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Ever experienced that achy feeling in your thighs a day or two after running? That’s called delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
When you run long distances, your muscles go through a lot of work and strain as they contract and relax over and over again. This strain can lead to muscle edema, which basically means that your muscles can swell up a bit.
DOMS happens because running can cause damage to different muscle fibers, mess up your body’s metabolic processes, and leave you feeling exhausted. All of these impair muscle function and cause pain. (1)
The good news is you can resolve thigh pain at home, whether you’re a newbie or a skilled runner.
Home Remedies for Thigh Muscle Pain
The following home remedies can help curb the pain arising from delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
1. Add salt to drinking water and consume
Did you know that certain conditions, such as a bout of diarrhea or being sick, can increase your risk of experiencing thigh cramps? It’s true!
Research suggests that anything that causes your body to excrete more salt can up your chances of cramping.
Sweating a lot and drinking loads of plain water can actually lead to muscle cramping too. So, it’s not surprising that people have suggested using salt as a way to prevent cramps. (2)
When you sweat, you lose salt along with it, and this salt loss is thought to be responsible for those pesky cramps. The exact mechanism behind it is still a bit of a mystery, but it’s believed to disrupt the delicate balance of chemicals in your body.
Studies have shown that the addition of salt to drinking water was useful in lowering the rate of cramping.
So, the next time you’re dealing with thigh pain and cramping, consider adding a pinch of salt to your water or even having a salty snack. (2)
2. Take an Epsom salt bath
Epsom salt is a remedy for many health issues, including muscle soreness and cramps. So, if your thighs are giving you a hard time, Epsom salt might come to the rescue.
Epsom salt is actually a fancy name for magnesium sulfate. It’s made up of a special combination of magnesium, sulfur, and oxygen.
Some researchers believe that Epsom salt baths can actually help reduce muscle soreness and ease those cramps. This is because magnesium plays a big role in various processes that affect muscle function.
Magnesium helps oxygen uptake, energy production, keeping your electrolyte balance in check, and many more. (3)
How to take an Epsom salt bath:
Add 2 cups of Epsom salt to water in a tub, and immerse your entire body in it for at least 15 minutes.
3. Do RICE therapy for pain management
Any pain or discomfort after running can commonly be managed at home by following RICE therapy. RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation, and this technique has been commonly used to alleviate cramps. (4)
- REST: When you feel those cramps, it’s important to give your legs a break. Take some time to rest and let your muscles recover. (5)
- ICE: Grab an ice pack and apply it to the painful area for about 20 minutes every 2 hours. The coolness can help reduce the swelling and ease the discomfort. (6)
- COMPRESSION: Grab a compression bandage and wrap it snugly around your thigh. This can help support the muscles and reduce pain. (7)
- ELEVATION: Give your leg a little lift! Prop it up on a pillow or cushion so that it’s raised about 15–25 cm above your heart. This position helps improve blood flow and relieve those pesky cramps. (8)
4. Drink pickle juice
Yes, that tangy, salty liquid known as pickle juice might actually help relieve your cramps. Pickle juice is known for its high salt content and sharp taste, thanks to the acetic acid in it, which maybe be beneficial for cramps.
Researchers conducted a study using electrical cramps in humans and found that 1 mL (a tiny amount) of pickle juice consumed just 2 seconds after the cramp started helped reduce the duration of the cramp. (9)
How to take pickle juice for thigh pain:
Pickle juice from store-bought cucumber pickles or safely fermented homemade pickles can be used. Avoid diluting the juice because. Drink it raw and enjoy the flavor.
5. Do passive stretching
Researchers say that stretching is a great way to treat muscle pain, including thigh pain. It might sound surprising, but stretching actually helps to reduce the activity of the affected muscle, giving you some relief.
However, irregular stretching habits can increase your risk of getting muscle cramps. So, it’s important to incorporate stretching into your routine to keep those muscles happy and cramp-free.
How to do passive stretching:
- Place your right hand on a chair to balance.
- Stand only on your right leg.
- Bend your left knee as you touch your buttocks with the left heel, and use your hands to push the feet toward you. Simultaneously, push your foot against the force.
- Hold this position for up to 30 seconds.
- Repeat the same with your right leg.
6. Massage the thigh
Massage can be your secret weapon in dealing with thigh pain and helping you recover faster. It is a popular method for treating cramps and relieving muscle soreness.
An estimated 45% of all treatments given to elite athletes during sporting events involve massage. That’s how trusted it is!
The magic of massage lies in its ability to reduce muscle stiffness and improve recovery. Specifically, a 10-minute massage technique called petrissage, which involves stretching, kneading, and squeezing, can work wonders for your quadriceps muscles (the ones on the front of your thigh).
Not only does this massage technique help relieve muscle stiffness, but it also enhances your subsequent performance. (11)
7. Start a short medicine course
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) are commonly prescribed to athletes to help with pain and inflammation. They come in both oral and topical forms.
NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can be effective in providing short-term pain relief. They work by reducing inflammation in the affected area.
It’s important to use NSAIDs judiciously and follow the recommended dosage. While they’re generally considered safe, they do have potential side effects on the gastrointestinal, renal (kidneys), and cardiovascular systems.
Experts often recommend ibuprofen and naproxen as common NSAIDs for managing thigh pain. However, it’s always a good idea to consult with a healthcare professional before starting any medication. (12)(13)
Risk Factors for Thigh Pain After Running
Ever experienced that annoying thigh pain after a run? It turns out there are a few factors that can make you more prone to those cramps: (9)
- Pushing yourself too hard with high-intensity running can increase the chances of getting thigh cramps.
- Going for distances over 30 kilometers without giving your muscles a break can also put you at risk for thigh cramps.
- Running on hilly surfaces adds extra strain on your thighs, making them more susceptible to cramps.
- Running faster than your usual pace puts additional stress on your muscles, increasing the likelihood of cramps.
- As you get older, your muscles tend to become less flexible, making them more prone to cramping.
- Having a higher BMI can put extra pressure on your muscles and increase the likelihood of cramping.
- Being inconsistent with your stretching routine can leave your muscles unprepared for the demands of running, increasing the risk of cramps.
Different Types of Muscle Weaknesses
1. Functional versus true muscle weakness
There are two types of muscle weakness: functional and true.
Functional muscle weakness is when your muscles feel weak but there’s no actual problem with them. It could be due to depression, arthritis, or being out of shape, among others.
True muscle weakness, on the other hand, is when there’s an actual problem with your muscles.
2. Generalized versus localized muscle weakness
Muscle weakness can also be either generalized or localized.
Generalized muscle weakness means that your whole body feels weak, and it could be due to being bedridden for a long time, cancer, and other factors.
Localized muscle weakness means that only certain parts of your body feel weak, and it could be due to nerve damage and other reason. (14)
3. Symmetric versus asymmetric muscle weakness
Muscle weakness can also be asymmetric (when one side of your body feels weaker than the other) or symmetric (when both sides feel equally weak).
Asymmetric muscle weakness could be a sign of a problem with your nervous system, such as a stroke or compression neuropathy. Symmetric muscle weakness could be due to myasthenia gravis (muscles get tired and weak easily) or just general muscle wasting. (15)
4. Distal versus proximal muscle weakness
Muscle weakness can be either distal (when the muscles furthest from your body’s core, such as those in your hands and feet, feel weak) or proximal (when the muscles closest to your body’s core, such as those in your hips and shoulders, feel weak).
Distal muscle weakness could be due to nerve damage or myasthenia gravis again. Proximal muscle weakness is more likely to be due to conditions such as muscular dystrophy (a genetic condition that weakens and degrades the muscles over time). (15)
How Can I Prevent Thigh Pain After Running?
Perform proper warm-up exercises such as stretching to avoid the likelihood of developing thigh pain after running.
Thigh pain is a common complaint that occurs in people who run a lot or those who run long distances.
If this pain or cramp does not settle or becomes persistent, visit your doctor. Severe leg pain may be a sign of an underlying disorder that needs primary medical attention. However, in most cases, this pain is not serious and goes away on its own.