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Best muscle rub deals for a quick recovery

Give your joints and muscles the relief they need after an intense workout with our pick of the best recovery rubs

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Whether you’ve had an especially intense session and need some quick relief, or you’re feeling the strain of a long training regimen, a serious muscle rub can boost your recovery time as well as tackle specific aches and pains.

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Some can even treat bruising and chafing marks that can appear while you’re on the bike or taking off your tri-suit, while others aim to decrease the lactic acid you’ve built up. There are a variety of muscle rub deals to choose from so we’ve included our picks of the best below.

But first, for a more detailed breakdown of the different types of muscle rub and how to effectively use them, we’ve spoken with Keeley Berry, who works on new product development at BetterYou, the UK’s No.1 vitamin oral spray and transdermal magnesium brand. Keeley is a nutritional expert and holds a bachelor’s degree in biomedical science. 

What type of muscle rubs are there and how do they work?

Most muscle rubs on the market tend to include the active ingredients menthol or methyl salicylate. These special ingredients are naturally occurring within some essential oils such as camphor and wintergreen.

Menthol and methyl salicylate act as nerve desensitisers, tricking the body into thinking the area feels cold by decreasing arterial blood flow. Sometimes these are combined with capsaicin, a compound found in chilli peppers to boost the warming effect.

These methods also help to distract the user from the source of the pain by providing a tingling sensation, boosted with cooling or warming elements. 

There are also other forms of muscle rubs which include NSAIDs such as ibuprofen and aspirin to help ease inflammation, which can be a good alternative for those who experience digestive discomfort when taking the oral versions of these drugs. 

More recently, athletes have been opting for more natural solutions to muscle and pain relief such as magnesium. The benefit of magnesium is that it can be applied topically as often as you require.

Magnesium chloride-based products also come in a variety of formats such as lotions, body sprays and gels. A single teaspoon of gel massaged into the skin releases 500mg magnesium chloride.

Traditional muscle rubs tend to be gel or balm based and can leave a sticky residue on the surface of the skin. All these products are applied topically for relief and their effects will last from a couple of hours to most of the day depending on the type of product. 

How should I use muscle rubs? 

For topical applications, apply to clean, dry, unbroken skin. I would always advise to do a patch test on a small area first as some of these ingredients can irritate the skin.

Don’t apply to any sensitive areas such as the eyes, face, or genitals and always wash your hands after use.

For acute pain, NSAID-based products may give more sustained relief. These drug-based solutions can be effective but are not always suitable for everyone. Follow the instructions on the packet and always check with a GP if you’re unsure of its suitability. 

Most topical products can be applied as often as required, but always check the label. If you start to experience any rashes or still experiencing pain after seven days, always revert to your GP for further assistance.

What circumstances would you use deep heat/deep freeze/other muscle rubs and lotions?

In most cases, applying heat whether from a heating lotion or hot water bottle can make injuries and inflammation worse.

For acute injuries where you have strains and sprains, headaches and arthritis, the best way forward is to cool the area down with deep freeze or an ice pack depending on the injury or ailment you have.

This will help ease inflammation and swelling in the area that typically causes the pain sensations experienced.

Once your swelling and inflammation has subsided, you may find that applying heat instead is more soothing. This is also helpful if you have tightness or stiffness in an area, particularly first thing on a morning when you wake up.

I’d opt for warming products such as deep heat or products with capsaicin in this case. This will increase blood flow to the area and help improve mobility, ultimately aiding recovery.

The BetterYou Magnesium muscle spray is a great choice to soothe hard working muscles and improve rest and recovery. Magnesium contributes to a reduction in tiredness and fatigue and electrolyte balance. It also supports normal energy-yielding metabolism.

Containing a natural blend of magnesium chloride and energising lemon oil, arnica and capsicum, the spray adds a gentle heat on application to speed up recovery time.

Best muscle rub deals to buy in 2022

BetterYou Magnesium Body Gel

Designed to naturally relax your muscles after an intense session, this magnesium body gel from BetterYou should also aid both your skin and the health of your bones.

It’s been made with a 30% concentration of pure magnesium chloride gel, which should actively target your muscles and joints, releasing the magnesium at a regulated measure for the best result. 

Suitable for all ages and even pregnant women. 

Deep Heat

A classic muscle relaxant, Deep Heat is well known for its strong herbal smell and its ability to pack a punch while delivering a muscle massage. 

This particular roll-on shape should make applying the formula even easier, so you can target all your sore spots. And weighing just 410g, it’s been designed for easy backpack storage, without taking up too much space or slowing you down.

Just keep in mind this isn’t for everyone as it’s not suitable for those aged under 12 or those who are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

Biofreeze Gel

This four ounce, pocket-sized gel aims to help with muscle aches and strains. This formula also carries the claim of being the number one clinically recommended pain relief brand.

Backed by pharmacists and physical therapists alike, the Biofreeze gel is said to relieve not only tight and painful muscles after a hard session, but also get into sore joints due to its menthol make-up.

It’s been designed for ease of use, so you can just rub it into the specific area that’s causing you any issues.

Tiger Balm Pain Relieving Ointment

Promising an ultra strong formula that will ‘work where it hurts’, this sports rub from Tiger Balm aims to help with any niggling areas. 

This ointment is aimed squarely at providing temporary relief on minor aches and pains. The brand says it can be applied to both joints and muscles to help with everything from post ride backache to injuries like minor bruises or sprains. 

Tiger Balm do, however, recommend that you don’t use this product one hour prior to bathing, and that you should wait 30 minutes after bathing before applying it to your skin. 

BeElite Recovery Cream

Although this cream has been devised especially for cyclists, it can also be used if you’re coming in from a long run or practising laps in the pool.

Not only does it aim to speed up the rate of your muscle recovery, it should also help with overall fatigue after a heavy workout, as it claims to help the blood pump its way into your muscles. 

It uses a variety of ingredients which have their own specific benefits, such as arnica, which BeElite says helps with the reduction of swelling and bruising, and shea butter, which should leave your skin feeling smooth and refreshed.

Extra Strong Hemp Joint & Muscle Active Relief Cream

Packed with over 14 natural extracts and essential oils, this hemp-based formula from 5KIND aims to tackle everything from stiffness and soreness to aches and pains, to help you recover quicker.

Its wide list of ingredients includes hemp oil, arnica gel and menthol, which, the brand says, should absorb easily into the skin, drying quickly without leaving any sticky or greasy residue. 

This product is also vegan friendly and all natural, which means you can relax your body without putting any extra strain on your conscience!

Cannaleaf Hemp Oil

Claiming to deliver fast-acting relief for your joints and muscles, this hemp oil from Cannaleaf has been designed to be used before and after exercise for maximum impact. 

As well as aiming to improve blood circulation and combat inflammation, it should also leave your skin in a hydrated and smooth condition once it’s been applied.

As there’s no menthol in this mix it should be suitable for all skin types as well, and due to its long-lasting effect you shouldn’t need to consistently top up. 

Premax Recovery Cream

Using a blend of muscle-relieving ingredients that include Omega-3, arnica and sour cherry extract, this Premax recovery gel has been created to assist with your next recovery period.

The brand also claims that it can reduce visible redness on the surface of your skin, which is especially ideal after you’ve removed your racing gear. 

There should be no risk of a greasy feel afterwards either, as it promises to leave behind a fresh, smooth feel and a subtle scent. 

Amp Human PR Lotion

Although this recovery gel has a number of ingredients that aim to boost the recovery process, its signature component is sodium bicarbonate, which makes up 33% of the overall lotion. 

This particular element aims to tackle high levels of lactic acid that has built up in your body after a serious session, which, the brand claim, will in turn lower your overall post-workout soreness levels and help you reach your next workout feeling refreshed and ready to go.

With no need to hold back, Amp Human says this lotion works best when a liberal layer is applied between 30 minutes and two hours before your session. 

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If you have any health concerns at all, or are worried about injuries, always consult a doctor, pharmacist or chartered physiotherapist.