We’ve all been there. We know what those sore, achy muscles feel like. Maybe you spent too long outside shoveling snow, working out too hard at the gym, or walking the length of the mall one too many times. Now you’re left feeling sore, and even though you know the soreness will subside in a few days, you need some relief right now. Am I right?
Yeah, it can be easy to overdo it sometimes. I’ve got some quick tips for soothing sore muscles, plus a homemade achy muscle rub recipe to help ease the pain.
6 Ways to Ease Sore Muscle Pain
1. Stretch first
First up—prevention. Try to remember to stretch before any kind of strenuous physical activity. Gentle stretching before and after will help prevent the muscle strain that causes those pesky sore, achy muscles.
The soreness that occurs after exertion was thought to be caused by lactic acid build-up in the muscles. But it is actually due to microscopic tears in the muscle fibers causing inflammation [source]. It’s important to move around after a tough workout to keep the blood flowing and help those tissues to heal.
2. Drink cherry juice
But in case you forgot to stretch or cool down, or it’s been a while since you’ve worked out like that, try easing the pain naturally by drinking a glass of tart cherry juice [source]. Researchers have shown that the antioxidant power of polyphenols in cherry juice works to fight inflammation and help repair muscles [source].
3. Put those muscles on ice
You might want to head straight for a hot shower, but studies show that icing sore muscles slows down swelling from injury and speeds healing [source]. You can also try alternating hot water with 30-second bursts of cold water.
The hot water dilates blood vessels, which brings more blood to the muscles and also takes the waste products (i.e., lactic acid) away.
4. Massage with lavender
Lavender-infused massage oil can also help with muscle soreness [source]. Lavender has long been used for numerous maladies and its calming effects, but did you know it is also great for easing pain?
Massage itself can help with muscle pain because the manipulation of muscles helps to warm them up and relax them. Using lavender is a one-two punch on muscle pain. A healing balm can also help.
5. Take an Epsom salt bath
Epsom salt in a hot bath is widely thought to be one of the best ways to relieve muscle cramping and soreness. At a cellular level, magnesium works in balance with calcium as the muscles relax and contract [source].
However, there is much speculation about whether or not the magnesium in Epsom salts is absorbed through the skin while you soak in the bath [source]. It may just end up being that a bath has its own healing properties by directly heating and relaxing the muscles [source].
6. Make a cayenne and ginger muscle rub
Capsaicin, a compound found in hot peppers, is a natural pain reliever. When applied to the skin, the capsaicin tricks your brain into thinking it’s been exposed to extreme heat, which results in a release of neurotransmitters that eventually block the pain [source].
This DIY achy muscle rub contains cayenne pepper and ginger. The ginger contains other compounds that have anti-inflammatory and pain-relieving benefits [source].
Let’s talk more about what’s in this muscle rub—almond oil, shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, ground cayenne pepper, ground ginger, and camphor, peppermint, clove, and eucalyptus oils.
The coconut and almond oils work as carrier oils to prevent irritation. The shea butter adds extra moisturizing and helps with absorption, as do the carrier oils. The beeswax is there mainly for texture but also has healing benefits. Each of the essential oils provides healing and anti-inflammatory relief.
The peppermint helps cool. Clove is an anti-inflammatory, but it also works naturally to provide a slight numbing sensation to soothe sore muscles [source].
Camphor is a common ingredient in over-the-counter topical preparations. It is an anti-inflammatory that helps to boost circulation, temporarily desensitizes nerves, and provides a cooling, calming sensation [source]. It also may promote the penetration of other substances into the skin [source].
The peppermint oil has similar benefits to camphor [source]. Eucalyptus oil has analgesic properties and can help with pain when massaged into the skin [source].
DIY Sore Muscle Rub
- Glass measuring cup
- Fine mesh strainer
- 8-ounce glass jar with lid
- 2 ounces coconut oil
- 1 ounce almond oil (olive oil will also work)
- 1 teaspoon ground ginger
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cayenne
- 1/2 ounce beeswax (white or yellow, chopped)
- 2 ounces shea butter
- 5–10 drops each: eucalyptus, peppermint, camphor, and clove essential oils
- Gently heat coconut and olive oils in a glass measuring cup or jar in the microwave, or place it in a small pan of simmering water.
- Add the ground ginger and cayenne. Let stand for 30–60 minutes in a warm place.
- Place the the beeswax in a measuring cup and set that into a pan of simmering water. Allow the wax to melt. Be careful as it will be very, very hot after it melts. Add the shea butter and stir until melted. Keep warm.
- Strain the cayenne and ginger infused oil into the measuring cup with the beeswax and shea butter by running it through cheesecloth set over a mesh strainer. (Warm the oil again if it's too thick to strain.)
- Stir well. Remove from the heat and let it cool slightly before adding the essential oils. Stir gently until combined.
- Transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid. Let cool completely before using. To use, remove a small amount from the jar and place it in palms to melt the balm. Rub onto sore area in a circular motion. The skin will become red and feel warm to the touch. (See notes below.)
- Will keep for several months. Use as often as needed.
This article was medically reviewed by Dr. Gina Jansheski, a licensed, board-certified pediatrician with more than 20 years of practice experience. Learn more about Hello Glow’s medical review board here. As always, this is not personal medical advice, and we recommend that you talk with your doctor.211
Mary Prosser says
Can someone from helloglow contact me?
I had never heard that about cherry juice before, definitely going to get some of that in. That rub sounds lovely, and like it would be ideal after a long day of running around at work.
Great info. I’m rePinning for “the next time”…
Hi there. I just made the salve. There were clumps in it so I microwaved it in hopes of re-mixing it, but i put it in there for too long and it ended up bubbling and getting really hot. Is this salve still usable?
I often have sore muscles from my voleyball training. Thank you for this, Lindsey!
Do you have any idea how well this might/might not work for arthritis pain? My father has flare-ups from time to time, but hates to use the commercial stuff.
Lindsey Johnson says
Hi Rebecca! My husband has been using it on his knees, which we think are arthritic, and it seems to be helping. For the most part it contains the same ingredients as commercial preparations, though I’m not sure how the actual strength compares for really severe pain. It’s worth a try!
Lindsey Johnson says
Awesome! Let us know how it works for you!
Arnica also does a great job with sore muscles! I usually take arnica granules after working out and it really help preventing the pain, I can clearly see it when I forget to take them! I also have a massage oil with arnica and lavender that I use several times in the day when I have sore muscles. Thanks for the tips on other plants that work :)
Does the muscle rub stain? It looks amazing.
Lindsey Johnson says
It doesn’t really stain as much as it will leave a grease mark if it’s not absorbed all the way. For example, my husband uses this on his sore knees and one time he got dressed and I noticed it left a small grease mark on the knee of his jeans. So usually we use it at night.
Thank you for these tips and the recipe for the muscle rub! It seems like it would be similar to Tiger balm which I just ran out of! I think I have all the ingredients at home so I need to give this a try.
Lindsey Johnson says
Yes, very similar to Tiger Balm!