Treatment protocol for muscle pain depends on variable factors. Is the pain acute, or chronic? Did the pain arise as a result of an injury, poor posture, repetitive stress syndrome, or tension from stress?
If you have had an accident or injury, I strongly recommend seeking treatment from a healthcare practitioner. For all other cases, here are some safe general recommendations, which will work best if done in conjunction with each other.
1. Decrease patterns or actions that make it worse. Notice which activities aggravate the muscle pain and either stop doing them or drastically reduce them. (You would be shocked how many people continue to do the very activities that they know make their muscle pain worse). For example, if you experience sharp pain and swelling in your knees after running, stop running until your knees are feeling better.
2. Use hot/cold hydrotherapy to interrupt the pain-spasm-pain cycle. Do not use this remedy if there is any inflammation present. Get a hot pack (the kind you microwave) and place it over the pained muscle for at least 10 minutes. (By 15 minutes, the area should feel hot to the touch; if it isn’t, the pack you are using isn’t hot enough for this method to be effective). Follow with an ice pack for about 3- 5 minutes, or as long as it takes for the area to feel deeply cold. Then proceed with another round of heat. Do 2- 3 rounds (hot/cold, hot/cold, hot/cold) ending with either heat or ice – whichever feels better to your body. Contrast hydrotherapy works by constricting and dilating the blood vessels; stagnant blood is pumped out and proper circulation is restored to the muscle, speeding tissue repair.
3. Use herbal teas to calm your nervous system. The level of tension held in muscle tissue throughout the body is controlled by the nervous system. Kava root tea (available at most grocery stores under the Yogi Tea brand) is primarily consumed to relax without disrupting mental clarity. Not only does it decrease anxiety, but it has the medicinal benefits of being an anti-spasmodic. Chamomile and skullcap are also wonderful nervous system soothers.
4. Self-massage. It’s ok if you don’t know what you’re doing. Just don’t overwork the area or you might make it worse. If you’re feeling motivated, there is an excellent book on the subject of treating your own muscle pain by Clair Davies, entitled The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook.
5. Breathe deeply. This is most effective if done during hydrotherapy or self-massage. Explanation: in the human body, oxygen supply to tissue is accomplished primarily by supplying the tissue with a continuous flow of oxygenated blood. Hypertonicity (muscle tightness) or adhesions (“knots”) decrease the flow of blood to localized areas. In this sense, depriving tissue of adequate blood flow is the same as depriving tissue of oxygen. So, take some deep breaths to get oxygen to the pained muscle as circulation improves.
6. If your muscle pain is being caused by hypertonicity (muscle tension), then supplementing with magnesium will most likely help. Magnesium plays a key role in regulating muscle contractions; in the case of muscle cramps, the muscle has an excess of calcium and a deficiency of magnesium. I recommend Natural Vitality’s CALM magnesium supplement; it’s a powder you mix with water to create a fizzy drink. I think the sweet lemon flavor tastes the best.
7. Epsom salt bath. Use 1-2 cups of salt per bath, and soak for 20 minutes to give your body time to absorb the magnesium. (Soaking in epsom salt, which is magnesium sulfate, is a good addition to orally ingesting magnesium).
8. Use an over-the-counter pain reducer/anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen to interrupt the pain-spasm-pain cycle. One dose of medicine should be enough if used in conjunction with the hot/cold therapy. If you are into the all-natural route, White Willow bark is an excellent pain reducer, and is available at local herb stores.