3T apple cider or plain white vinegar, depending what I have on hand, but either works equally as well. For me, it’s hard to take just straight, so, it might end up on a salad, or mixed in purified water, or mixed in a non-alcoholic cocktail drink (3 Tablespoons of ACV, the juice of half-whole lemon or lime, mixed with crushed ice, or blended with crushed ice in the blender). When these two simple tricks are mixed together at one time, it feels like my whole body is melting into a totally pain free relaxed state. If you ever climb the Grand Canyon again, in my home state, you might like to try this simple trick. You can prepack the dry ingredients in tiny sealable plastic baggies. Even premeasured little baggies will hold the liquid vinegar also. I tired the powdered vinegar, but it does not have the same effect for pain relief.
Can You Relieve Sore Muscles Naturally?
So there you have it. For me and my family, I run the other way from ibuprofen and over-the-counter anti-inflammatory or pain relief medicines.
RELATED: Natural remedies for pain and headaches.
In some ways, I prefer to feel the pain of a good workout so I can be grateful that my muscles are broken down and rebuilding. But if you just want some soothing, remember to stock some or all of these ideas:
- Epsom salts and magnesium
- Heat via hot tub, bath, sauna, and hot pads
- Essential oils
And, of course, if you have a loving partner in your home, beg them for a massage, which feels good whether you have sore muscles or not, am I right?
My husband and I love using the Massage for Couples course from Denis Merkus, which comes in three-month, yearly, or lifetime packages for access.
Also, my husband wants me to tell you that if you know your muscles are broken down from exercise in particular, consuming lots of protein is what all the muscle gym guys say is important to build those back up. In my opinion, make it grass-fed. Try Butcher Box if you don’t have a local source.
I’d love to hear if you have other tried-and-true relief for sore muscles in the comments. We are a community here, and learning from each other is the best way to keep our families safe and healthy without relying on pharmaceuticals.
- Ali, B., Ali Al-Wabel, N., Shams, S., Ahamad, A., Alam Khan, S., & Anwar, F. (2015). Essential oils used in aromatherapy: A systemic review. Asian Pacific Journal of Tropical Biomedicine, 5(8), 601-611. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apjtb.2015.05.007
- Cioanca, O., Hancianu, M., Mihasan, M. et al. (2015). Anti-acetylcholinesterase and Antioxidant Activities of Inhaled Juniper Oil on Amyloid Beta (1–42)-Induced Oxidative Stress in the Rat Hippocampus. Neurochem Res 40, 952–960. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11064-015-1550-0
- Sritoomma, N., Moyle, W., Cooke, M., & O’Dwyer, S. (2014). The effectiveness of Swedish massage with aromatic ginger oil in treating chronic low back pain in older adults: A randomized controlled trial,
Complementary Therapies in Medicine, 22(1), 26-33. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ctim.2013.11.002
- Healthline. (2019, May 15). Try This: 18 Essential Oils for Sore Muscles. Retrieved from https://www.healthline.com/health/fitness-exercise/essential-oils-for-sore-muscles