Walking, smiling, frowning – what’s the commonality in all this? Muscles, that’s what. Muscles work in two ways – by contracting and expanding, thereby pushing and pulling the joints and bones into movement. This is what is generally called the flexing of muscles. For muscles to stay healthy, they need to go back to a relaxed position after muscle flexing occurs. When muscles are unable to contract back to their resting position, it creates muscle stiffness and pains.
Why is muscle stiffness bad?
You might be attributing your muscle stiffness to that latest boot camp workout you tried the night before, but ignoring muscle aches is not good for health. Regular and untreated muscle stiffness can turn into chronic and debilitating body pain to say the least, and can cause brain fog, general fatigue, a feverish feeling, and even restrict movement and posture to a great degree. Muscle stiffness needs to be treated at the root of the problem – not by pain medication that just blocks the pain signals, but by remedies that aid the body in muscle relaxation.
Are there any natural remedies to help muscles relax?
Whether you are experiencing weather-related stiff muscles, general soreness from a workout, or even posture-related muscle aches – there are these eight things you can proactively do to alleviate the symptoms at their core:
1. Get a massage
Thought massage was only good for the skin? Research shows that a massage can really ease stiff muscles by getting the blood to flow faster into the sore areas, and letting the body heal itself from the inside. Trained therapists can also locate pressure points and are able to manipulate them to release tension and ease pain and have you looking and feeling great all over.
2. Try herbal TLC
Arnica is not just a great hair oil ingredient. In fact, this high-altitude plant, often called the mountain daisy, is a great pain reliever too. Available at most health food and herbal pharmacies, arnica can be bought as a tincture, cream, salve, or ointment meant for topical use. It also reduces aches, bruises, swelling, and soreness because of its active anti-inflammatory properties. Some athletes actually swear by it, though the scientific jury is still out on its effectiveness.
3. Indulge in some spices
Capsaicin, the “heat” agent in cayenne pepper responsible for that on-fire tongue, is a great anti-inflammatory and analgesic agent. Eating a peppered dish will not only slim you down, but also ease any and all stiff muscles. Capsaicin also stops the brain from sending too many pain signals while the muscles relax into their normal state.
4. Take a soak
We know that muscles work by expansion and contraction. For expansion, the muscles are flooded with calcium ions, which make the muscles stretch. To contract back to their relaxed state, the muscles are flooded with magnesium ions. A soak in warm water enriched with magnesium-rich Epsom salts allows your body to soak in the required magnesium, which prods muscles into relaxing back to their resting stage.
5. Eat protein
When you stress those muscles, you are making them work on protein power. So in order to replenish and rejuvenate those tired muscles, you need more protein! If you are feeling sore, don’t reach for comfort fried foods. Healthy proteins like chicken, eggs, and lentils will ease the soreness and prevent any muscle damage in the long run too.
6. Indulge away
If you feel like reaching for a treat to alleviate those poor, overworked and by now stiff muscles, make it a dark chocolate bar. The antioxidant content of dark chocolate helps the body combat oxidative stress. It eases the muscles into relaxing while simultaneously alleviating pain. The taste and the other anti-stress benefits don’t hurt either!.
7. Drink a cup of tea
A cup of peppermint or chamomile tea can go a long way in easing stiff muscles because of the pain-relieving properties of both the plants. Chamomile is rich in flavonoids, which are antioxidants and help in easing inflammation, thereby reducing soreness. Peppermint, on the other hand, contains menthol, which is anti-inflammatory and analgesic in nature (think ibuprofen) and helps the muscles ease into their relaxed state naturally.
8. Hydrate, pronto
Water is needed by the whole body, and muscles are no different. Stiff muscles can be a sign of dehydration because water is essential to maintain the ideal electrolyte balance (calcium for contracting and magnesium for relaxing) in the muscles. A glass of water might make a big difference since it lets the body flood the muscles with magnesium ions, in order to contract the muscles into their relaxed state.
Remember to pay attention to your body when it sends you a pain signal. Popping a pain reliever will only stop the brain from sending the signal in the first place, not treat the issue at hand. Using natural remedies to help the body heal itself will work the best. And stay away from any and all pro-inflammatory agents like sugar, alcohol, and caffeine – at least until the pain goes away!