Whether from overwork or under use, most of have had to deal with muscle aches and pains at one point or another. These home remedies for sore muscles will give you a variety of options to sooth everything from an aching back to a bruised shin. My personal favorite for spot treatment – magnesium oil.
What causes muscle soreness, cramps, sprains and strains?
General soreness after exertion (Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)) is typically cause by micro tears in the muscle. Over time as the muscles rebuilds itself stronger to accommodate the activity, soreness should decrease. You can read more about this at “What Causes Pain and Soreness After Exercise“. A muscle cramp, i.e., “a strong, painful contraction or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes”, may be linked to a variety of causes, including:
- Exercise, injury or overuse
- Blood flow problems
- Lack of minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium
- Certain medication
You can read more at WebMD “Muscle Cramps”.
A muscle sprain is “an injury to a ligament (tissue that connects two or more bones at a joint). In a sprain, one or more ligaments is stretched or torn”. A muscle strain is an injury to a muscle or a tendon (tissue that connects muscle to bone). In a strain, a muscle or tendon is stretched or torn. Sprains and strains are generally caused by trauma (falls, twists, impacts) or overuse. Read more about sprains and strains at the NIH.gov, “What are Sprains and Strains?”
Always remember, if pain is severe or incapacitating, please see your health care professional. This post is for informational purposes only, and is not intended to replace trained medical advice.
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #1 – Epsom Salts and Magnesium Oil
Tried and true, a cup or two of Epsom salt dissolved in a warm tub of water works wonders for aching muscles. Use warm, not hot, water. Warm water will dry out your skin less. Soak for 15 minutes or until the water has cooled, up to three times per week. Not recommended for those with health conditions such as heart problems, high blood pressure or diabetes.
Magnesium oil is typically applied with a spray pump bottle, which makes it easier to target on a specific area, such as a sore calf or foot.
How do Epsom salts and magnesium oil work to help sore muscles? Epsom salts are made up of magnesium sulfate, magnesium oil is made up of magnesium chloride. Magnesium is natural muscle relaxant, and as salts, these compounds help to pull excess fluids out of the tissues, reducing swelling.
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #2 – Heat or Cold
A warm shower or bath is a natural muscle relaxer, which can be great for tension knotted shoulders or muscles tight from overuse. For bruising or inflammation, an ice pack applied to the affected area for up to 20 minutes can reduce swelling and soreness.
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #3 – Oral Magnesium
Low levels of magnesium in the body can lead to general muscle aches and muscle cramps. You may want to consider a magnesium supplement, but you can start by including foods that are high in magnesium in your diet. Some of the top food sources for magnesium are molasses (see below), squash and pumpkin seeds (pepitas), spinach, Swiss chard, cocoa powder, black beans, flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and cashews. (See World's Healthiest Foods and Healthaliciousness.com for more info.)
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #4 – Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
15 people on the Earth Clinic Muscle Cramp page give Apple Cider vinegar a thumbs up for treating sore muscles and leg cramps. Most folks mix a tablespoon or two in a glass of water and drink it down, some drink a tablespoon straight like a shot. Still other rub the vinegar directly on the area of the sore muscle/cramp. A variation of this is a fellow who drank pickle juice and achieved similar results. Judith recommends 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of honey, a sprig of fresh mint and 8 to 10 ounces of cold water, well mixed.
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #5 – Blackstrap Molasses
Another Earth Clinic user (Ackbar) says 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in a cup of coffee each day cured his chronic muscle pain. This is likely due to the magnesium content. Another way to get combine ACV and molasses is the old fashioned drink called Switchel, which was commonly used before the age of brightly colored sports drinks and juices shipped from around the world. This version of the drink is from Hillbilly Housewife.
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/4 cup molasses
- 1/2 cup sugar or honey
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- tap water to make 2 quarts
Mix first four ingredients to blend, then add water and mix until dissolved. Chill or serve over ice, if desired.
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #6 – Coconut Oil
Like apple cider vinegar, coconut oil is recommended for a wide variety of ailments. On the EarthClinic site, Lynn says that she uses 2-3 tablespoons of virgin coconut oil per day in cooking and applied on foods like butter. if you want an easy way to eat more coconut oil, may I recommend some coconut oil fudge, which contains coconut oil and cocoa powder? 🙂
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #7 – Essential Oils
A number of essential oils and essential oils blends may be helpful for relieving muscle pain. For muscle cramps, try lemongrass with peppermint and marjoram. For muscle spams, top recommended oils are basil, marjoram and Roman Chamomile. For muscle tension, try marjoram, peppermint, helichrysum, lavender or Roman Chamomile.
To use an essential oil for muscle pain, add one to two drops of the essential oil into one tablespoon of a carrier oil such as fractionated coconut oil or olive oil, and apply to the affected area.
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #8 – Movement
If you're just stiff and sore, more of what got you that way may be the answer. Over time, your muscles will build and strengthen and you'll be able to do more with less discomfort. I know if I sit too much (say, working on a certain website…), I get awfully stiff. Just getting up and moving around and doing some gentle stretching works wonders. Our muscles tend to want to stay doing whatever they're doing, unless we force them to change. If you're tensed up, they'll stay tensed up. Stand up, walk, run, stretch, garden – do whatever you can to be active, so you can stay active as you age.
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #9 – Massage
Massage helps to stimulate blood circulation to an area, which speeds healing. When combined with healing oils, such as the essential oils blends listed above or pepper rub below, you get a double benefit.
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #10 – Hot Pepper Rubs
Capsaicin, which produces the burn in hot peppers, has been used to relive pain from arthritis, joint and muscle pain and general muscles soreness. It is available in over the counter products such as Omega 3 Pain Relieving Cream, or you can make your own by mixing 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper with one cup of olive or (warm) coconut oil. Some people combine it with aloe vera gel instead. Apply the rub to the affected area, and wash your hands after application. Keep the rub away from your eyes, nose and mouth – it will cause irritation. Test on a small area to make sure that it does not make you more uncomfortable instead of relieving your pain. This one is not for everyone.
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #11 – Rest
Sometimes the best thing you can do is not do anything at all. If you rest up for a couple of days, general muscle soreness should pass on its own. Of course, for many of us, when things get busy in the garden or on the farm, rest isn't easy to come by, so do what works for you.
Home Remedy for Sore Muscles #12 – Tart Cherry Juice
The Science Daily article “Cherry Juice Reduces Muscle Pain Induced By Exercise” sites a study published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in which volunteers drank either a cherry juice blend or a drink containing no cherry juice. They state:
There was a significant difference in the degree of muscle strength loss between those drinking the cherry juice blend and those taking the dummy mixture.
This fell by 22 percentage points in those drinking the dummy mixture, but only by 4 percentage points in those drinking cherry juice. Muscle strength even improved slightly after 96 hours in those drinking cherry juice.
The degree of soreness differed little between the two groups, but the average pain score was significantly less in those drinking cherry juice.
Average pain scores came in at 3.2 for those drinking the dummy mixture and 2.4 for those drinking cherry juice.
Pain also peaked at 24 hours for those drinking cherry juice, but continued to increase for those on the dummy mixture for the subsequent 48 hours.
You can generally only find tart cherries available fresh in season or frozen, but tart cherry juice concentrate is available year round.
- Magnesium oil
- Tart Cherry Juice concentrate
- CorPak Soft Comfort Hot & Cold 10″ x 13″
- Sombra Warm Therapy Natural Pain Relieving Gel, 8-Ounce
- Plantation Organic Molasses – They have now started treating sugar cane with glyphosate prior to harvest to increase yields, so buying organic is the only way to avoid contamination.
Originally written in 2013, updated March 2016.