Does Sauna Help with Sore Muscles? (Comprehensive Guide)

We’ve all experienced sore muscles after an intense workout or a long day at work.

Some people swear by using saunas to relieve muscle soreness and aid in recovery.

But is there any truth behind this claim?

In this article, we’ll explore the science behind saunas and their potential benefits for sore muscles.

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What is a Sauna?

A sauna is a small, enclosed room or building designed to provide a dry or wet heat experience.

The high heat and humidity in a sauna cause the body to sweat, which is believed to provide numerous health benefits.

There are different types of saunas, including:

Types of Saunas

  1. Traditional Finnish Sauna: Uses a wood-burning stove or an electric heater to create dry heat. Water can be thrown onto the hot rocks to create steam and increase humidity.
  2. Infrared Sauna: Uses infrared heaters to emit radiant heat, which is absorbed directly by the skin. These saunas typically operate at lower temperatures than traditional saunas.
  3. Steam Sauna: Also known as a Turkish bath, uses steam to create high humidity and heat.

How Saunas Work

Saunas work by exposing the body to high heat, causing the body’s core temperature to rise.

In response to the heat, the body’s blood vessels dilate, increasing blood flow to the skin and muscles.

Sweating is the body’s natural cooling mechanism, helping to dissipate the heat and maintain a stable core temperature.

Sore Muscles: Causes and Remedies

Sore muscles can result from various factors, including overexertion, muscle tension, or injury.

One common cause of muscle soreness is delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which occurs 24-72 hours after an intense workout.

It’s essential to find effective ways to alleviate sore muscles and promote recovery to maintain optimal performance and prevent injury.


Benefits of Sauna for Sore Muscles

Sauna use has been linked to several potential benefits for sore muscles, including:

Increased Blood Circulation

The heat from a sauna causes blood vessels to dilate, increasing blood flow to the muscles. This increased circulation can help deliver essential nutrients and oxygen to the muscles, promoting healing and reducing soreness.

Reduced Muscle Tension

The heat in a sauna helps to relax the muscles, reducing tension and stiffness. This relaxation effect can alleviate discomfort and promote a greater range of motion, which is crucial for optimal recovery.

Faster Recovery

Using a sauna regularly may help speed up the recovery process by stimulating the release of growth hormones, which aid in muscle repair and growth. Additionally, the increased blood flow helps to remove metabolic waste products, such as lactic acid, from the muscles, further promoting recovery.

How to Use a Sauna for Sore Muscles

To maximize the benefits of sauna use for sore muscles, follow these tips:

Preparing for a Sauna Session

  1. Stay Hydrated: Make sure to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session to replenish fluids lost through sweating.
  2. Wear Light Clothing: Choose light, breathable clothing or opt to wear just a towel to allow your body to sweat freely and cool down effectively.

Duration and Frequency

  1. Start Slowly: If you’re new to saunas, start with shorter sessions of 10-15 minutes and gradually increase the duration as your body adapts to the heat.
  2. Frequency: Aim for 2-3 sauna sessions per week to maximize the benefits for muscle recovery.

Cooling Down

  1. Take Breaks: Step out of the sauna for a few minutes if you start to feel too hot or uncomfortable. This allows your body to cool down and adjust to the heat.
  2. Cold Shower or Plunge: After your sauna session, take a cold shower or plunge into a cold pool to help cool down your body and further stimulate blood circulation.

Potential Risks and Precautions

While saunas can be beneficial for sore muscles, there are potential risks to consider:

  1. Dehydration: Excessive sweating can lead to dehydration, so it’s crucial to drink plenty of water before, during, and after your sauna session.
  2. Heat Exhaustion or Heat Stroke: Prolonged exposure to high heat can cause heat exhaustion or heat stroke. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or weak, exit the sauna immediately and cool down.
  3. Underlying Health Conditions: Consult your doctor before using a sauna if you have a heart condition, high blood pressure, or any other medical concerns.

Alternatives to Saunas for Muscle Recovery

If you’re unable to use a sauna or prefer other methods, there are alternatives to help with muscle recovery:

  1. Cold Therapy: Applying ice or using cold water immersion can help reduce inflammation and alleviate sore muscles.
  2. Massage: Massaging the affected muscles can help relieve tension and promote blood flow for faster recovery.
  3. Stretching and Foam Rolling: Regularly stretching and using a foam roller can help improve flexibility, reduce muscle tightness, and promote recovery.


Saunas can be an effective tool for alleviating sore muscles and promoting faster recovery. The increased blood circulation, reduced muscle tension, and relaxation effects can contribute to improved muscle function and overall well-being. However, it’s essential to use saunas safely and responsibly, paying attention to hydration and knowing your limits. If saunas aren’t your preference, there are other methods, such as cold therapy and massage, to aid muscle recovery.


1. Can I use a sauna immediately after a workout?

It’s generally safe to use a sauna after a workout, but make sure to cool down and hydrate before entering the sauna. Some people find that waiting 30 minutes to an hour after exercising allows their body to recover more effectively.

2. Can saunas help with muscle growth?

While saunas may not directly cause muscle growth, they can promote faster recovery and create an optimal environment for muscle repair and growth by stimulating the release of growth hormones and improving blood circulation.

3. Are infrared saunas as effective as traditional saunas for sore muscles?

Infrared saunas can be just as effective as traditional saunas for sore muscles since they provide similar benefits, such as increased blood circulation and muscle relaxation. However, they typically operate at lower temperatures, which some users may find more comfortable.

4. How long should I stay in a sauna to help with sore muscles?

Start with shorter sessions of 10-15 minutes if you’re new to saunas, and gradually increase the duration as your body adapts. Listen to your body and avoid staying in the sauna for too long, as this can increase the risk of dehydration or heat-related issues.

5. Can I use a sauna if I have an injury?

If you have an acute injury or inflammation, it’s best to consult with a healthcare professional before using a sauna. In some cases, heat may aggravate the injury, and other therapies, such as cold therapy, may be more appropriate for the initial stages of healing.

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