How to get rid of muscle soreness
Oh, my aching muscles. They are just sore, sore, sore all over. I just had a crazy hike/bike/run/jump/swim/surf/ski/skate/bing/bang/boom event and now I am so sore I can hardly move!
My legs and arms and core feel like cement and what in the world should I do?
I don’t want to take Ibuprofen as it wrecks my stomach, and I’ve even dusted off my roller but that didn’t help with the deep ache either.
Don’t talk to me about the ice bath. That is simply not happening. Who has that many trays of ice cubes anyway and even if I had an ice maker the quantity of cubes required would exceed the capacity.”
Well, dear readers, have no fear! There is a tried and true method of flushing your system that only involves 6 1/2 minutes of your time and no special equipment needed.
It is really quite simple, and I have used it after many a long run or bike or marathon.
What is this magic elixir? Is it a magic elixir?
Well, remember that your muscles while exercising open up all the capillaries near the surface of the muscles to get as much oxygen and food delivered to the hard working muscle fibers. The hard working muscle fibers have metabolic waste products that accumulate in the muscle themselves, and that is one of the theories of muscle soreness.
Quoting from a fantastic article in Scientific American: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/why-does-lactic-acid-buil/
“Though the precise cause of DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is still unknown, most research points to actual muscle cell damage and an elevated release of various metabolites into the tissue surrounding the muscle cells. These responses to extreme exercise result in an inflammatory-repair response, leading to swelling and soreness that peaks a day or two after the event and resolves a few days later, depending on the severity of the damage.”
Now you know why the muscles have soreness, and now what do you do about it?
There is the ice bath.
At our house we run out of ice cubes and it really is impractical. Honestly and truly, I cannot bring myself to immerse my already cold-from-running-in-the-PNW-winter-rainstorm into an ice bath anyway. I doubt I could talk many North Dakotans into it either.
However, I don’t like walking around like the TinMan and dragging certain limbs along, so here is my compromise:
A cold shower.
I take my normal warm shower, get clean, and then brace myself for the flush. I take the shower nozzle down from the holster, turn off the warm water so it is nothing but cold, and spray one quad for a count of 100.
(Oddly enough, the water starts to feel lukewarm after a bit!)
Then I hold the nozzle over the other quad, and again count to 100, continuing to one calf muscle, and then the other. What if your shower head isn’t on a metal snake? Then just stick that quad under the spray and point the shower head straight down.
You will have a sharp intake of breath at the very beginning.
It gets better! Don’t worry!
Why does this work?
What happens is that the capillaries that were once open and perfused with blood shut down with the cold water. The cold water also serves to dull the pain receptors in the muscle and decrease the inflammatory response. As the muscle begins to warm back up, the capillaries are flushed with fresh blood, oxygen, and food, and the yucky stuff is essentially expelled.
In the spirit of the Chinese New Year, this is a classic Asian technique for improvement in circulation. Ever been to a spa? There are hot tubs right next to cold plunge pools to stimulate the blood vessels. It is ancient in origin.
Have you ever tried this technique to flush your system? It really is miraculous how much better you feel after you’ve warmed back up!
Let me know in the comments below how you like it!