Dr. Tannenbaum's Corner: How to Treat Muscle Soreness

Runners often have their own cures they swear by to relieve leg soreness that can occur after a difficult or long run. What really works to cure those aches and what doesn't? Here are some options:

The Cure:  Refueling
The Verdict:  Do it
Hydrating post-run is critical. Dehydration slows down all recovery body functions. Drinking water replenishes both cell and blood volume and helps regulate body temperature, which can enhance recovery. You must eat, too, as a 4-to-1 ratio of carbs and protein eaten within two hours of exercise is ideal for recovery.

The Cure:  Ice bath
The Verdict:  Try it
Research on whether sitting in a chilly tub reduces post-run achiness is mixed. There is some evidence that cold water can lessen exercise-related muscle damage and inflammation, so it could benefit you after a particularly intense or long run where your muscles have experienced the most damage. If you're not up for the brain freeze treatment, don't feel compelled. However, icing to reduce pain and inflammation in an acute injury, like a twisted ankle, is smart.

The Cure:  Stretching
The Verdict:  Try it
Post-run stretching has its merits, as it can improve range of motion and flexibility, but there is not a lot of evidence that it eases your pain.

The Cure:  Compression
The Verdict:  Try it
While they're not noticeably effective, if worn immediately after exercise, one study showed that compression socks can reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness if worn during a run. They are especially effective for hill runs because the extra tightness reduces muscle load and the jarring effect on muscles.

The Cure:  NSAIDs
The Verdict:  Skip it
Following a tough run that makes walking down stairs uncomfortable, you may take non-steroidal, anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen or naproxen, as they relieve painful inflammation quickly. This actually impairs muscle growth and can make you ignore cues that your body is fatigued.

The Cure:  Massage
The Verdict:  Do it
Massages boost recovery because it helps decrease the activity of pro-inflammatory proteins in muscle cells and stimulates production of mitochondria, the power generators within cells.

The Cure:  Active Rest
The Verdict: Try it
A light workout the day after a hard workout or race will enhance blood flow to the muscles and speed repair. Cross training with yoga, aqua jogging, swimming, and cycling doesn't use the same motion as running and can help wash out lactic acid if done slow and easy.

The Cure:  Sleep
The Verdict:  Do it
This is the best recovery as your body releases growth hormones during sleep resulting in the activation of tissue repair processes. Consider a protein snack before bed, as it helps stimulate overnight muscle repair.

These are some of the things to consider when muscle soreness acts up after a grueling day of exercise!