Exercise: It Doesn’t Have to Hurt!

The combination of re-entry into the wonderful world of strength training and my omission of post-workout stretching had me revisiting some tried-and-true pain relief methods last week. I’ll share them with you if you PROMISE not to consider them as medical advice.

Promise? Okay, then, here are the ways I address post-workout pain (but remember, you promised!):

For general aches and pains (a.k.a. muscle cobwebs), my first attempt at pain relief is a good old-fashioned Epsom salt bath. It’s inexpensive and requires only that I have enough strength to sprinkle a cup of salts into my hot-as-I-can-stand-it (or sit-in-it) bathwater. Epsom salts contain a mineral (magnesium sulfate) that acts like a topical muscle relaxer. That, combined with the increased blood flow from a soak in the hot water, is almost always guaranteed to ease my aches.

Another remedy that works for me in fighting general achiness is easy cardio. A moderately-paced walk or bike ride increases circulation and works to eliminate the lactic leftovers and leave me with some feel-good endorphins.

For more specific pains (hello, left knee!), I apply ice after the workout. If possible, I elevate the area in turmoil. (Caveat: I refuse to lay down with my butt up in the air on those sore glutes days. Flat works fine for that.) The cold slows down blood flow to the area to reduce inflammation. Generally, I use a homemade (crushed ice and a Ziploc) ice pack, but you can also use a bag of frozen peas. That’d be the only thing I’d use a bag of peas for. Yuck! Note: Be careful when using chemical ice packs. It is possible to develop frostbite if you leave them on too long.

If after a few days, I’m still hurting, it’s time to bring on the moist heat. Again, I usually go homemade–hot, wet washcloth and a Ziploc. Somewhere around here I also have one of those buckwheat wraps that you heat up in the microwave. The problem is that if I’m hurting, I don’t feel like hobbling around heating it up and carrying it back to wherever I’ve decided to relax and heal my wounds. I should maybe explore keeping a microwave in the back of the house for just these purposes. Or maybe I’ll just (melodramatically) keep hobbling the 10 steps into the master bathroom for a hot water refresh.

If all else fails, I resort to anti-inflammatory drugs: ibuprofen or naproxen (Advil or Aleve, in human-speak.) I try to avoid them, but given a choice between hurting all night or sleeping, I’ll choose sleeping, thank you.

Massage is also a good method of pain relief. For the DIY version, lately I’ve been using my Yoga Therapy Massage Balls. I’ve also been thinking about one of those foam rollers, which I understand can be useful for massaging out the pain.

The better alternative to all of those, though, is to avoid the need for pain relief by stretching properly. There are several good stretching video guides on YouTube. Not this one, since you apparently have to go home and lie on your garage floor to do it, or this one, which requires that you empty your closet and sit on the floor. Ahh, this is a good one, especially for beginners (or experienced people who really just want to do the basics. Plus, I like her outfit.)

Do any of these methods sound familiar? Any methods or routines you have that you’d like to share? (We PROMISE not to consider it as medical advice.) Sing out and share!

Wishing you a happy and pain-free Monday!



15 thoughts on “Exercise: It Doesn’t Have to Hurt!

  1. Good advice! I agree though, the stretching is necessary, before and after. I unfortunately learned that the hard way in the beginning!

    You had some ideas on here I've never tried, particularly the epsom salt.

    Also, I have found Aleve works much better for my muscle aches and pains than Iburprofin although I'm with you in the camp of not liking to use either of those too much. I just hate putting pills in my body. Kind of strange I have a problem with that when I think back all of the food junk I would eat! :)

  2. I had never heard that about epsom salts and will have to try it. Later this week will be my first workout with my mom and our trainer and first weight training in over two weeks. Because of my shoulder injury I can only work my lower body. I already told her I do not want to be too sore to walk the next day!

  3. Now you tell me it doesn't have to hurt!! Where were you when I needed to know that :-)

    By the way, I liked your comment on Jody's site. I got through medical school by focusing on a day at a time. Otherwise it would have been too overwhelming!

  4. These are some great tips for working through the pain. It can be tough to get started back to exercise again but taking the first step will really empower you and your success along the way will keep you motivated. Well done!

  5. Great post Cammy.. I do a lot of stretching & the older I get, the more I have to do! :-)

    I have used a lot of your suggestions & some are new. Thx so much on writing this for all!

    Oh yes, I have the foam roller too!

    PS: I loved your comment too but just have not gotten over there to respond yet!

  6. I've never heard of the epsom salts before. When I run I don't stretch before but rather after. For me, stretching my cold muscles isn't a good thing – but I take it super easy for the first five minutes to get everything warmed up.

  7. I usually don't get sore and need all these things when I work out. Now… when i go out and play basketball after all these years the knees need ice. lol

  8. Cammy, I found an epsom salts that is infused with lavender….I love it.
    Thanks for the stretching advice!

  9. Thanks for the heads up on the epsom salts. I forget there are other choices besides meds, ice or heat. Notice my order of things…lol.

  10. So THAT'S why grandma always had epsom salts on hand. Who knew!

    Those buckwheat wraps are great head compresses for sinus pain and pressure too, which can be a major impediment to a good workout during allergy season. And they smell good coming out of the microwave. Like putting bread on my head.

  11. I like the "more cardio" advice. As long as it's low intensity. High intensity will just make you even more sore.

    Although, I guess you could just use that as an excuse to do even more cardio which makes you even more sore which makes you do more cardio…agh I'm getting dizzy

  12. Those foam rollers look like they could do wonders for my sore neck! I hate when I don't stretch enough – ouch!

  13. Great advice. I've used all of these over the past few days trying to get my back pain to go away. I have an appointment with the doctor today so, of course, I feel much better.

    The pain was really bad the past two days but I believe it was caused by not stretching before and after my 60 minute elliptical session. We'll see if the doctor agrees.

    As always, thanks again for the good advice.

  14. great tips! I always push myself and then pay for it the next day when I wake up and cant move. Will have to try these.

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