6 Ways to Relieve Sore Muscles

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, colloquially known as 'doms', can occur from 6-48 hours after moderate-intense exercise. Doms can also occur after lighter exercise that is unfamiliar, or that works different muscle groups than usual.

Muscle pain from doms can last for a day up to a week, and can affect everyone from the occasional gym goer to the elite athlete. To help you get through the next couple of days, here are our tried and true methods for relieving muscle soreness:


1. Know the difference between doms and injury
Doms is often referred to as a 'good' pain. It's the dull to moderate ache felt in muscles you worked during your last workout. Bruising, swelling and sharp pain are all signs of injury and should be checked out by a doctor or physio if pain persists.

2. Don't skip your warm up
There's always that jerk with the 'prevention is the best treatment' advice when you're clearly past the prevention stage. But, proper warm ups and a steady increase in volume and intensity have been proven to reduce the likelihood of developing doms. Future You can thank us later.

3. Magnesium everything
Magnesium supplements are readily available at pharmacies and health food stores, and can work miracles in relieving muscle soreness. Magnesium can be taken as capsules or powders, however these are absorbed at a lower rate than sprays or oils which can be applied to the skin

Pro tips:

  • No matter how enticing the flavour sounds, magnesium powder tastes terrible. So unless you like drinking gritty, chalky water, go for the sprays.
  • Magnesium spray works quite quickly, but it has a habit of stinging if you rub it in or have any skin irritation (freshly shaved legs are the worst!). Spray it on and leave it to dry. If it hasn't absorbed completely, you can wash it off or use a wipe to get rid of the stickiness.

4. Pain relief creams 
Fisiocream, Deep Heat Naturals and Tiger Balm are other beneficial, natural products that help relieve pain. They can be purchased readily from pharmacies and health food stores, and are relatively inexpensive. Massaging the cream in with light to moderate pressure will help increase absorption and will also stimulate blood flow to the muscle to help it heal.

Pro tips: Tiger balm

  • Tiger balm burns with the fire of a thousand suns has a warming sensation, so use it sparingly. 
  • Don't use it on your neck or shoulders before going to bed. It will get on your pillow, and warm your face and eyes. 
  • Don't use it on your glutes, inner thigh or hip flexors. It travels.

4. Myofascial release and stretching
Foam rollers and balls are an inexpensive alternative to massage. They aid muscle recovery by working out knots and tightness, and stimulate blood flow to the muscle to help remove toxins and speed up recovery. Combining foam rolling with gentle stretching is a powerful combination to get sore muscles back to normal function.

Pro tips:

  • Myofascial release can be painful at first for some muscle pain. Start off with light pressure and slow movements, and gradually increase every couple of minutes as the pain alleviates.
  • If you can, get a long foam roller. You'll move around a fair bit when treating larger areas like your back, so having a longer roller will prevent frequent readjustments.
  • If you don't want to splash out on a foam roller, you can get a length of wide diameter plumbing pipe from Bunnings. It's not as comfortable, but it only costs a few dollars and is just as effective.
  • Golf balls and hockey balls are a cheaper alternative to specialty myofascial release balls.

5. Heat
Hot showers, baths and heat packs can provide almost instant relief for mild to moderate muscle pain. Heat works by increasing tissue elasticity to reduce muscle tension, thus helping the muscle to relax. It will also increase blood flow to the affected muscle while blocking transmission of pain signals to the brain.

Pro tips:

  • Some people swear by Epsom salts in hot baths, but I haven't experienced the benefits. It can't hurt to try it and see if it work for you, though.
  • Wheat packs are best for targeted heat application. Avoid hot water bottles - they're very unsafe.
  • Infrared heat lamps are something else you can try and they're used regularly by some health professionals. You can buy the globes online or from most pet shops.

6. Workout again
It may sound counter intuitive, but doing light cardio or another workout is one of the best ways to send doms packing. Getting your blood pumping through the affected muscles helps flush out anything nasty, but it also builds a tolerance or even a resilience to doms. It's important to listen to your body on this one, though. If the pain is getting too much or it's affecting your form, leave it for another day and try some of the other tips above.