Muscle pain, or myalgia, can occur all over the body or in specific locations depending on the cause of the pain. Discomfort may be random and sharp or a deep and steady ache, and it may be chronic or only last for a short term. Depending on what is causing your muscle pain, there are steps you can take to manage the pain and speed up recovery.
What causes muscle pain?
People of any gender and age might experience muscle pain, and in addition, they may also suffer from muscle cramps and spasms and joint pain. Systematic muscle pain that is felt throughout the body is likely to be a side effect of medication or caused by infection or illness. Localised pain that affects only a few muscles or a small area of the body is usually caused by overuse, tension, stress, or injury.
How can muscles recover?
Depending on what is causing the muscle pain, you can try a number of treatments to help your body to recover.
Rest and elevation
Whether your muscle pain is caused by accidental injury, new or intensified exercise, or intentional muscle building, resting is important as it gives the muscles a chance to heal and reduces the risk of further damage. Elevating the painful limb can help to prevent swelling as well as the movement of white blood cells and fluid to the area.
Cryo- and thermotherapy
Cryo- and thermotherapy help to reduce swelling and improve blood flow to the area. Cryotherapy involves applying an ice pack which acts as an anaesthetic, constricting the blood vessels and soothing the inflamed tissue. In contrast, thermotherapy requires the use of heat to encourage the blood vessels to dilate and promote the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients to the damaged muscles. You should alternate between these two therapies by applying an ice pack for one minute and then a heat pack for three to four minutes. Repeat three times in one treatment and finish with 1 minute of the ice pack.
Epsom salt, or magnesium sulphate, is extracted from seawater and can provide relief by improving circulation and reducing swelling. Add it to a warm bath and soak it in the water for up to 15 minutes to enable the mineral to be absorbed through your skin.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen, can be bought over-the-counter and help to treat pain by reducing inflammation. You can get these in tablet, liquid, or powdered form, and your doctor might prescribe a stronger version if appropriate.
Supplements may be able to help with systematic myalgia in many cases. They contain enzymes, amino acids, vitamins, and minerals to boost your body’s usual intake from your diet. You can take supplements in the form of tablets, capsules, gummies, or power, and in drinks or food. Since the causes of myalgia are so many, it is important to establish why you might be suffering from muscle pain by speaking with a doctor before taking any supplements.
How can supplements help?
Some supplements promote repair by helping the muscles to make protein, by providing the necessary nutrients, or by improving blood flow. Others relieve pain by targeting inflammation, and still more supplements provide energy to reduce muscle fatigue so that they can continue to work while recovering.
Branched-chain amino acids
Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are among the few amino acids that the body cannot make on its own. We can either obtain these essential amino acids from our diet or from a supplement to help with muscle growth by slowing the breakdown of muscle while encouraging muscle tissue to rebuild.
Tart cherry juice relieves discomfort by reducing inflammation. It contains antioxidant compounds that promote quicker recovery and reduce the risk of injury once you return to normal activity.
Citrulline malate is present in watermelon, and when taken as a supplement, this amino acid turns into nitric oxide. Blood flow to the damaged muscles improves as nitric oxide helps to expand the blood vessels, speeding up repair.
Fatty acid supplements reduce inflammation and provide energy. A high strength CBD oil that contains the fatty acid medium chain triglyceride (MCT) is a good option as it helps to reduce the buildup of lactic acid.
The fatty acid omega-3, on the other hand, may prevent the loss of muscle mass while inactive – a good option if you want to take a rest break before going back to your normal exercise. This supplement also reduces muscle soreness and fatigue.
L-carnitine helps the body to preserve muscle by burning fat. We make this compound ourselves, but we can also take a supplement to optimise metabolism and recovery.
Another amino acid that can be supplemented is L-glutamine, which reduces muscle soreness. A secondary benefit is that it is a great energy source as it gets turned into glucose.
Magnesium prevents cramping by helping the muscles relax. It works by blocking the uptake of calcium which normally triggers muscle fibres to contract. It also activates vitamin D, which can cause the decline of muscle mass if there is not enough of it.
As well as helping the body to metabolise protein, vitamin B12 acts as a catalyst for folate, which synthesises new cells and repairs damaged ones. Vitamin B12 can also help with the production of red blood cells, which help to repair muscles by delivering oxygen to them.
The antioxidant vitamin C reduces muscle soreness and aids with the repair of muscle fibres. It does this by supporting the metabolism of protein and by forming collagen that strengthens connective tissue needed for healthy muscles and tendons.
Protein supplements, such as hemp, pea, rice, soy, and whey, are commonly used for muscle recovery because they contain essential amino acids. When muscles are stressed by exercise or injury, micro-tears form and protein help these tears to heal and our muscles to grow.
Muscle pain may last a few days or continue for months which is why it is important to consult a doctor before undertaking a new treatment so that you don’t neglect to tackle the underlying cause or risk drug interactions. There are many treatments that can help with recovery, including supplements, and these can be applied separately or together to reduce inflammation, soreness, and muscle fatigue while repairing the damage and getting you back to peak fitness.