Sore After Your Workout? Loosen Up With This Massage Therapist’s Tips

An active girl under a concrete bridge resting after doing sport. Copy space.

It’s hard not to laugh (while simultaneously whimpering) when you’re waddling around the office or struggling to lift an arm to brush your teeth after a strenuous workout. Those are the moments I wish I had an on-call massage therapist to save me from all my body pressure and soreness.

Of course, having a professional at your beck and call isn’t realistic, so I went for the next-best solution: collaborating with licensed massaged therapist and RRCA certified running coach & personal trainer Beret Kirkeby to create a head-to-foot guide for relieving pressure and soreness on your own.

Thanks to her recommendations, you, too, can target your pain and treat directly – just as long as you’ve consulted your doctor first.

Head

Kirkeby says headaches can often be “referred pain from the neck” – especially if the discomfort feels like “tight bands” around your head.

She suggests using your hands or a towel to stretch your neck left, right, and forward. Another recommendation: rolling a warm hand towel under your neck to support and relax the muscles or placing a cold pack on your forehead to release tension.

Shoulders/Upper Back

Shoulder and upper back pain can also relate back to neck discomfort. For relief, shoulders often respond well to heat and movement.

Kirkeby first suggests laying on a rubber exercise ball, relaxing on a point that feels good, and “letting gravity do the work.”

For another exercise, try holding a band in front of you, gripping it wider than your shoulders, and slowly raising your arms before trying to roll them around to the back can help, too. In addition, you could try putting one hand behind your head and one behind your back while using the band to draw them together – then repeat on the other side.

Lower Back

Over 80 percent of the population deals with lower back pain in their lives – these individuals won’t be surprised to hear it may be one of the hardest body parts to “calm down.” Once you’ve been cleared by a doctor, Kirkeby insists getting active is the best treatment.

The following exercises are some classic low-back treatments Kirkeby suggests trying at home:

Clamshells

While lying on your side with your knees bent, draw up the top knee while keeping your feet together. Do not let your pelvis roll back during the lifting movement.
Do 10 sets and repeat on each side three times.

Hip Hikes

While standing on a step, lower one leg downward toward the floor by tilting your pelvis to the side.
Then return the pelvis/leg back to a leveled position.
Do 10 sets and repeat on each side three times.

Bridges

While lying on your back with knees bent, tighten your lower abdominals, squeeze your buttocks, and then raise your buttocks off the floor/bed as creating a “bridge” with your body.
Hold and then lower yourself.
Do 10 sets and repeat on each side three times.

Since the hips, hamstrings, and glutes can affect lower back pain, moving and stretching those specific areas with a band or foam roller can also be beneficial for treating tightness.

Related:

What Causes Sore Muscles?

Muscles Sore? These Experts Explain Why It Hurts to Walk Up Stairs After a Tough Workout

Legs

Kirkeby says tightness in the leg area while training sometimes means your body doesn’t have the strength to do certain activities. Building muscles can help in the long-term.

She pointed out that many people are turning to cryotherapy (extreme freeze therapy that can help with recovery time, cell rejuvenation, decreased inflammation, collagen production, and energy) for postrecovery soreness, as cold can do wonders for leg pain.

Simply targeting specific muscles with a foam roller and stretches will help, too.

Knees

Since knees are mostly bone and ligament, Kirkeby says treating tightness and soreness in the areas above and below the knee like the calf, hamstring, and quad can alleviate pressure.

If foam rolling and stretching don’t provide long-term aid, heat, ice, and topicals can offer short-term relief.

Feet

Reverse-engineering the cause of your foot pain is key to mitigation. For example, if your feet hurt due to improper shoes or because you are standing on your feet all day, get sneakers with better support.

Whatever the cause of your discomfort, Kirkeby suggests a hot soak, high-quality rub, or reflexology (a massage treatment around applying pressure to parts of the body) to help with irritation.

For more cost-effective solutions, roll a cold water bottle or tennis ball under your arch, or try standing on it gently with one foot while opening and closing the toes. The round ball will spread your toes apart and give them some wiggle room.

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