Hiking is a wonderful way to keep fit and enjoy spending time in nature. The downside? It’s common to experience aches and pains after a long hike.

According to the National Health Service (NHS), the soreness you experience following grueling exercise is caused by small muscle tears. When you work your muscles harder than usual, the fibers become damaged. This is usually worse a day or two after exercise and is referred to as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).

Medical professionals used to believe that this soreness was caused by a buildup of lactic acid, but this is now considered an outdated view.

How can massage help?

Massage therapist Joan Ishibashi advises that sports massage can help you recover following hikes or sporting events. It relaxes your muscles, thereby reducing the risk of injury.

Massage will also help relax your body and mind. Going on a long hike can be physically and mentally challenging. Massage is the perfect way to wind down.

Self massage tips

You don’t have to visit a massage therapist to see the benefits of massage – you can do it yourself. Here are a few guidelines:

  1. Start by cooling down and stretching your legs: Never come to a sudden stop at the end of a hike. Walk around slowly for a few minutes. Stretch your hamstrings and quads, holding each stretch for at least 10 seconds. Repeat several times on each side.

  1. Massage sore spots on your feet: Make a cup shape with your hands and place them underneath your foot. Gently prod your foot with your fingertips. When you find a sore spot, apply a moderate amount of pressure, using small circular motions. Add in some soothing Swedish massage-style strokes using your palms. This brings rapid relief.

A tennis ball can also help aching feet. Simply place a tennis ball on the ground and rest your foot on top. Applying firm pressure, roll your foot back and forth for a few minutes.

  1. Massage your calves: Apply the same principles as above. Check for tender spots, and apply pressure for a few seconds. Use the pad of your thumb or a knuckle to work on particularly painful areas. In doing this, you will be stimulating blood flow to the injured muscle fibers, which facilitates healing.


  1. Massage your thighs: Finally, move upwards and tackle painful areas in your thighs. Use the outer edge of your palm to deliver karate chop movements up and down your legs. After rubbing your sore spots, use smooth strokes upwards towards your heart. This improves your circulation and assists lymphatic drainage, which in turn reduces soreness.

Using self massage tools

For a more thorough massage, invest in self massage tools. Available in most sports and leisure stores, these tools come in all shapes and sizes. You can use foam rollers, massage sticks, and spiky massage balls to alleviate muscle tension and improve blood flow. Tools are an excellent way to treat and prevent painful muscle knots.

When to see a professional

Self massage is sufficient for most hikers. DOMS should go away within a few days. However, if the pain persists, you may need to see a massage therapist. Choose someone who can offer you the right treatment.

A little background knowledge will help you find the right therapist. For instance, it’s important to know the difference between Swedish vs sports massage. The former is a relatively superficial treatment directed at the top layers of muscle.

The latter is far more vigorous and tailored to athletes. Find a licensed professional experienced in this approach. If you suffer with ongoing pain and soreness, they may refer you on to a medical professional.

Author Bio 

Clara Masters is an entrepreneur and content marketer. In a former life, as a corporate business executive, she relied on yoga, reflexology and other alternative practices to fight stress, anxiety and find balance. At Massageaholic.com she’s on a mission to bring massage therapy closer to those who want to live a balanced, healthy life, connecting body, mind and spirit. You can follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.


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