Alternative Treatments for Sore Muscles

If your muscles hurt from time to time, you’re not alone. Muscle pain is a condition that many people experience and can develop almost anywhere in the body–from the legs and feet, to the arms and hands. The pain can range from mild to severe. Sore muscles can result from either overuse or injury, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Traditionally, people treat sore muscles with pain medications such as ibuprofen and acetaminophen. But alternative ways to reduce or relieve the pain of sore muscles can also prove effective.


Cold reduces inflammation, pain and muscle spasms by slowing blood circulation. You can reduce both pain and inflammation by applying ice to aching muscles for the first 24 to 72 hours after the muscles have been injured, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. Placing an ice pack (or even a bag of frozen peas) on the painful area for 15 to 20 minutes, three times daily can help, according to the Mayo Clinic. Other types of cold therapy to consider include hydrotherapy and iced towels or other iced compresses. Be careful not to apply cold or ice directly to your skin, to avoid skin or nerve damage. Place a barrier (like a towel) between the cold agent and your skin’s surface.


Heat improves blood circulation. Once more than 72 hours have passed after your injury occurred, the painful area may be soothed by applying heat to it, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. Low-level heat applied directly to the skin through heat wraps on a continuous basis for at least eight hours can relieve pain more than short bursts of heat treatments or commonly used pain medications, the American Pain Society says. Other types of heat therapy to consider include: hydrotherapy, dry or moist heating pads, hot and moist compresses, and chemical gel packs.


If you can give your sore muscles a rest from any activities that cause pain, swelling or discomfort, says the Mayo Clinic, you can reduce the pressure on them while they heal. Get plenty of sleep and try to reduce stress, such as through yoga or meditation. Gentle stretching exercises after a long rest period can help reduce pain and so can massage if your muscle pain was caused by either overuse or fibromyalgia. But the University of Maryland Medical Center also cautions to avoid using the sore area vigorously when it’s still sore, such as by doing high-impact aerobic exercise or weight lifting. Instead, start physical activity slowly and in moderation after the pain subsides, and then add regular exercises such as walking, swimming or bicycling to help restore proper muscle tone.

About this Author

Whitney Hopler has authored hundreds of articles and several books in more than 20 years as a professional writer. As an editor, she’s served at The Salvation Army’s national magazines, and several newspapers.