Sore muscles are a common problem, especially after a strenuous workout.
But what causes sore muscles in the first place? And is there anything we can do to treat them?
In this article, we will explore the cause of sore muscles, and discuss some methods for reducing muscle soreness.
We’ll also take a look at the use of anti-inflammatory supplements and essential oils for sore muscles. So read on to learn more!
Essential Oils and Massage Oils
Well, you came here to learn about essential oils that can be used to treat muscle soreness.
So I don´t want to force a whole article upon you, just to touch on the topic only at the very end.
However, there is so much more to muscle soreness and there are quite a number of different ways to treat the pain we feel and relieve muscle soreness that I suggest you keep on reading further down below.
There you will get the full picture with much more in-depth information and a strategy paper to counter muscle pain.
What actually is muscle soreness?
As explained in depth down below, the pain you feel in your muscles a day or two after a hard workout is a result of a large number of tiny microtears in your muscle fibers that cause inflammation.
So what we are looking for are active substances that help reduce pain, reduce muscle spasms, and reduce inflammation.
Our great nature has a whole arsenal of such substances available for us so let us have a look at the seven best options:
Arnica has been in medical use since as far back as about 1500 a.c. The plant grows mainly in alpine Europe and the main use of arnica is the treatment of swellings, bruises, skin irritation and pain
Is also used widely since a very long time. It is said to help people reduce anxiety, fear, depression, stress – but also pain. The essence of lavender oil applied to your skin evaporates is then inhaled which reduces muscle tension and helps in the reduced perception of pain.
The substances derived from the eucalyptus tree have a nice cooling effect when applied to the skin. Additionally eucalyptus oil is said to have anti inflammatory effects which helps a lot when experiencing muscle pain after sports activities.
This ingredient of essential oils – like eucalyptus – can have pain relieving results as well as anti inflammatory properties.
We all appreciate chamomile tea when we have stomach issues. But chamomile – when applied as an ingredient in essential oils – can also relieve pain, reduce muscle spasms and deploy its anti inflammatory effect. The roman chamomile is used to relax muscles, the German chamomile better fights inflammation.
The use of this oil dates back all the way to native Americans. Jojoba oil itself is used as a carrier oil in the production of essential oils. However, jojoba itself also has very beneficial properties. This oil can relieve sore muscles, is anti inflammatory and also fights joint pain.
Peppermint is widely known and many people love peppermint tea or the pure, menthol-like sent of this plant. In topical use, peppermint has beneficial effects on head ache, muscle aches and joint pain.
Essential oils might use one of the above ingredients or they might include a mix of several ingredients in order to boost the effectiveness of the essential oil being used.
All these ingredients are mixed together with carrier oils. These can be olive oil, sweet almond oil, coconut oil, avocado oil, and many more.
You can also produce your own oil. All the necessary ingredients are easily available. As you are treating your body and as you should only use the best available products when doing so, I would highly suggest to look out for high quality sources.
The good part is that when producing your own essential oil, you can try different combinations and find the right recipe for you which works best.
I am pointing this out because the use of essential oils might work just great for one person, but have no real effect on another person.
How to treat Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Using essential oils to treat soreness is just one possibility of a number of methods that will help you reducing pain and fight inflammation.
During the research for this article I found out that you can do much more than simply apply essential oils.
So I decided to also list all other methods as well for you and – even more – I put together a whole treatment “strategy” against muscle soreness which you can find at the end of the article.
The strategy includes:
- Foam rolling
- Ice baths
- Cold showers
- Hot baths
- Anti inflammatory foods
- Essential oils
More detailed information
What happens in our muscles when we work out?
During a tough workout program, we put a lot of stress on our muscles. Our muscle system has two ways of motion: when a muscle contracts we call this a “concentric” motion. Here we build up a lot of muscle tension.
This happens for example in the upward or lifting part of a biceps curl.
All the little muscle fibers pull themselves together and altogether the muscle that is made up of these fibers contracts as well.
On the other hand, there is an “eccentric” motion where a muscle experiences an elongation or tension under the load of weight.
This happens for example when you lower the weight during a biceps curl back to the original starting position.
If you do this lowering of weight in a slow controlled manner instead of just dropping the weight down, your muscle tissue is getting stretched – but this stretching happens under tension!
The result is a large number of tiny little microtears and muscle damage in your muscle fibers. This damage causes a number of muscle inflammations as the body starts its repair process and that is what we feel as sore muscles.
Studies have shown that the damage largely happens during eccentric motion patterns. Therefore, exercises containing mainly concentric movement patterns are much less likely to create sore muscles.
Muscle soreness is important for muscle growth as your body tries to adapt to the increased strain.
With every little damage that happens to a muscle fiber, this very same fiber will grow back even stronger!
Immediate muscle pain during physical activity
During an exercise program, you will also experience immediate pain and you might already start to think: “I´ll have serious muscle soreness tomorrow…”
But this immediate muscle pain usually results from the normal activity of your anaerobic energy system when lactate is produced as a side product.
You will feel immediate pain relief once you stop exercising.
The second possibility for muscle pain during workouts could also lie in the existence of physical issues with certain muscles or muscle groups or even joints.
In that case, you should contact a healthcare professional and get the issue sorted out.
But you should feel the difference between the two kinds of pain right away.
Sore muscles one or two days after a workout
Usually, muscle soreness will fully kick in one or two days after a proper workout.
And by the way: this soreness is no indicator whatsoever of how fit you are. Even the fittest people will meet their master in form of an exercise that gives them a tough challenge.
This moderate muscle soreness is called “delayed onset muscle soreness”. In this condition, you will definitely feel aching muscles but you will still be able to perform your everyday life.
On a scale from 0-10 I would give this kind of soreness a four – the maximum a five!
Serious muscle soreness and muscle aches
- You experience serious pain in your muscles and this pain prevents you from performing your normal everyday life. This pain can be categorized as something like an eight or nine on our 10-point scale.
- If you experience severely swollen limbs.
- If you experience a reduced range of motion due to swollen joints.
- If your urine has a dark color
Then your workout was too hard!
If you experience any of the above symptoms then seek medical assistance!
This is a very serious condition that goes far beyond delayed onset muscle soreness and even serious muscle soreness.
Rhabdomyolysis is a condition that – if untreated – can lead to death!
Every year about 26000 people encounter “Rhabdo” – mostly athletes performing very demanding kinds of sports or professionals like firefighters or soldiers who constantly push their bodies to or even beyond their limits.
As we already learned above, normal delayed onset muscle soreness results from many tiny injuries that occur during demanding physical activity.
Rhabdomyolysis occurs after extreme physical activity. During muscle breakdown, myoglobin is released into our blood and forwarded to our kidneys.
The kidneys are responsible for releasing this increased amount of myoglobin into our urine so that it can finally be flushed out from our bodies.
If the concentration of myoglobin in our kidneys gets too high, kidney failure can occur which is a life-threatening condition.
When should you be concerned?
- If you still have extremely sore or weak muscles a few days after exercising If you experience muscle swelling
- If you have dark urine
- If you experience dehydration
- If you feel nausea or even lose consciousness
then see your doctor right away to get tested and treated for rhabdomyolysis!
How else can we treat sore muscles?
I´m sure you have already seen people foam rolling. The initial idea of foam rolling was to massage and soften fascia, hence the name self-myofascial release.
However this theory has lately been questioned and scientists came up with the theory that foam rolling rather activates your nervous system to relieve pain.
One way or the other – foam rolling right after physical avtivity is a proven method to provide pain relieve.
Ice bath or cold shower
An ice bath is a bath filled with cold water with optionally added ice with a temperature between 50-59 degrees Fahrenheit (10-15 degrees Celsius) and no longer than 15-20 minutes.
The coldness causes your blood vessels to constrict and therefore reduce the overall blood flow. This also prevents the flow of lactate in your blood.
Additionally the coldness may also help to fight inflammation.
The same applies to cold showers.
People with certain health conditions like heart problems or high blood pressure should be careful with ice baths or cold showers!
You can also help your body recover from the inside by consuming anti-inlammatory foods. Create a meal consisting – or at least containing some – of these foods:
- Fatty fish containing Omega3-fats
- Water Melon
- Olive Oil
- Teas like Peppermint Tea, Green Tea, or Rose Hip Tea
Essential Oils and Massage Oils
Apply essential oils with ingredients from our list at the beginning of this article. You can either use essential oils during a self massage or get a nice massage. You can also use a diffuser or humidifier to inhale essential oils.
Or you can also apply essential oils topically using compresses.
I do not want to leave this possibility unmentioned – especially when everything else fails and you feel the need for very quick pain relieve.
NSAIDs – Non-Steroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs are designed to counter inflammation, pain and reduce swelling.
However, these drugs also have side effects like heartburn, indigestion, nausea or even stomach bleeding and kidney problems.
Does more exercise help to reduce muscle soreness?
This also is one question that is being asked again and again. Some even suggest to simply repeat the same training routine again to counter the painful results of the initial physical activity.
Well – no! That´s not how it goes, but some little truth lies within this “bro-science”.
Light activity will definitely help to release muscle tension and it will give you a good feeling.
The strategy against muscle pain
So here is my – tested – strategy to counter Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness:
Immediately after Workout:
- Use the Foam Roll
- Take an ice bath or at least a cold shower
- Drink cold peppermint tea or green tea
- Create a meal containing anti inflammatory ingredients
- Apply essential oils
- Take a warm bath to release tension from your body
- Keep drinking to help your kidneys get rid of the increased amount of myoglobin in your blood
- Light activity like walking, hiking or slow biking
I hope this article helped you to understand the processes that take place after strenuous physical activity and also what you can do to treat the pain you feel!
If you liked the article please like, share and leave a comment 🙂
Maybe you are interested in Kettlebell Shoulder Workouts? Then check out my article on this topic here.