Young man with muscle soreness on lower back alone on gray background

Is Heat the Best Way to Treat Muscle Soreness?

No pain, no gain. Or so says your fitness coach. So you know that sore muscles are the price you pay for a good workout and great physical fitness, but do you know the best therapy for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?

Are you experiencing extreme muscle soreness? Try a muscle massage gun! It's a portable deep-tissue massager that targets specific muscles, loosens soft tissue, and stimulates circulation in the area. 

Should I use ice or heat for sore muscles?

Ice and heat have been the go-to therapies for DOMS for years.

The rule of thumb is that you ice a new injury or sore spot Cryotherapy—using ice or cold—works by reducing the blood flow around the affected area, which does a couple of things. First, the cold reduces the inflammation and swelling that cause the pain, especially if it's around a tendon or joint. Cold also slows down some nerve responses, which helps in limiting pain. 

If you've cut yourself or are bleeding near the inflammation site, like if you've fallen off a bicycle and have some cuts and scrapes—cold treatment is definitely the way to go—never apply heat to an open wound. 

How does heat therapy work?

Heat therapy, medically known as thermotherapy, increases the circulation around the sore muscles, slightly raising the temperature of the affected area. This warmth helps soothe and relax muscles, increasing overall flexibility and reducing the stiffness that accompanies DOMS. The increased blood flow from applying heat also speeds up muscle soreness recovery. 

Thermotherapy gets the best results when the injury is a few days old. No one is exactly sure why heat helps with sore muscles, but there is some evidence that it's more of a neural response--that heat is a comforting sensation, and that people automatically relax when they are warm. Heating pads, warm compresses, hot baths or jetted tubs, and other heat sources work when the muscle pain is caused by some sort of overexertion—spasms, cramps, and knots—and there is no underlying condition. 

If you have any of these chronic conditions, heat therapy is not recommended. Consult with your doctor for alternative treatments. 

  • Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)
  • Vascular Disease
  • Dermatitis
  • Diabetes
  • Multiple Sclerosis (MS)

    Does massage therapy eliminate muscle soreness?

    How often have you told a physical or massage therapist that it hurts so good? 

    Massage therapy has long been considered a premium treatment for stiff, sore muscles, especially when you have spasms or cramps. There are two problems with massages--it's expensive, and if you develop a cramp on a Saturday morning you have to deal with the pain until at least Monday, when you can get an appointment.

    Recent developments in personal therapy equipment—knobby foam rollers, e-stim kits, back rollers, lacrosse balls—go a long way towards relieving post-workout DOMS. The latest weapon in the self-therapy arsenal is probably the bestthe massage gun. 

    Learn about the top 10 ways that help muscle recovery after working out here!

    How does a massage gun work for sore muscles?

    A massage gun like the VYBE Pro is basically a jackhammer for your muscles. Percussion rhythm in the gun provides a steady and intense stimulation to the sore muscles. It's a deep-tissue massage at your fingertips, where you can target specific muscles to loosen the soft tissue and stimulate the circulation in the area. 

    Can a massage gun replace heat therapy?

    Like heat therapy, a massage gun increases the circulation around inflamed tissue. Better blood flow results in eliminating excess blood that may have pooled in the affected area, and moves nutrients to those muscles. If you've been inactive because of DOMs, a muscle massage gun can also ease swelling. Using a massage gun right after your workout may help your body rid your muscles of the metabolites that cause burning sensations. 

    Benefits of heat therapy remain, especially relaxation and soothing sensations, that are side effects of such treatments. A massage gun is more of a complement to thermotherapy than a replacement. 

    Are massage guns bad for you?

    There is always the risk of too much of a good thing when you're using a muscle massage gun. It takes some practice to gauge your tolerance for the percussion—if you see the treated area get really red, really fast, there's too much blood flow, and you need to stop massaging that area. You don't want your therapy to make you tender and bruise, so start with low speeds. If your muscles start to get tense, they're rejecting the massage and you need to stop. Some people feel like the area is falling asleep and get a pins and needles sensation. If that happens, you've probably hit a nerve and should stop. 

    If you have a chronic condition and heat therapy is not recommended, do not use a massage gun. This includes high blood pressure and MS.

    Can I use a massage gun every day?

    Although using a VYBE Percussion massage gun feels great, it's not meant for everyday use. Instead, rotate the massage therapy with your other muscle relief devices, and continue heat therapy as needed. 



    Contributing Writer: Elizabeth Johnston