Muscle pain: The best tips, tricks & home remedies

Muskelschmerzen: Die besten Tipps, Tricks & Hausmittel

It pulls and stings - ouch! Muscle pain is uncomfortable and restricts our freedom of movement. Up to 80% of the European population alone will suffer from back muscle pain at some point in their lives (1). But what can we do about it?

The most common cause of muscle pain is overuse or improper use of the muscles. Tensions, strains or our well-known sore muscles usually disappear by themselves after a few days. However, it can become more uncomfortable if the pain becomes chronic and everyday life and the psyche suffer as a result. In this article we will show you what you can do to relieve aching muscles and which home remedies are slumbering in your cupboard just waiting to relieve your pain.

the essentials in brief

  • Muscle pain can feel aching, stabbing, or burning. They are often uncomfortable but in themselves are not a cause for concern.
  • In order to be able to treat muscle pain effectively, it is important to know the cause of the pain and to treat or avoid it as a priority.
  • In addition to products from the pharmacy, there are various home remedies that have an antispasmodic, analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect on your muscles.

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Background: What you should know about muscle pain

In order to treat your muscle pain effectively, the cause of the pain should first be known. Muscle pain is divided into acute and chronic pain. If you are unsure whether your pain is caused by an illness, whether the pain is very severe, lasts longer or becomes chronic, we recommend that you seek medical advice.

What causes muscle pain?

The most common cause of acute muscle pain is overuse or improper strain due to unfamiliar physical activity. Excessive strain causes small injuries to muscle fibers (2). Most people know it, the unpleasant sore muscles after exercise.

Strains, bruises and torn muscle fibers are also classic sports injuries. Cold muscles in particular are prone to tearing. Caution is therefore required, especially in sports in which fast movements are performed, such as tennis or football. It is particularly important to warm up and stretch your muscles sufficiently before intensive sport.

The most common causes of acute muscle pain include:

In addition to the physical causes, muscle pain can also be caused by a lack of nutrients. Muscles lose a lot of water, minerals and vitamins, especially in combination with physical activity. Due to the loss of nutrients and water, the muscles can become acidic and cramp. Incidentally, this also happens with alcohol consumption.

The list goes on: stress, infections, flu and certain medications take their toll on our bodies. If the immune system is weakened, the muscles can also start to ache (3). For example, statins (4) found in cholesterol-lowering drugs and the antibiotic penicillin can trigger muscle problems.

As a symptom, muscle pain can also occur due to diseases or disorders of the nervous system. Neurological causes of muscle pain can be, for example:

  • Parkinson's
  • Polio (ALS)
  • Post-Polio Syndrome
  • multiple sclerosis

Unexplained muscle pain that occurs more frequently can also be caused by other diseases. A distinction is made between inflammatory and non-inflammatory diseases.

Inflammatory muscle diseases Non-inflammatory muscle diseases
Viruses, bacteria, parasites, autoimmune diseases Fibromyalgia(5), Metabolic Disorders, Hypothyroidism, Muscular Dystrophy

But don't panic. Often the cause of muscle pain is harmless in itself. However, you may need to take a hard look at your posture and diet to prevent future pain. The cause of your pain should only be clarified in a professional context. If you're worried that there isn't a harmless cause behind your pain, speak to your family doctor or consult an orthopaedist.

What does the body lack when it comes to muscle pain?

Sore muscles and muscle cramps can indicate a lack of magnesium in your body. If you do a lot of sport, it is also very important that you drink enough water. Calcium is also essential for the health of our muscles. But not only a nutrient deficiency, but also missing vitamins can be the cause of aching muscles. Vitamin B12 and vitamin D not only stabilize our nerves in stressful situations, but also support our muscles.

How is acute muscle pain treated?

Immediately after a muscle injury, strain or bruise, the affected area should be cooled. You can use ice packs from the freezer for this - a packet of frozen peas will do, too. Make sure to wrap your coolant in a towel so the cold isn't too intense and you don't get frostbite. The cold reduces muscle swelling and counteracts inflammation.

In order not to disturb the healing process of the body, cooling should only be carried out directly after an injury. During the healing process, you can gently massage and warm your muscles with oils or ointments. Depending on the affected muscle, it may also be useful to stabilize the muscle. For this, bandages or compresses are used in combination with essential oils or ointments. Above all, the priority is to protect the muscles. In the worst case of a muscle fiber tear, it can even lead to an operation.

How is chronic muscle pain treated?

In the case of chronic muscle pain, it is particularly important to know the cause of the pain. Nowadays, incorrect stress in everyday life is increasingly the cause of chronic pain. Driving to work, sitting in front of the desk all day and doing gardening pulls in the back.

Even if you think you move a lot, how you move can be important. If you have chronic pain due to your everyday life, it may be advisable to see a physiotherapist to correct a bad posture. When we are in pain, our range of motion is restricted and our muscles are not fully loaded. With the right exercises, you can use physiotherapy to activate and train specific muscle groups.

In addition to physical triggers, chronic muscle pain is increasingly caused or worsened by psychological stressors. Gentle activities are recommended to strengthen body and mind at the same time. Yoga, Pilates, a walk, and a relaxing massage can help here. Warm up your muscles and take a hot bath or visit the sauna. The heat helps loosen tight muscles and stimulates blood flow and the immune system (6).

When should I see a doctor about muscle pain?

Most causes of muscle pain are nothing to worry about. In the case of a hamstring or muscle tear, the severity of the injury should be diagnosed as surgery may be necessary in some cases. If you have frequent tension and pain in the neck and back area, it may also be advisable to consult a physiotherapist. In the beginning, muscle tension can be treated well. Later it is difficult to get rid of a permanent bad posture.

If you have chronic pain, you should always consult a doctor to find out what is causing your pain. If the pain is caused by an illness, it must be treated in order to get rid of the symptoms in the long term. Even if you are unsure of the cause of your muscle pain, if the pain comes on suddenly and severely, or if it lasts for a long time, you should consult a doctor.

How can I prevent muscle pain?

If you often struggle with muscle pain, this is an indication that your behavior in everyday life contributes to improper stress on your muscles. Regular exercise is the best way to strengthen your muscles. If you are more of a weightlifter, make sure you warm up and stretch sufficiently before a sports session. Especially when it's cold, our muscles are prone to tearing.

However, you don't have to become a competitive athlete to do something good for your body. Strengthen your core muscles through regular exercise. Above all, swimming is easy on the joints and trains the entire body. Walks, exercises and yoga also help to keep your body fit and reduce stress.

Relaxation exercises such as autogenic training (7) and progressive muscle relaxation are also good for preventing muscle problems.


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More often than you might think, our stressful everyday life increases our back pain. Speaking of everyday life: Most people spend a lot of time at their desk. Especially at your workplace you should pay attention to an ergonomic setup and take active breaks from your desk. Incorrect sitting positions tense up our muscles and this can lead to lasting poor posture.

If you are prone to muscle pain, pay particular attention to a magnesium-rich diet. The ideal basis for this are potatoes, whole grain and soy products. As fruits, berries, oranges and bananas are suitable sources of magnesium. Fish and poultry also contain a lot of magnesium and protein . ("8""> Protein is also an important basic material for healthy muscles. You can also find this in quark, cheese and legumes. Vegetable proteins are significantly healthier than animal proteins. (9)

Muscle Pain: The Best Tips & Tricks to Relieve Muscle Pain

Occasional muscle pain is part of life, depending on everyday life. There are some tips and home remedies that can help you relieve your pain. You can find out what these are and how to use them in the following section.

These remedies help against acute muscle pain

Acute muscle pain is often the result of overexerting the muscles. The pain usually goes away on its own once the muscle has recovered. However, there are a few things you can do to help your body regenerate its muscles.

Rest and spare

If your muscles hurt during exercise or any type of movement, the first thing to do is to refrain from doing it. Your body wants to use pain to signal you that something is not good for it. Listen to your body and give it a break. Sore muscles are caused by the finest injuries to the muscle fibers. These injuries have to heal before your muscles are fully resilient.

Women do yoga

Sore muscles are caused by the finest tears in the muscle tissue. Before you can fully exercise your muscles again, you should rest your muscles and give them time to heal. (Image Source: Bruce Mars / Unsplash)

If you have a slight muscle soreness, you should take a break for a day or two and slowly start training again once the pain is over. Muscle strains require rest for up to two weeks. If the muscle is torn, the regeneration can take up to twelve weeks and even an operation may be necessary.

Cool

Especially with sports injuries, such as bruises and muscle fiber tears, you want to prevent swelling of the muscle. Here it helps to cool the injured and painful area. Cooling can also relieve pain in the case of muscle inflammation. Be sure to wrap your coolant in a towel so your skin doesn't get overly irritated by the cold.

Note that you should only cool down for the first 20 minutes after the injury. The cold counteracts the physical reaction, which wants to start the healing process of the muscle ("10"">. If you keep the muscle cold, the body's healing process can be disturbed.

If you still have the urge to cool the affected area after a few hours, you should not use ice but moist compresses. Warm wraps have a circulation-enhancing and relaxing effect during muscle regeneration.

wraps and compresses

Depending on the cause of your pain and how you feel, cold or warm wraps can feel good. Quark wraps at refrigerator temperature or damp cloths have a cooling effect. Compresses can be used after bruises to reduce swelling. For this purpose, the affected muscle part is stabilized with a bandage.

Warm wraps are particularly suitable for tension and persistent pain. A wrap is usually used in combination with ointments and essential oils. A cotton cloth is soaked in the appropriate agent and placed on the affected area.

In the second step, clean and dry towels are wrapped over it to stabilize and warm the muscle. You should bring a little time with you for the application of wraps. After an exposure time of 15 minutes to an hour, you should also rest for a while. In the next section you will find an overview of effective home remedies that you can combine with your wraps.

ointments and oils

In the pharmacy and on the Internet you will find various muscle ointments on offer. Warming ointments such as Kytta ointment (11) or ointments containing cannabinoids (12) can be effective for sore muscles. A tried and true home remedy for relieving muscle pain is rubbing alcohol. It activates blood circulation in the muscles and thus supports the body in its wound healing. Extracts of comfrey (13,14) or horse chestnut also help with muscle pain.

turmeric tubers

The active ingredient curcumin contained in turmeric has a strong anti-inflammatory and antioxidant effect and supports muscle regeneration. (Image Source: FOODISM360 / Unsplash)

In addition to special products, there are also various home remedies for relieving muscle pain. You're sure to find some of them in your kitchen. The remedies should be gently massaged into the affected area and not applied to open wounds. Here you will find a small overview of natural remedies and how you can use them.

Natural home remedies Application Effect
Ginger Prepare ginger as tea, use ginger wraps, soak in ginger infusions or wrap ginger slices. Applied externally, ginger has a warming effect, promotes blood circulation, is anti-inflammatory and relieves pain (15). May cause slight skin irritation. Used internally, it also has an antibacterial effect and strengthens your immune system.
lavender Lavender oil is suitable for external use, for aromatherapy and as a bath additive. Massage affected muscles directly with lavender oil or use lavender oil in combination with warm wraps. Lavender has a relaxing and calming effect on body and mind.
peppermint Peppermint can be used externally as an oil or made into a tea. The essential oils of peppermint are effective. They consist largely of menthol, which has a cooling, antispasmodic and blood circulation-promoting effect. As a tea, peppermint also counteracts stomach problems and inflammation.
rosemary You can prepare rosemary as an oil or infusion and massage it into the affected areas of the skin or soak your wraps in it. Rosemary increases blood circulation and has an analgesic and anti-inflammatory effect. It has a warming effect and stimulates the metabolism. Prepared as a tea, it also has a digestive and stimulating effect on the psyche.
chamomile Chamomile is a very versatile plant. You can also prepare them as a tincture, oil, tea, or add them to a hot bath. Chamomile has a relaxing, anti-inflammatory and antispasmodic effect on the muscles. Prepared as a tea, chamomile has an antibacterial and antiseptic effect.
cayenne pepper Cayenne pepper is used externally by making a paste with cayenne pepper powder. The active ingredient in cayenne pepper is capsaicin, which acts as a natural pain reliever (16). Capsaicin stimulates pain receptors. The skin reddens and can start to burn as blood circulation increases. With a time delay, the pain receptor becomes insensitive to subsequent stimuli.
turmeric The curcumins contained in turmeric are hardly water-soluble and therefore need and should be taken in liposomal form . The active ingredient curcumin contained in turmeric has a pain-relieving, antibacterial and anti-inflammatory effect.

Of course, all of these remedies are not only recommended for acute muscle pain, but can also contribute to relaxation and relief of muscles, pain and psyche in the case of long-lasting or chronic muscle pain.

nutrients and vitamins

Especially when you do a lot of sport, your body needs a lot of vitamins and minerals. Muscle cramps after exercise indicate that your body is suffering from a nutrient deficiency. Taking magnesium or calcium may be advisable. Your body also needs vitamin B12 and vitamin D to an increased extent when you exert yourself physically. But the top rule is and remains: drink a lot of water!

These remedies help against chronic muscle pain

Be careful with chronic muscle pain as it can get worse. Be extra gentle with your body, nurturing and strengthening the affected muscles.

heat and massages

Muscle tension is the most common cause of back and neck pain. Any kind of heat helps to relieve the tension. The heat primarily increases the blood circulation in the affected areas and the muscles are relaxed. In addition to heat patches, it is advisable to go to the sauna regularly or treat yourself to a hot bath. You can use some of the natural active ingredients mentioned above as a sauna or bath additive.

Man is massaged

In case of persistent muscle pain, a visit to a physiotherapist is advisable. With targeted exercises, you can prevent long-term poor posture. (Image source: Emiliano Vittoriosi / Unsplash)

Massages are also a suitable means of stimulating blood circulation in the muscles. A professional massage from a physiotherapist is of course ideal. But you can also do something good for yourself by massaging the affected muscles yourself. On the Internet, for example, you can find various massage devices, fascia and roll massage sets for at home from Blackroll .

physical therapy

Pain in the muscles often restricts freedom of movement. Long-term physiotherapy can be important to counteract poor posture and restore muscle movement and stress. Physiotherapy aims to teach healthy movements.

A combination of massage and movement exercises is often used in physiotherapy. If we have constant pain, we often do not dare to move the corresponding parts of the body to a normal extent. If the condition persists, the relieving posture may aggravate the pain.

electrotherapy

As part of physiotherapy, electrotherapy can be used to treat muscle pain. Electrodes are attached to the skin and the muscles are stimulated via a power supply. This electrostimulation relaxes the affected muscles, stimulates blood circulation and affects the perception of pain.

There are different types of electrotherapy, such as direct current therapy and alternating current therapies with different frequencies. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation is used most frequently for chronic muscle pain. You can discuss with your doctor whether the form of electrotherapy could be suitable for you.

psychotherapy

Even if stress and psychological strain are not the triggers for physical pain, they can make it worse. The field of psychosomatics deals with the connection between body and psyche in both directions. Pain can occur when the psyche is under strain. In the same way, permanent physical pain in particular can massively restrict our psychological well-being.

If pain becomes chronic, the perception of pain is often permanently disturbed. It may be that your body reacts more and more violently to less and less pain if the chronic condition persists. How your mind deals with pain plays a big part in how you feel it.

Chronic pain means extreme mental limitations. If your pain is also caused by a disease, this is an additional stress factor. A therapist can offer you support so that you are not alone with your pain and worries.

Conclusion

Pain in everyday life is part of our life. We are not directly ill when our body is in pain. Determining the cause of muscle pain can be a challenge. Muscle pain is a category of its own (17) and tends to be far away from the affected area (11).

The treatment of muscle pain can be just as varied as the diagnosis. Do not overload yourself and your body and listen to its signals. Soothing massages, sauna sessions, gentle exercise and walks in the fresh air soothe body and soul. You are sure to find your favorites among the various medicinal plants and home remedies.

itemizations

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  2. PM Clarkson. Eccentric Exercise and Muscle Damage. international J. Sports Med., Vol. 18 (Suppl. 4). pp. 5314-S317,1997. DOI: 10.1055/s-2007-972741 Source
  3. Marchand F, Perretti M, McMahon SB: Role of the immune system in chronic pain. Nat Rev Neurosci 2005; 6:521-32. Source
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  5. Staud R, Rodriguez ME: Mechanisms of disease: pain in fibromyalgia syndrome. Nat Clin Pract Rheumatol 2006; 2: 90-98 sources
  6. Khamwong P, Paungmali A, Pirunsan U, Joseph L. Prophylactic Effects of Sauna on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness of the Wrist Extensors. Asian J Sports Med. 2015 Jun;6(2):e25549. doi: 10.5812/asjsm.6(2)2015.25549 Transfer title to Citavi project based on this DOI. Epub 2015 Jun 20. PMID: 26446307 Transfer title to Citavi project using this Pubmed ID; PMCID: PMC4592767. Source
  7. Kanji N (2000). Management of pain through autogenic training. Complement Ther Nurs Midwifery. Source
  8. nu3.de: Protein-containing foods, Moritz Pohl, 09/03/2020 Source
  9. Song M, Fung TT, Hu FB, et al. Association of Animal and Plant Protein Intake With All-Cause and Cause-Specific Mortality. JAMA Intern Med. 2016;176(10):1453-1463. doi:10.1001/jamainternmed.2016.4182Source
  10. Physiozentrum: Proper cooling, May 14, 2014 Source
  11. Petrofsky, Jerrold PhD, JD*; Berk, Lee DPH*; Bains, Gurinder MD*; Khowailed, Iman Akef DSc†; Lee, Haneul DSc‡; Laymon, Michael DSc† The Efficacy of Sustained Heat Treatment on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: July 2017 - Volume 27 - Issue 4 - p 329-337 doi: 10.1097/JSM.0000000000000375 Source
  12. Degen, P. Fibromyalgia: Possibilities in phytotherapy. February 2008 source
  13. Schmidt, M. Comfrey ointment for blunt trauma and muscle pain, EHK 2006; 55: 326-329 sources
  14. Koll R, Klingenburg S. Therapeutic properties and tolerability of topical comfrey preparations. Results of an observational study in patients [Therapeutic characteristance and tolerance of topical comfrey preparations. Results of an observational study of patients]. Fortschr Med Orig. 2002;120(1):1-9. German. PMID: 14518351 Source
  15. Black CD, O'Connor PJ. Acute effects of dietary ginger on muscle pain induced by eccentric exercise. Phytother Res. 2010 Nov;24(11):1620-6. doi: 10.1002/ptr.3148 Transfer title to Citavi project based on this DOI. PMID: 21031618 source
  16. Cruccu G, Nurmikko TJ, Ernault E, Riaz FK, McBride WT, Haanpää M (01 December 2017). Superiority of capsaicin 8% patch versus oral pregabalin on dynamic mechanical allodynia in patients with peripheral neuropathic pain. Source
  17. Mense, S., Pongratz, D. New insights into the peculiarities of muscle pain. Pain. 2003 17:397-398. DOI 10.1007/s00482-003-0252-8 Published online: October 9, 2003 Source
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