Whether you’ve just finished a workout, played sports, or just strained your muscles too much for whatever reason, you need a way to relieve those sore muscles. Heat has been known to provide relief to sore muscles. The kind of heat you apply has varying levels of effectivity and efficiency.
There are many ways you can apply heat to your muscles. Two of the most popular methods are going inside a sauna for a certain period of time and submerging yourself in a hot tub (check out our top picks here). Which one is more effective in relieving sore muscles? That would depend on several factors. Each offers a slightly different experience and their effectivity is not the same.
How Heat Helps In Muscle Recovery
To understand how both saunas and hot tubs work in relieving sore muscles, it’s good to have some knowledge of what heat does to your muscles. Heat treatment promotes blood flow and relaxes your muscles. After a workout or other strenuous activities, your muscles tear up so they need to be repaired. Blood circulation is also affected. After straining your muscles, you need to get the blood in them flowing again.
Heat helps dilate your blood vessels and it will relax sore and tightened muscles. Improving your blood circulation eliminates the buildup of lactic acid waste in your body which could also cause pain. Furthermore, it has a calming effect which is good for your overall wellbeing.
Heat therapy may also be useful for certain ailments like osteoarthritis and certain sprains and injuries. It also relieves spasms as well as neck and back pains.
How Your Body Reacts Inside a Sauna
Inside a sauna, your body is exposed to heat and humidity which helps you perspire. The problem with this is the heat and humidity will push your heart to pump harder. This will boost the blood supply in your muscles however, it will send hot blood up to your skin’s surface, in your body’s effort to cool it down. It could make your skin red or cause other irritation.
Spending some time inside a sauna has its advantages. It helps in detoxing, improving cardiovascular functions, cleansing your skin and relieving stress. It might even help in weight loss. However, it’s not always the best solution to sore muscles. There isn’t scientific research that confirms its effectivity. While there’s also no evidence that suggests it could significantly harm your muscles, that doesn’t mean it will be effective in relieving sore muscles.
Rejuvenating Your Body in a Hot Tub
Soaking in a hot tub for a few minutes gives you a very different experience from sitting in a sauna. The swirling hot water can easily soothe sore muscles. If your hot tub features jets, the surging flow of water can provide the same benefits of massage therapy which will help unknot your tightened and stressed muscles.
When you sit in a hot tub, there are many elements working together aside from just heat and humidity. The water pressure, buoyancy, and the heat from the water itself all contribute to reducing the tension in your muscles as well as your stress levels both physically and mentally.
In a hot tub, your body will immediately start warming up as soon as you enter and submerge yourself. It takes more time for your body to warm up inside a sauna. This aspect alone makes soaking in a hot tub a lot more efficient than sitting in a sauna. Why waste time waiting when you can achieve even more relief in just a few minutes?
As your internal temperature increases in the water, your blood flow also improves which in turn, lowers your blood pressure. This will get the blood flowing to the muscle areas that needs it the most.
Because of the buoyancy in the water, there is much less stress on your muscles when you sit in a tub as compared to sitting inside a sauna. In most saunas, the seats are wooden and sitting there involves gravity pulling down your body and your muscles working even more in order to keep your body sitting upright.
As mentioned, it is faster for your body to warm up in a tub. Twenty minutes in a hot tub could provide a lot more relief for sore muscles than if you spend the same amount of time in the sauna. Water is a better heat conductor than air so it is quicker and more effective in facilitating muscle recovery.
Plus, there is the added water pressure from the jets which produces air bubbles that could provide a therapeutic massage. You can adjust your position on the tub to allow the jets to focus on particular muscle areas, a feature that is not available in saunas.
Some Pros and Cons of Hot Tubs as Compared to Saunas
- Hot tubs are easier to install than a sauna and the actual installation is also less expensive
- More efficient in relieving sore muscles
- Can also help in decreasing blood sugar levels
- Promotes deep sleep
- Takes less space in your home than a sauna
- Less energy efficient. Saunas don’t use as much power as hot tubs
- Hot tubs require more maintenance than saunas
Both saunas and hot tubs help relieve muscle soreness. They both help in blood circulation and in promoting your overall wellbeing. However, the way they provide these soothing effects vary significantly which affects their effectivity and efficiency. Some may find sitting in a sauna more relaxing than being submerged in a tub. But if your main goal is to relieve your sore muscles, soaking in a hot tub for a few minutes is significantly more effective than spending a lot of time in a sauna.
There may be some downsides in installing a hot tub in your home instead of a sauna. It would require more maintenance and would consume more energy. But considering the benefits of hot tubs over that of a sauna’s the overall cost would pretty much be the same if not less.