“Muscle soreness is a sign that your muscles are repairing themselves after a challenging activity,” says Snehal Patel, P.T., a clinical supervisor at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York. The problem is that soreness not only hurts but also limits your ability to get back at it the next day. That’s where the following 4 recovery options come into play.
Give them a try to see what a difference they can make towards getting you back to full strength and speed as soon as possible.
Lounging around may seem like the perfect response to sore muscles, but moving will do a lot more for your body, Patel says. “Light exercise, whether an easy bike ride, a jog, or a few minutes on the elliptical, can reduce stiffness and get some metabolites out of your body,” he says. Keep the intensity low (about 60% of your max effort) and your sessions short, 20 to 30 minutes.
Ice or heat? Consider doing both, Patel says. Research has shown that subjects who alternated one minute of hot water followed by one minute of cold water for six to 18 minutes had lower levels of muscle soreness compared with a control group. “The contrast in temperatures produces a pumping action, so it helps to release some of those metabolic by-products,” Patel says.
A massage is a great way to reduce soreness. “The therapist does all the work so you stay relaxed,” Greenman says. “The objective is to loosen up the tissue and bring more blood flow to the area.” Different massage types yield different benefits, but most athletes can benefit from a deep-tissue or Swedish massage.
“Perhaps the best thing you can do to speed recovery is to make sure you eat a healthy diet and get enough sleep,” Patel says. “Otherwise your body simply won’t recover as well as it should.”