Does a sauna help sore muscles and if so, what benefits can you expect to enjoy? This is a common question when we consider that many of us experience stiffness and discomfort on occasion. Of course, there are numerous advantages associated with this type of treatment such as the ability to treat acne, detoxify the body and boost the immune system. But for those who workout out regularly, would your sore muscles benefit from a sauna?
The team at PHYSIOMOTION3D already offers a host of client-centred services including dry needling, sports massages and orthotics to help with sore muscles and tendons. We don’t offer services involving saunas themselves but we do have a more well-rounded understanding of how they can relieve common muscular aches and pains. Let us, therefore, take a closer look at why saunas can offer a sense of pain relief.
Sauna Benefits for Your Muscles: A Quick Overview
Does a sauna help sore muscles? Most of us will experience a sensation of pain relief after a typical sauna session. Why is this the case?
A great deal of scientific research has pointed towards an increased dilation (expansion) of the associated blood vessels. Wider vessels allow your body to pump blood more efficiently to and from the muscles themselves. Not only can this help to disperse concentrations of lactic acid, but the muscles and surrounding skeletal tissues will receive nutrients that are vital during the healing process. The dilation of the blood vessels is one of the ancillary benefits associated with saunas as well as other types of targeted physiotherapy treatments. So, the results are backed by science.
The Role of Relaxation
Saunas will cause your blood vessels to expand and to increase intramuscular circulation. However, the relaxing impact of this type of treatment also plays an important role. It is known that muscles will become more relaxed and supple when they are warm. This is why stretching out is important before any type of exercise routine.
Similarly, saunas help our muscles to relax. This is particularly advantageous after a strenuous training session. Relaxed muscles are easier to stretch due to their increased mobility. Flexible tissues are less likely to cramp or become stiff. These effects will also provide a significant amount of pain relief. Please note that other treatments such as deep tissue massages can be used in conjunction with sauna sessions to offer more noticeable results. It is still important to speak with a qualified physiotherapist before undergoing any type of intervention.
How Long Does it Take for Muscles to Recover?
Muscles will normally require between 24 and 48 hours to reverse the damage caused by a breakdown of their internal fibres. Of course, this window will vary depending on many factors such as your age, the type of activity that was performed and the intensity of the training session.
Does a sauna help sore muscles to recover faster? Your recovery time will also be impacted by variables including your level of hydration as well as your pre-and post-workout stretching routine. Those who are new to saunas should allocate between 15 and 20 minutes per session. Anyone with more experience can extend this time by to up to 45 minutes.
Does a Sauna Help Sore Muscles? An In-Depth Overview of Additional Advantages
It is now clear to see that there are numerous sauna benefits for athletes who are looking to address common muscular stiffness and soreness. However, many other advantages deserve closer attention. Let’s examine some other reasons why sauna sessions are an excellent addition to your current workout regimen.
Improved Longevity Rates
Studies have found that those who spend a significant amount of time in the sauna (a minimum of four sessions each week) display lower rates of mortality over time. Saunas are also associated with a reduced risk of dangerous conditions such as hypertension, coronary heart disease and myocardial infarctions (heart attacks).
Since saunas help the body produce platelets and red blood cells, these sessions can also have a positive impact on endurance. Not only will saunas increase blood volume, but their vasodilating effects can provide muscles with the nutrients that they require during an intense training session.
Enhanced Muscle Growth
Does a sauna help sore muscles to recover and become larger? You might be surprised to learn that heat therapy (known as “hyperthermia” within scientific circles) enables the body to repair damaged proteins more efficiently.
It may also protect against the oxidative stress caused by training sessions. Other effects include an increase in growth hormone (GH) production as well as heightened insulin sensitivity. Not only will you recover faster, but you may even be able to produce lean body mass at a quicker rate.
Scientific research has found that sauna health benefits go far beyond the muscles themselves. Regular sessions will cause the body to produce a chemical known as norepinephrine. Norepinephrine may help to stave off conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease and higher levels of this substance could prevent migraines.
Finally, a specific chemical called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) will be produced during a session in the sauna. This substance has been linked to increased cognitive functioning. So, it makes sense why many of us feel refreshed and renewed after leaving the sauna.
An Immune System Boost
Post-workout sauna sessions may also help to strengthen the immune system. A single 15-minute stint can increase white blood cell counts (these are the cells responsible for fighting off infections and keeping us healthy). Athletes who enjoy the sauna are able to produce more white blood cells when compared to those who lead sedentary lifestyles
Healthy Skin and Hair
Another benefit of the sauna is detoxification. Our bodies will excrete many substances that may otherwise remain trapped beneath the skin. Therefore anyone who suffers from conditions such as eczema or acne will often notice improvements over time. Higher temperatures can help the body to shed dead skin cells and to activate the sebaceous glands found within the scalp. These glands will release chemicals that cause hair to remain healthy and shiny.
Top Tips to Benefit from a Sauna Session
How can you maximise the sauna health benefits mentioned above? The team at PHYSIOMOTION3D has put together a handful of tips and suggestions so that you will make the most out of an upcoming session:
- Be sure to drink plenty of water so that you remain hydrated.
- Limit sessions to between 15 and 20 minutes if you are new to saunas.
- Immediately leave if you begin to feel unwell.
- Stretch any sore muscles while in the sauna.
When possible, search for fitness centres that provide infrared saunas. This type of heat can further intensify the advantages that were highlighted earlier.
Does a Sauna Help Sore Muscles? Putting it All Together
Does a sauna help sore muscles, can this session decrease recovery times and will you experience additional health benefits? The answers to these questions should be quite clear at this point. Still, we need to remember that everyone will tend to respond differently. It is also crucial to observe that those with existing conditions (such as diabetes or high blood pressure) should always speak with a qualified physician before undergoing any type of heat therapy.
Thankfully, the team at PHYSIOMOTION3D have the answers that you have been looking for. It is possible to add to the beneficial effects of a sauna session using our other treatment options including (but not limited to):
- Targeted physiotherapy based on your unique situation.
- Our proprietary gait analysis.
The good news is that most gyms and fitness centres will offer saunas and steam rooms as part of their standard services. Be sure to weigh your options so that the right decision can be made. If you feel hampered by sore muscles or should you notice that you require more time to recover between training sessions, try a sauna.
Not only will a session provide you with a much-needed sense of relief, but the additional health-related advantages cannot be denied. To learn more or to schedule a physio session with an expert, be sure to book an appointment with PHYSIOMOTION3D, a leading industry physio in Waterford. You might also like our articles on ‘how to run injury free‘ and ‘tips for getting into running‘ These are great articles for new runners.