The other day, I was at the gym, doing my thing—pushing myself to be a little better than the last time while shamelessly admiring the progress I was noticing in the mirror. I was feeling good ... until I wasn't. All that #beastmode power evaporated the next day when I woke up feeling like the scene in The Wolf of Wall Street when Leo becomes incapacitated from quaaludes. I could barely lift my arms to pull a shirt over my head, my ass was tender and my calves felt like rocks lodged underneath my skin. We've all been there, right? Crushed a tough workout only to be rewarded with stiff, aching muscles afterwards.
Of course, pain is a natural result of exercise. It's known as "delayed onset muscle soreness," and a sign that your muscles are rebuilding. Which is just what you want them to do. But that doesn't mean it isn't uncomfortable. And believe it or not, the jury is out on whether common pain relievers like Tylenol or Advil provide much help. Medical studies have shown that chronic use of acetaminophen or "nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs" may actually inhibit muscle growth, though they're certainly okay to use occasionally.
Unlike professional athletes, we don't have an on-call massage therapist or a buffet of high-tech recovery equipment like cryotherapy chambers to help relieve our aches and pains. Fortunately, there are some simple and inexpensive solutions you can try in the comfort of your home the next time you get a little too ambitious at the gym.
Whether you're suffering from aching joints, muscle tension or even swelling and inflammation, a top-rate muscle rub (or balm or cream) is guaranteed to provide near instant relief to that nagging stiffness. Whether you prefer heat or cold, or are simply looking to lessen pain, choose the one right for you and keep one on hand.
$6 at Amazon
Arnicare Gel Muscle Rub
Massage this homeopathic gel into your skin to help reduce any swelling or pain you may have—it even works to lessen discoloration from bruises. The best part? The fast absorbing gel has no scent and isn't greasy, so you can even put it on before work or going out for the night.
$13 at Amazon
Rock Sauce Chill
Like an ice bath, but for a specific part of your body. This handy roll-on (perfect for a gym bag and keeping your hands clean) relieves muscle and joint pain with a noticeably strong 6% menthol that delivers instant cooling sensations to stop pain.
$6 at Amazon
Rub this all-natural balm into your aching muscles to receive an instant shot of soothing warmth. Packed with ginger and cayenne along with essential oils of sage and cardamom, it may sound like ingredients for a curry, but the heat this rub generates on the skin helps blood to circulate, speeding up your recovery.
When your muscles are tight and sore, a lot of that discomfort occurs when our muscles (along with the connective tissue known as fascia) gets knotted. Multiple studies have proven that rolling your muscles out with a foam roller substantially reduces muscle soreness while improving range of motion.
$24.99 at Dick's Sporting Goods
It looks a bit like a dog toy, but this small spiked ball can really dig into those troublesome spots. Runners like to roll the ball under their feet and we've used it on our backs and shoulders up against a wall. Plus, it's perfect for travel.
$49.99 / $15.99 at Amazon
Supremus Muscle Roller Stick
Get a handle on your post-workout massage with this stiff muscle-rolling stick. Like a rolling pin, you can effectively apply pressure to problem areas, working out knots and releasing muscle tension.
$39.99 / $19.99 at Brookstone
Foam Roller With Deep Tissue Vibration
Backed by celebrity trainer Dolvett Quince, this vibrating tool takes foam rolling to a whole new level. It has three programmed speeds, depending on how deep of a massage you're looking to get.
Your Post Workout Drink
Blending cherry juice into your post-workout recovery drink (or simply having a small glass) can ease muscle soreness, according to a recent Scandinavian study. Antioxidant compounds found in tart cherries called anthocyanins are believed to work by reducing inflammation.