These things are all over the shelves at the drug store, ranging from stuff boasting that they’re ancient aboriginal secrets from the Navajo, to stuff with Shaq’s smiling face on them. They’re all more or less the same thing, a topical anesthetic that rubs into the skin to provide pain relief. They all work the same way, as far as you’re concerned, and they all do a decent enough job of providing localized pain relief from muscle pulls and the like. For that reason, it’s always worth keeping some on hand.
The oldest of old standbys, there’s nothing quite as satisfying as dropping into a steaming hot bath, with bath salts there to take some of the ache off the muscles. The heat is good for the skin, and helps relieve some of the pain, while the salts sooth sore muscles and relieve topical pain. The only risk is staying in too long, as it’s very easy to end up getting lightheaded from the hot water and salt combination. Don’t fall down and knock yourself out on the toilet. You might laugh but Google it, it’s happened to amateur runners and athletes before.
Far harsher, but far more rewarding for some, is taking an ice bath. Almost all NBA locker rooms now provide ice baths for players who need this kind of intense relief on their muscles. While they’re not as widely studied as salt baths, anecdotal evidence suggests that taking ice baths after intense workouts helps prevent injury, speed recovery time, repair muscles, and helps keep the muscles flexible. Remember however, these effects are all anecdotal. If you’re feeling the ice bath is doing more harm than good, maybe it is.
Those of you lucky enough to live in cities large enough have the right kind of spas to treat athletes and their injuries. If you’ve been going extra hard, you might consider it worth your time to hit a real spa. Salt and ice baths at home are effectively homemade attempts to replicate the healing effects of hot springs and natural spas. Going to a professional spa gets you better results, and they often also have facilities you don’t have at home. For instance, venik massages, where you’re struck with a tree branch in a sauna, are supposed to relieve joint and muscle pain. Anything’s worth a shot once, right?