After an intense workout or even a long day doing chores, it’s normal to experience sore muscles. In most cases, muscle soreness goes away after a day or two. However, if you’ve got lingering soreness, it might be tempting to take an over-the-counter analgesic like ibuprofen. While these medications are fine on occasion, it’s also important to look for other, natural ways to relieve your pain. Long-term use of over-the-counter painkillers can lead to disorders like intestinal permeability that hinder your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Before you reach for ibuprofen or another painkiller, try one of these five natural alternatives to speed up your muscle recovery.

1. Drink Tart Cherry Juice

Tart cherries contain compounds called anthocyanins, which prevent oxidative damage caused by free radicals. By consuming tart cherries or tart cherry juice before a workout, you can prevent the inflammation that causes sore muscles.

If you don’t like tart cherries, you can consume other antioxidant-rich foods like kale, blueberries, and quinoa for similar benefits.  Ginger is also great for preventing muscle soreness. Even consuming just two grams of ground ginger can have major benefits. Try mixing some with hot water and lemon juice to make a lemon-ginger tea.

2. Try Dry Brushing

Dry brushing involves rubbing a stiff, dry brush over the skin to improve circulation. When your circulation improves, your skin cells are renewed more quickly, which promotes faster healing and a reduction in the appearance of dark spots.

The improved circulation that comes from dry brushing also helps promote recovery by speeding up the delivery of blood to sore muscles. To dry brush effectively, you’ll first need the right tool. The best back scrubber for the shower can double as a great dry brush -- just make sure it has stiff, natural bristles.

3. Get a Massage

Massage helps eliminate knots that occur in the muscles and fascia (connective tissue). It also improves circulation, similar to dry brushing, which helps deliver fresh blood to the muscles and promote recovery.

If you have the cash to spare, a massage from a professional massage therapist is a great option. If you can’t afford a professional massage or don’t live close to anyone who offers these services, you can also work out knots in your muscles and fascia at home with a foam roller or massage ball.

4. Hit the Gym

This might seem counterintuitive, especially if it was an intense gym session that caused your soreness. However, getting in a good workout the day after the soreness hits helps break up scar tissue and send more blood to the muscles, which will actually help you recover faster.

One study even found that active exercise was just as effective as massage at relieving muscle soreness. Your workout doesn’t have to be super intense to get these benefits, either. Even just going for a walk or jog or doing some light resistance training can make a big difference.

5. Make a Homemade Muscle Rub

There are lots of natural products -- many of which are probably already in your fridge or pantry -- that you can apply topically to help relieve sore muscles.

Try one of these recipes for easy homemade muscle rubs:

Lemon-Honey Rub

Lemons and honey both have anti-inflammatory properties. Mix two tablespoons of honey with the juice of three lemons. Microwave it for about 30 seconds, then use a towel to apply the mixture to your sore muscles.

Ginger Cayenne Rub

Ginger has great anti-inflammatory benefits, and cayenne contains capsaicin, which causes a heating sensation that helps relieve pain. Mix one teaspoon of ground ginger with a half teaspoon of ground cayenne. Stir the mixture into two ounces of coconut oil and one ounce of olive oil, then apply the rub to your skin.

You can also add essential oils like eucalyptus, peppermint, clove, or camphor to either of these rubs for extra pain relieving benefits.

If your muscles are sore and you need relief, give these alternative treatments a try before you reach for a painkiller. You’ll help solve the root of the problem, rather than just covering up symptoms, and you’ll be back to your favorite activities before you know it!

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