After running a marathon, you may feel like celebrating — but your muscles may put you out of commission. Even if you've trained and prepared for running a long distance, your muscles may feel sore. Muscle soreness is completely normal, and may start a day or two after running. Pain usually goes away within a week, but in the meantime, soothe it at home. Talk to your doctor before trying any home remedies.
Ice, Not Heat
As soon as you start feeling muscle pain, reach for an ice pack. If you don't have an ice pack on hand, wrap a handful of ice cubes in a towel. Hold the ice on sore areas for 20 minutes at a time. The ice will reduce muscle swelling and help numb the pain. If your entire body hurts, fill the bathtub with cool water and sit in it for as long as you can stand it. Do not sit in hot water or use a hot water bottle — the heat will cause more swelling, which may make sore muscles even more painful.
Getting a gentle massage by a professional who has experience with post-marathon muscle soreness may help relax muscle tension and help them feel less sore. Explain to the massage therapist that you are feeling very sore, so he uses light pressure during the massage. If you're unable to get a massage, gently work on those sore areas yourself. Carefully rub in a circular motion — if you feel any pain, stop immediately.
When your muscles feel sore, it's a sign that you should rest and relax. If your sore muscles still cause discomfort, take a dose of an over-the-counter pain reliever like aspirin, ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Take the dose exactly as recommended on the bottle's label. If your muscles still feel sore, rub an over-the-counter muscle cream that contains aspirin directly on the sore spots. The cream will temporarily relieve pain.
Gentle stretches reduce pain and stiffness while your muscles are recovering. Go for a slow walk the night you finish the marathon to keep your muscles limber. The next day, warm your muscles up before stretching by going on a casual bike ride or taking a jog. Stretch your calves by lying on the ground, then looping a towel around your right foot. Extend your leg up to the ceiling and pull the towel toward your head to increase the stretch. Repeat on the opposite leg.
- Hospital for Special Surgery; Marathon Recovery Tips from New York’s Hospital for Special Surgery; November 2006
- The Clinical Journal of Pain: A Randomized, Placebo-Controlled Trial of Acetaminophen Extended Release for Treatment of Post-Marathon Muscle Soreness
- "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies"; Deborah Tkac; 1990