5 Clever Cures
Next time you’re sidelined by shinsplints, scraped knees, or achy joints, don’t dash–er, hobble–to the drugstore. Simple solutions like cornstarch, sea salt, white vinegar, and even your own two hands can help alleviate common exercise-induced ailments at home.
A massage, even one that you give yourself, is a great way to relieve achy feet. But if your fingers are busy on a keyboard, try this no-hands-needed alternative: Remove your shoes and roll your foot over a golf ball, tennis ball, or soup can for a minute to encourage your arches to stretch and relax. For a more intense mini massage, roll your foot over a frozen bottle of water.
Relieve inflammation in or around a tendon with RICE–rest, ice, compression, and elevation. If you’re a runner, walker, or cyclist, reduce your mileage or switch to a non-weight-bearing form of exercise, like swimming or upper-body strength-training, until pain subsides. During your time-out, soak in a whirlpool or warm bathwater to raise body temperature and increase blood flow to the painful spot. To reduce swelling, apply an ice pack to the injured area for 15 to 20 minutes three or four times a day, or keep the tendon wrapped in an elastic bandage. Elevating your injury above heart level will also help control swelling.
Like an inflamed tendon, an overly stretched ligament–or sprain–responds to RICE, too. To make an ice pack that you can wrap around your injury, fill a ziplock sandwich bag with ice cubes or use a bag of frozen vegetables. Compressing the painful area with an elastic bandage prevents fluid from accumulating and minimizes pain and swelling. Wrapping also restricts movement, which will help your ligament heal. Just don’t overdo it–if you wrap the area too tightly you cut off circulation or cause additional pain. A general rule: Make sure you are able to slip one finger under the bandage.
If skin-on-skin contact from racing in a pair of too-short jogging shorts or an ill-fitting sports bra has left your skin red, hot, and inflamed, reach for cornstarch. It keeps skin dry, preventing additional irritation from sweat, and helps heal a raw area. For extra protection, dab petroleum jelly over the cornstarch. If your goal is simply to prevent chafing, baby powder should do the trick. Just like petroleum jelly, it works as a lubricant, helping skin slip past other skin without creating the friction that can lead to a rash.
Researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign found that women who consumed the caffeine equivalent of 2 1/2 cups of coffee 1 hour prior to a 30-minute bike ride experienced roughly half the leg muscle pain as riders who did not have caffeine. The science behind it: Caffeine may block an inflammatory chemical from attaching to muscles or areas of the brain that are associated with pain. Cherry juice also contains natural anti-inflammatory properties. Participants in a British Journal of Sports Medicine study who drank 16 ounces a day for 3 days before a strenuous workout felt less muscle soreness 2 days later. Still, don’t forget to guzzle plenty of good ol’ H20, as dehydration is a common cause of muscle cramps during a workout.