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!