Ever had an extremely intense workout or sparring session?
A really exciting hiking adventure?
A strenuous rock climbing pitch that was just breathtaking?
While all these activities can be really fun and stimulating, what commonly comes after is not so much…
… sore muscles.
The best way, which I have learned to treat myself, is learning how to massage sore those muscles yourself.
What Causes Sore Muscles?
Having sore muscles after physical exertion is natural. There is no need to shy away from it or hide the fact.
Feeling the onset of muscle soreness can even be an indication that you have had a good workout. The problem is, people tend to let the muscle soreness set, which makes it worse.
An intense cardio, spar or weight lifting routine demands a lot of energy. The mitochondria of cells begins producing energy at peak efficiency to power the muscles.
However, the amount of oxygen being consumed is not enough, which results in the muscles switching to anaerobic respiration. This is marked by conversion of sugar into Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP), which are energy packets without oxygen as a component.
As a side effect, the muscle tissue produces lactic acid. Its accumulation is the reason for stiff muscles.
But that is not it. To explain the reason why you get sore muscles, we have to take a look at the muscle tissue (from a somewhat simplistic approach).
Muscles are formed of fibers, which are similar to many threads piled together. Their contractions and relaxation produce movements. After subjecting them to physical activity which surpasses their normal range, these fibers experience “micro-tears”.
But don’t be alarmed as these tears are actually the exact thing you need. Muscles heal with rest and good nutrition, and become stronger with better endurance.
But these micro tears cause some discomfort. Learning how to massage sore muscles is vital for avoiding a rough day, which could have been prevented very easily.
Tips To Massage Sore Muscles Yourself
The following are the ways in which I personally recommend massaging sore muscles of the major areas of the body.
As strange as it may sound, scalp muscles do get stressed from over activity. Your face and scalp muscles are continually functioning to express emotions, for instance. I get docked on my face by that left hook or a cross or even a roundhouse once in a while. All of these including stress demand a lot of activity from them.
Massage your head muscles by using your palms. There are plenty of ways to do this. Start by pushing the head muscles up with the palms, hold for a few second, then release.
You can also massage in a rhythmic, slow and circular motion while switching between clockwise and anti-clockwise rotations. Repeat the movements across all over your head.
Massaging facial muscles is also an underrated concept. There are a total of 43 facial muscles and they work tirelessly throughout the day to articulate expressions.
They become sore if not treated properly. Facial muscles need a somewhat tender massage. Use the tips of your fingers to massage them in a circular motion. Cover the brow, cheeks, jawline and even the ears to give your facial muscles a good massage.
The Hands and Forearms
The hands and forearms are in continuous use from the moment you wake up till bedtime. They are a focus muscle group for weight lifters and the weapon of choice along with the legs for MMA fighters.
I personally have a desk job, and the routine of sitting idly for long periods of times can sometime cause cramps. I take time between 2 hours to stretch.
This includes massaging the forearm with the palm heel, starting from the wrist and working my way upwards. I also recommend gripping and releasing the forearm all over gently. It improves circulation and loosens the store muscles.
Do the same for the hands.
Turn the hands perpendicular upwards to the wrist and join both of them together. Hold the position for 15 seconds and then turn the hands perpendicular downwards to the wrist. Again hold for 15 seconds. Also rotate the wrists clockwise and anti-clockwise for 15 seconds to add movement to the joints.
Neck and Shoulders
Everyone complains about stiff neck and shoulders. Our moden way of living requires us to remain more inactive than what would be considered healthy.
Bad habits such as slouching and wrong postures also contribute to their stiffness.
To massage stiff neck and shoulders, relax them and let them droop. Let your chin fall to your chest until they are touching. Place your hands on either shoulder and massage them with the fingertips in a circular motion. You can clamp and unclamp with your hands as well. Alternate between both movements.
For the back of the neck, place your fingertips on the upper trapezius and press firmly. Release after a few seconds and repeat the motion. You can also do the circular massage on them.
A sore back can ruin an entire week. But massaging the back is often neglected as it is difficult to reach by yourself.
The easiest way to give it some due massage is to place a tennis ball on a yoga mat and lie on it. Move the back to massage the muscles with the ball. Take care to avoid the spine and refrain from using excessive force.
Be gentle, and take your time. As your entire upper body weight is on your back now, it can cause harm to irritated muscles if more force is applied than necessary.
Thighs and Calves
The gluteus maximus is the largest muscle of the human body, and with good reason. It is responsible for upholding the entire weight of the upper. It is functions a at a significant capacity to enable movement.
The thighs need special attention in order to remain healthy and without any soreness.
One thing you can use is a foam roller. Roll it on your thighs to alleviate soreness and promote circulation. Use your hands to massage them with circular motions and grasping.
Use moderate pressure, as the muscles are fairly large and can handle it. Use the same techniques for the calves.
If you want more tips on self-massage, then you should check out Pain Science and Cheat Sheet.
Taking Care When Massaging
There are certain things to watch out for when opting to massage the body. Do not massage bruised tissue as the fibers are in the process of healing and it will injure them.
Also refrain from massaging immediately after exercise. Let your metabolism and heart rate normalize before you opt for it.
If you have a medical condition, such as autoimmune disease, consult a doctor before choosing to massage your tissue.