Muscle pain or myalgia can be really distressing while it lasts. It doesn’t let you do any work and all you want to do is get relief from the soreness and pain. If you have muscle pain, chances are you already know where it stems from. Physical activity and stress are the most common causes of muscle pain. It can also occur due to an injury to a muscle, wear and tear, infections, sprain or strain, deficiency of a nutrient, dehydration or an underlying health condition such as fibromyalgia, anaemia, and chronic fatigue syndrome. 

Older people, those who have to sit or stand at one place for long, or those who engage in strenuous physical activity experience muscle pain more often. 

Sure it’s easy to pop a pill and go about your work but there are only so many pills you can take, especially when you don’t have an underlying health condition. So, if you have ruled out serious health problems, you can try some home remedies for relieving pain in the muscles.

Here are some of the tried and tested remedies that may provide you with some relief from your muscle pain.

  1. Home remedies for muscle aches
  2. RICE for muscle pain
  3. Massage for muscle pain
  4. Epsom salt soak for muscle pain
  5. Herbal remedies for muscle pain
  6. Caffeine reduces muscle pain
  7. Replenish fluids to reduce muscle pain
  8. Other remedies to relieve muscle soreness
  9. When to see a doctor for muscle pain

Depending on the reason for your pain, you can try various remedies for relief. Let us have a look at some of these remedies and how you can use them.

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RICE is more of a preventive method, which can be used to avoid muscle pain and swelling due to an injury. The word RICE breaks down to:

  • Rest: Rest the injured area and avoid much movement, especially if it causes you discomfort. 
  • Ice: Apply ice or a cold pack on the injured area two to three times a day for 15-20 minutes, for a day or two after the injury. Along with pain, this would also prevent swelling.
  • Compression: Bandage the area properly but do not tie it tightly since it may worsen the pain or swelling. 
  • Elevation: Keep the injured area raised above the level of your heart. You can use a pillow or cushion to do this.

Check-in with your doctor to ensure that the injury is not major.

Massage is one of the most popular alternative therapies for sore muscles. A good massage relaxes body tissues, improves circulation and increases the levels of the happy hormone - serotonin - in the body. This not only helps reduce pain but also stress and tension.

According to a systemic review and meta-analysis published in the peer-reviewed journal Frontiers in Physiology, massage therapy right after vigorous exercise is quite effective in reducing delayed onset muscle soreness, the kind of muscle pain that occurs after a few hours or days of strenuous activity. Massage also improves muscle performance. 

While you can a gently massage at home to get relief from muscle pain, for persistent pain, it is best to visit a professional. There are various kinds of therapeutic massages you can try in addition to your conventional treatment. These include deep tissue massage, neuromuscular massage and reflexology.

Read more: Castor oil for pain relief

Many people swear by the benefits of an Epsom salt soak for reducing muscle pain and swelling.

While there isn’t much evidence on the benefits of Epsom salt for sore muscles, Epsom salt is chemically magnesium sulphate. Experts say that lack of magnesium is one of the possible causes of muscle cramps and soreness. Now, supplement tablets are one way to get magnesium (once your doctor tells you that you actually need them). However, it is believed that you can also take some magnesium through an Epsom salt soak. 

Here is how you can use Epsom salt:

What you’ll need:

  • 1 cup Epsom salt
  • A tub or bucket of hot water

How to use:

  • Put the salt in the hot water.
  • Mix properly to dissolve the salt.
  • Soak the affected area for 15 to 20 minutes.

Make sure the water is no too hot. The water increases blood flow to the concerned area and relaxes muscles.

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There are several herbs that are known for relieving pain and inflammation. Though, not all of them are scientifically proven to be effective. Here is a small list of such herbs along with their therapeutic actions:

  • Turmeric: Turmeric has been used as an antiseptic and painkiller in traditional medicine for a long time. Studies show that curcumin, an active compound present in turmeric, reduces inflammation and pain. Oral supplements of curcumin have also been found to be effective in reducing pain in delayed onset muscle soreness. However, you can also apply turmeric to your sore muscles to get all the benefits of curcumin. In 2010, a study done on 12 subjects indicated that turmeric application along with ice therapy helps reduce muscle pain. You can either add turmeric to your diet (just add a bit of turmeric while cooking) or mix a pinch of turmeric in a teaspoon of massage oil to be applied to the affected site.
  • Ginger: Ginger is yet another anti-inflammatory and analgesic (pain killer) herb that is traditionally used to relieve muscle soreness. In a small study, 74 people with muscle soreness got relief from their symptoms within 11 days when they consumed 2 grams of ginger every day.
    If you want to benefit from the analgesic effects of ginger, start adding it in your food.
  • Garlic: Traditionally, garlic is used for reducing fatigue. Lab-studies show that garlic has an active compound called allicin which has both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties. However, in the absence of clinical trials, it is hard to say if garlic is as effective.

Caffeine isn’t exactly an analgesic but it is hypoalgesic; that is, it reduces pain somewhat but does not provide complete relief from the pain. Ingestion of 200mg of caffeine (roughly equal to two 250 mL cups of coffee) has shown hypoalgesic effects in forearm muscle pain.

A 2017 study showed that caffeine intake right after strenuous activity can reduce muscle soreness.

The best way to take caffeine is through coffee or tea. Tea contains much less caffeine as compared to coffee, about 30mg to 50mg per 250mL green or black tea as per the Food and Drug Administration, US. Coffee has been shown to improve muscle strength and power.

Caffeine pills are also available in the market but it is best to take those pills after consulting a doctor.

While dehydration is considered to be a possible cause of muscle ache, there aren’t many studies that show the effect of water on relieving soreness in muscles. In fact, a randomised study including 10 healthy subjects found that dehydrated individuals are not prone to delayed onset muscle soreness. A recent study hints that it is electrolyte balance and not water balance that is important. 

Nonetheless, until there is more definitive research on the subject, it is best to keep yourself hydrated and drink about eight to 10 glasses of water every day.

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In addition to the above-mentioned remedies, you can try some of these tips for pain relief in the longer term:

  • Exercise: Try stretching the affected muscle gently.
  • Reduce stress: If your pain is due to stress or tension, you can try yoga, mindfulness and meditation to get some relief.
  • Abstain from any activity that might put pressure on the muscle and increase the pain.

Mild muscle pain resolves after a few days. If you don’t have an underlying condition and see any of the following signs, it is best to contact a doctor:

  • Pain lasting for more than 72 hours
  • Infection or swelling in the affected area
  • Rashes or tick bite
  • Inability to move the affected area

Look for emergency care if you get stiffness in the concerned area along with fever, vomiting shortness of breath and dysphagia (inability to swallow).


  1. MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia [Internet]. US National Library of Medicine. Bethesda. Maryland. USA; Muscle aches
  2. Michigan Medicine: University of Michigan [internet]. US; Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE)
  3. University of Minnesota [Internet]. US; How Does Massage Work?
  4. Guo Jianmin, et al. Massage Alleviates Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness after Strenuous Exercise: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis. Front Physiol. 2017; 8: 747. PMID: 29021762.
  5. Johns Hopkins Medicine [Internet]. The Johns Hopkins University, The Johns Hopkins Hospital, and Johns Hopkins Health System; Therapeutic Massage
  6. Gröber Uwe, Werner Tanja, Vormann Jürgen, Kisters Klaus. Myth or Reality—Transdermal Magnesium?. Nutrients. 2017 Aug; 9(8): 813. PMID: 28788060.
  7. Nicol LM, Rowlands DS, Fazakerly R, Kellett J. Curcumin supplementation likely attenuates delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Eur J Appl Physiol. 2015;115(8):1769–1777. PMID: 25795285.
  8. Gauri Md Izhar. Local application of turmeric on delayed onset muscle soreness. Br J Sports Med. 2010; 44(Suppl I): i1–i82.
  9. Meamarbashi Abbas. Herbs and natural supplements in the prevention and treatment of delayed-onset muscle soreness. Avicenna J Phytomed. 2017 Jan-Feb; 7(1): 16–26. PMID: 28265543.
  10. Kim Jooyoung and Lee Joohyung. A review of nutritional intervention on delayed onset muscle soreness. Part I. J Exerc Rehabil. 2014 Dec; 10(6): 349–356. PMID: 25610818.
  11. Caldwell AR, Tucker MA, Butts CL, et al. Effect of Caffeine on Perceived Soreness and Functionality Following an Endurance Cycling Event. J Strength Cond Res. 2017;31(3):638–643. PMID: 27552210.
  12. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) [internet]. Maryland. US; Spilling the Beans: How Much Caffeine is Too Much?
  13. Grgic Jozo, Trexler Eric T., Lazinica Bruno, Pedisic Zeljko. Effects of caffeine intake on muscle strength and power: a systematic review and meta-analysis. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2018; 15: 11. PMID: 29527137.
  14. Cleary Michelle A, Sitler Michael R, Kendrick Zebulon V. Dehydration and Symptoms of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness in Normothermic Men. J Athl Train. 2006; 41(1): 36–45. PMID: 16619093.
  15. Lau Wing Yin, Kato Haruyasu, Nosaka Kazunori. Water intake after dehydration makes muscles more susceptible to cramp but electrolytes reverse that effect. BMJ Open Sport Exerc Med. 2019; 5(1): e000478. PMID: 30899546.
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