There are two primary types of muscle pain. The first type is characterised by soreness and stiffness after physical activity and is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The second type is a muscular cramp characterised by a sudden contraction of muscles and a short-term and painful inability of the muscles to relax. These cramps are most common in thighs, calves and feet, and can occur at any time, including during sleep. Vitamins E, D and C and some minerals may help reduce soreness in muscles, including the thigh muscles.
Who Is Impacted
DOMS can occur in the thigh or any other muscle and in anyone, from marathon runners in terrific condition to sedentary people who increase their activity level. DOMS occurs when the muscle experiences microscopic tears, which the body heals as part of the recovery process. Cramps, too, affect all types of people. One cause of cramps is believed to be a lack of minerals that regulate the contraction and relaxation of the muscle.
Increasing Vitamin E consumption is recommended for people prone to DOMS, as well as those prone to muscle cramping. Vitamin E is an antioxidant, which means it protects cells from damage from free radicals. This type of damage occurs during workouts and may contribute to muscle soreness. Vitamin E has been shown to combat this soreness in all muscles.
In one study, Vitamin E helped reduce symptoms of soreness, inflammation and weakness of the muscles. Researchers concluded that subjects who were fit and ate a healthy diet may not need higher doses of vitamin E, but all who took the vitamin experienced reduced pain symptoms.
Researchers and nutritionists are increasingly pointing to Vitamin D deficiency among many Americans. Among the symptoms of Vitamin D deficiency is muscle aches, including thigh muscles. Supplementation is advised for those deficient in Vitamin D, as well as a modest increase in sun exposure. Salmon, juices and dairy are among good food sources for this vitamin.
Though frequently associated with alleviating muscle soreness, there is controversy over the effectiveness of Vitamin C for this treatment. Study results have been mixed, with a British study finding no beneficial effect of Vitamin C for DOMS. There is much more evidence to support Vitamin E in treating thigh muscle soreness.
Minerals that can be lacking and may cause cramps include calcium, magnesium, potassium and sodium. Cramps may also be caused or exacerbated by lack of hydration in the body. If you're prone to cramping, you may consider naturally increasing these essential minerals in your diet. Another option is supplementation, which is even more important if your activity level is intense. Sodium is rarely recommended for supplementation, however.
Treating Thigh Pain
No vitamins or minerals have been found to provide localised treatment to the thigh area. Instead, these treatments appear to alleviate muscle soreness evenly throughout the body. The best way to combat localised thigh pain is to adequately warm up and stretch the thigh muscles before workouts, and then properly cool down and stretch after the workout. If you experience ongoing soreness isolated to this region, it's best to consult a physician to determine the reasons for the sensitivity. If you experience ongoing cramping of the thighs and you're not finding relief in increasing your doses of essential minerals, take that up with your doctor, too.
Other Treatment Options
Bromelain is a mixture of enzymes and is found naturally in pineapple. It has been increasingly recognised for treating inflammation. There is also good evidence that the nutritional supplement creatine can help treat DOMS. Over-the-counter medications like aspirin and ibuprofen are other treatments.
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