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12 Home Remedies for Sore Muscles – Simple, Safe Pain Relief

Whether you're dealing with delayed onset muscle soreness after workouts (and work) or sore muscles for “no reason at all”, something's going on in your body to make you uncomfortable. In this post, we'll talk about common causes of sore muscles and how to get rid of the ache, including topical treatments, essential oils and supplements.

sore muscles in back of woman wearing flannel shirt

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.

What Causes Sore Muscles?

Sore muscles may be linked to a variety of causes, including:

  • Dehydration
  • Exercise, injury or overuse
  • Blood flow problems from illness or lack of activity
  • Lack of minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium
  • Certain medications, like statins, chemotherapy drugs and anesthetics

Soreness After Exercise

General soreness after exertion (Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)) is typically cause by micro tears in the muscle fibers. Lactic acid can also build up in the muscles, increasing irritation.

Over time as the tissue rebuilds itself stronger to accommodate the activity, muscle soreness should decrease. You can read more about this at “Understanding Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)“.

Are sore muscles a good sign?

It depends. Post workout soreness in the first 72 hours is normal, but soreness that lasts more than 5 days may be a sign of overexertion or damage. Gradually increasing the intensity of your workout (or work load) can help reduce the risk of injury.

Cramps, Sprains and Strains

A muscle cramp, is “a strong, painful contraction or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes”.

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.

Muscle soreness from cramps can usually be addressed with home care. Sprains and strains may require professional care and physical therapy.

12 Home Remedies for Sore Muscles

These home treatment options for sore muscles cover ongoing self care as well after workout tips to get rid of muscle pain.

#1 – Prevent Sore Muscles with Water

Start simple. Dehydration can cause muscle soreness, hydration can help prevent it and clear it. It's not a quick fix, it's a general self-care tip. Stay hydrated!

#2 – Topical Magnesium – Epsom Salts and Magnesium Oil

Magnesium is natural muscle relaxant, and as salts, these compounds also help to pull excess fluids out of the tissues, reducing swelling. Most of us have a hard time getting enough magnesium in our diets, especially as we age. (Excess sugar consumption ties up magnesium, too.) Topical magnesium targets muscle pain by getting the magnesium directly to the sore muscles.

Epsom Salt for Muscle Pain Relief

Tried and true, a cup or two of Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) dissolved in a warm tub of water works wonders for aching muscles. Use warm water, not hot water.

For sore muscles, soak for 15 minutes or until the water has cooled, up to three times per week. Epsom salt baths are not recommended for those with health conditions such as heart problems, high blood pressure or diabetes.

Magnesium Oil Stops Leg Cramps

Magnesium oil (magnesium chloride in water) 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. We keep a spray bottle next to the bed for nighttime leg cramps.

When leg cramps hit, the first thing we reach for is the spray bottle of magnesium oil, followed by a drink of water. If we've been doing heavy labor, we'll spray on magnesium oil to prevent sore muscles and cramps.

Note: Magnesium oil has a slightly tacky feel when you spray it on, and does sting a little on freshly shaved legs. (It is a salt, after all.) The leg cramp relief far outweighs any minor sting at application.

Magnesium oil for sore muscles and leg cramps

#3 – Heat or Cold – Which is Better for Sore Muscles?

A warm shower or bath is a natural muscle relaxer, which can be great for tension knotted shoulders or muscles tight from overuse. While an ice pack used to be recommended for muscle sprains, research now indicates that cold slows down the body's healing process.

The article “Is R.I.C.E. all wrong?” notes:

“Nearly everyone who ices today,” says veteran athletic trainer Gary Reinl, “believes they’re doing it to prevent inflammation, reduce swelling, and control pain. But here’s the problem: Icing doesn’t prevent inflammation or swelling; it only delays it.

Once tissues rewarm, the inflammatory process resumes and your body’s innate intelligence sends the correct amount of fluid to the damage site. Although icing can provide temporary pain relief, numbing just shuts off protective signals that alert you to harmful movement. And the Journal of Athletic Medicine Research recently showed that icing actually kills muscle cells.”

hot pack for sore shoulder muscles

#4 – Oral Magnesium

Low levels of magnesium in the body can lead to general muscle soreness 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
  • cashews

One Earth Clinic user says 1 tablespoon of blackstrap molasses in a cup of coffee each day cured his chronic muscle pain.

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.

Switchel Recipe

  • 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.

#5 – Essential Oils for Sore Muscles

A number of essential oils and essential oils blends may be helpful for muscle pain relief.

For muscle…

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.

#6 – Movement

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. Increase blood flow = faster healing and sore muscle relief.

For injuries, a new healing acronym is A.R.I.T.A. – active recovery is the answer. Don't beat the heck out of an injury, but don't avoid moving for too long. Note: Always check with your doc for severe injuries.

#7 – 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.

Self-massage for sore shoulder muscles…

Simple self massage for sore knees…

#8 – 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 muscle soreness. It is available in over the counter products such as Cramer Atomic Balm Warming Cream, or you can make your own by mixing:

  • 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, and
  • one cup of olive oil or coconut oil, warm -or- aloe vera gel

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 providing sore muscle relief. This one is not for everyone.

#9 – Rest

Sometimes the best sore muscle treatment is not do anything at all. If you rest up for a couple of days, general muscle soreness due to overexertion should pass on its own. Of course, when things get busy in the garden or on the farm, rest isn't easy to come by, so do what works for you.

Don't sit around too long, or you may make the muscle soreness worse. Remember – Active Recovery Is The Answer.

#10 – Tart Cherry Juice Helps Sore Muscles After Workout and Increases Muscle Strength

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 showed that:

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.

The cherry juice drinkers also had better muscle strength. You can generally only find tart cherries available fresh in season or frozen, but tart cherry juice concentrate is available year round.

woman rubbing sore muscles in neck

#11 – Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)

To reduce muscle soreness, mix a tablespoon or two of apple cider vinegar in a glass of water and drink it down. Some folks drink a tablespoon straight like a shot. Still others rub the vinegar directly on the area of the sore muscle/cramp.

Don't like the taste of vinegar? Try 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of honey, a sprig of fresh mint and 8 to 10 ounces of cold water, well mixed.

#12 – Coconut Oil

Try 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?

You may also enjoy the post “Natural Back Pain Relief” and other posts in the Home Remedies series.

Originally written in 2013, last updated in 2019.

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  1. I walk and jog 4-5 times per week in the gym along with some light weight training. My range of motion has dramatically decreased when I walk and get out of bed each day due to pain and sore stiff muscles. Where should I look for these magnesium supplements? Is there a diet plan that will help?

    1. Every person is different, so the best option would be for your to work with a nutritional counselor or trainer to develop a personalized plan.

      In lieu of that, you might try an anti-inflammatory diet, such as this one –

      Magnesium Glycinate is one of the most easily absorbed forms of oral magnesium. (You can order it online here or find it at a health food store or other online vendor.) Epsom salt baths are another easy and inexpensive way to get more magnesium into your body. You should be able to find Epsom salt at any drugstore.

  2. I’ve recently heard rumors of pickle juice being effective for muscle pain but haven’t been able to nail down the specifics. Any news or opinions regarding that? I’m not sure if you’re supposed to drink it or use it as a rub!

  3. Hi Laurie,
    I have recently done a lot of run around and going up and down at work. Now my both legs are so painful. Doctr said that i have got tired muscles so been given pain relief but can’t do normal duties bcoz of pain. Can you suggest anything xx

  4. Hey Laurie

    Great list! I personally found magnesium supplementation was a major player in helping me overcome muscle pain and cramps etc. I used magnesium glycinate, which I believe is readily bio-available. also did a lot for my anxiety too.

    Also, had a lot of success with foam rolling to break up dense areas of tissue in the muscles. I had a hip issue for many years, and foam rolling has essentially cured it. Soft tissue work can be a really useful thing.

  5. my father aged 57, have stiffness in his mussels. he had hard worked in his his whole life like exercise etc beyond of this he also take too much stress on the other hand he cant take a deep sleep i googled a lot about and found the reason is the increase of cartisol level in body……..ill be glade if you please guide me that what will i do for his help?????

      1. I go and pick some goldenrod and use the leaves and stems for the oil and dry the flowers for teas to help with seasonal allergies. For the salve, fill a glass jar half way with chopped leaves and stems, fill to an inch of the top with oil of choice. I do a warm infusion by placing a folded hand towel in the bottom of a crock pot, place jar with lid on it on towel, fill half way up jar with water, put lid on pot, put on low and leave for 24-48 hours making sure to keep water level up. When finished, strain (squeesing to get all oil out, let sit for about 15 min. to seperate any water from oil, pour out oil, careful not to get any water in, add bees wax to desired thickness (to test put a spoon in freeze, when cold dip into warm oil. It will harden and you can feel how hard it will be). For the flowers, pick ones that are not fully open as they will continue to blossem as they dry (if they are fully open, they will develop the seeds that are like tiny dandelion puffs), hang or lay flat to dry in a cool dark place.
        Hope this helps.

    1. Every person is different, so it’s hard to say what would work best. #1 and #3 are our “go tos” for quick relief. Magnesium oil is also good for stopping nighttime leg cramps.

  6. i too have had sudden pain in my muscles around my upper thighs and the muscles just above the pubic area
    all xrays are clear but the pain is more as soon as i place my foot down to take a step or trying to lift my leg to get into bed etc
    so i sort of waddle and walk ,
    will definitely try the sour cherry juice
    have been drinking apple cider vinegar and tumeric and ginger powder with a pinch of black pepper in warm water every morning on an empty stomach
    will try other remedies now

  7. Laurie, I think you should add red beets to the list . I’m 77 and have been eating an oz or 2 every day for the last 3 or 4 years and have very little joint or muscle pain , even after elliptical and treadmill, or swimming for an hour 4 or 5 days a week. I started out by cooking them and peeling them before eating. Now I scrub them and cut them into strips- skin and all- and eat them raw. The sweeter ones taste almost like carrots.

  8. My fiance just started construction in early august. He works from 6-3, Monday through Friday. He comes home everyday beat up and can barely move. He complains about aching muscles and his legs locking up the most. I hate to see him like this. I don’t know what to try first or what is best for his condition.

  9. Coconut water has more potassium than a banana, though it’s not as tasty. I add coconut water, tart cherry juice & ginger to my nightly vitamin & fiber shake, sometimes I throw in some apple cider vinegar too. When I do that my muscle pain seems to improve.


  11. My mom has been adamant about drinking apple cider vinegar for a while now, and she said that it has helped reduce soreness after workouts. I’ll have to give it a try! Thank you for sharing the tips.

  12. Very interesting remedies – thank you. My son has been doing some manual labour the last few days and a few more to go. His hands are quite painful from the unaccustomed work (!), in particular the heels of the hand below the thumbs are quite swollen. What would you recommend ?
    Thanks for your help

    1. Soaking his hands in an Epsom salt soak should help take down the swelling, along with the molasses and/or vinegar taken internally. For spot inflammation like that (where it’s probably as much bruising as muscle soreness), I also like arnica gel, which you can order online (amazon link to arnica gel) or find in many health food stores/natural pharmacies.

      1. Totally refused to drink vinegar !! Definitely bruising more than muscle soreness, so got him to soak them in a vinegar solution for a short while, (these youngsters, just too impatient). I had arnica gel so he massaged that in regularly and found it very effective. I must remember to get epsom salts when next in the UK, have never found it here in France.
        Thanks so much for your help – very interesting website 🙂

        1. I thought the arnica gel might be a winner. My husband prefers that option, too. I think it’s a male thing to have less patience. 😉

          I have found Epsom salts at the local pharmacy and pharmacy sections of general merchandise stores, but the best local prices I’ve found have been at the farm supply store. Epsom salts are also good for treating animals, too.

  13. my wife has bad pains and circulation in her legs she was using suboxone for many years and now she is off this for some time now .Can you think of anything to help these pains .she does not want to use any medication that is not natural or that is not good for her please help us she is really trying hard.
    thank you.

    1. It’s not safe for me to diagnose or treat specific conditions over the internet. I am not a doctor. One thing she may want to look into is diet, as what we eat has a dramatic impact on our health. I changed the way I eat last in year in response to a health crisis, and saw a dramatic improvement. Many of the changes I made might be helpful for a variety of conditions, because the diet looks at common allergens and irritants and helps rebuild your digestive system. You can learn more here –

      If pain is severe or incapacitating, please see a trained healthcare professional.

      1. ok thanks for getting back with me. that is the direction i would take also we will keep trying things.

  14. Heyy mam…hope u r doing well.. I am suffering from muscular (shoulder) pain . I work out daily at the gym lifting heavy weights and since 2 days i feel as if my shoulders are sore… I think that can be due to getting exposed to sudden cold Air conditioned area after working out (with wet clothes on) one day before this injury. Could this be the cause of the pain? . Kindly advise how to be ok again.Thanks and regards

    1. The cold air may have made your muscles tighter, causing soreness. If pain is severe, please see a health care provider. If you are just sore, try any of the remedies in the post, especially warmth and massage to release the tightness.

  15. I was lifting some weights, about 8 pounds, and I am fairly new to workouts but I have read up on the subject and I know I am doing the routine correctly. However, whenever I try to straighten my arms, I get a sharp pain. It is ruining my day and I hope you guys have some other thing for this or maybe I am on the wrong page…

    1. Given that I am not a certified sports therapist and I can’t virtually examine your arm for damage that would be causing this pain, I’m afraid I can’t directly help you. It’s really, really much safer if you see a real human on this problem – not a virtual one – just in case you have some damage or something out of alignment that you are hurting by doing what you’re doing. Pain like that is not normal or typical for most people. Not getting this checked out now could lead to serious problems down the road.

  16. Thanks for this site. I’m dealing with extreme mucle pain(when I move it) since 2 days on my right tigh and I’ m not sure how Igot
    It. The only thing I can think of is a little arabest (ballet stetch ,not sure of spelling) like in the shower. Strange. Will try some of your suggestion. Thanks

  17. Hello Laurie, most of these are great tips, and I will try them. Sorry, I have to disagree with # 11 ‘rest’ You could simply say don’t over do it. It contradicts #8 movement, and rest is the worst thing one can do sometimes.

    My back goes completely out about every 2 years. I had a chiropractor that was also a physical therapist. After an adjustment he said the worst thing I can do is to lay down. I told him I had to go to a huge hardware store for plumbing parts and he said go, get a cart, lean on it and walk very slowly around the whole store. He also gave me a list of slow leg lifts (lying flat on a bed) and stretches which help to this day. Now it has been 6 years since it has gone out.

    Every injury is different, mine is due to being rolled in car wrecks and falling off my first horse on my tailbone. The slow leg stretches at night and in the morning help keep me functioning.

    1. Everyone is different dear… sometimes rest is definitely needed… she didn’t post them specific to your problem she posts for anyone that stumbles upon the page… and one of the stumblers may need to rest their muscles… in my husbands case he definitely needs rest but needs to calm his muscles to allow him to do that