What causes muscle soreness, cramps, sprains and strains?
General soreness after exertion (Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)) is typically cause by micro tears in the muscle. Over time as the muscles rebuilds itself stronger to accommodate the activity, soreness should decrease. You can read more about this at “What Causes Pain and Soreness After Exercise“. A muscle cramp, i.e., “a strong, painful contraction or tightening of a muscle that comes on suddenly and lasts from a few seconds to several minutes”, may be linked to a variety of causes, including:
- Exercise, injury or overuse.
- Blood flow problems.
- Lack of minerals such as calcium, potassium and magnesium.
- Certain medication.
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.
Epsom Salts and Magnesium Oil
Tried and true, a cup or two of Epsom salt dissolved in a warm tub of water works wonders for aching muscles. Use warm, not hot, water. Warm water will dry out your skin less. Soak for 15 minutes or until the water has cooled, up to three times per week. Not recommended for those with health conditions such as heart problems.
Magnesium oil 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.
How do Epsom salts and magnesium oil work to help sore muscles? Epsom salts are made up of magnesium sulfate, magnesium oil is made up of magnesium chloride. Magnesium is natural muscle relaxant, and as salts, these compounds help to pull excess fluids out of the tissues, reducing swelling.
Heat or Cold
A warm shower or bath is a natural muscle relaxer, which can be great for tension knotted shoulders or muscles tight from overuse. For bruising or inflammation, an ice pack applied to the affected area for up to 20 minutes can reduce swelling and soreness.
Low levels of magnesium in the body can lead to general muscle aches 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, squash and pumpkin seeds (pepitas), spinach, Swiss chard, cocoa powder, black beans, flax seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds, almonds and cashews.
Apple Cider Vinegar
15 people on the Earth Clinic Muscle Cramp page give Apple Cider vinegar a thumbs up for treating sore muscles and leg cramps. Most folks mix a tablespoon or two in a glass of water and drink it down, some drink a tablespoon straight like a shot. Still other rub the vinegar directly on the area of the sore muscle/cramp. A variation of this is a fellow who drank pickle juice and achieved similar results. Judith recommends 2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar, 1 teaspoon of honey, a sprig of fresh mint and 8 to 10 ounces of cold water, well mixed.