Sauna or Hot Tub for Sore Muscles – Which One Is Better?

If you work out frequently, you’re bound to have sore muscles every now and again. Even if you don’t work out, stress alone can cause enough muscle tension to induce sore muscles. When sore muscles strike, you’re faced with a decision: should you head to the hot tub or to the sauna?

A hot tub is more effective than a sauna in speeding up the healing of sore muscles. Hot tubs increase the blood flow to sore muscles, speed up the production of growth hormones, and reduce lactic acid. While saunas have similar effects, they aren’t as extreme as those induced by hot tubs. Additionally, hot tubs can be used daily, unlike saunas.

Read on to learn all about muscle soreness and why hot tubs help sore muscles more than saunas do!

What’s better for sore muscles – hot tub or sauna?

You’re well aware that heat is the best way to relieve the pain of sore muscles and begin the healing process. But what kind of heat is best?

While both hot tubs and saunas provide relief and help muscles repair, hot tubs are more effective at helping sore muscles. Hot tubs:

  • Help inflammation
  • Increase blood flow and growth hormones
  • Reduce lactic acid
  • Are relaxing and generally feel good

Saunas have similar benefits although to a lesser extent.

Many studies have been done to explore the benefits of both hot tubs and saunas and their ability to aid sore muscles.

Saunas are effective for all types of athletes. They have positive effects on the lungs, heart rate, growth hormones, and muscle recovery. They can even enhance cardio and can be used both before and after runs.

Meanwhile, hot tubs can drastically help muscle inflammation, loosen sore muscles, increase endorphins, increase growth hormones, and promote cellular regeneration.

Saunas and hot tubs both have similar effects on athletes and sore muscles, but hot tubs are ultimately the best option.

Using a hot tub for sore muscles

Taking a dip in a hot tub feels good when you have sore muscles. But why?

According to a study conducted in 2014, being submerged in hot water, such as a hot tub, can increase the levels of somatotropin in your blood- a growth hormone that promotes cellular regeneration. The same study found a decrease in cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. The more relaxed you are, the less likely you are to clench your muscles.

Hot tubs also reduce lactic acid, which is the main source of muscle soreness in athletes. They can even prevent sore muscles altogether if used before athletic activity.

Besides the therapeutic effects of hot water, hot tubs often have jets that can massage and relax tight muscles, a technique known as hydrotherapy. Hydrotherapy can also help:

  • Arthritis
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Back pain
  • Migraines

The buoyancy of the water also lifts added pressure from your body. It can even lift up to 90% of your body weight off of your muscles and joints, allowing for true relaxation.

Do hot tubs help with inflammation?

If your muscles are sore, you may assume that they are inflamed. But what is the actual link between inflammation and muscle soreness?

Hot tubs help with inflammation because hot water immersion is proven to improve inflammation in sedentary, overweight adults. Not much research is available for other groups of subjects.

Muscle inflammation causes muscle weakness, but there is no link between muscle inflammation and sore muscles. While hot tubs help with inflammation, sore muscles are mainly caused by overexertion. 

How long should you sit in a hot tub for sore muscles?

If you’ve just finished working out, hop in a hot tub as soon as possible.

To help relieve sore muscles, it is best to sit in a 100°F hot tub for up to 30 minutes, or a 104°F hot tub for up to 15 minutes.

You can use this technique once a day as long as you follow the above safety precautions. 

Can you use a hot tub every day?

It’s tempting to want to use a hot tub every day. But how safe is it?

It is safe to use a hot tub every day as long as you don’t stay in for longer than is recommended. You can use a hot tub to relax your muscles after you work out or for general soreness.

If you don’t stay in too long, feel free to use your hot tub as needed. To get the most therapeutic effects of hot tubs, it is best to use them frequently. 

Other potential benefits of the hot tub

Clearly, hot tubs have a lot of benefits for sore muscles. What else can they do?

Hot tubs increase blood flow to sore muscles. Heat therapy also increases the elasticity of collagen fibers, which help loosen tight muscles.

When we work out, our muscles experience tiny microtears. As these tears develop, nerves are alerted to send pain sensations to the muscle. Hot tubs are able to soothe some of this pain by increasing blood flow to the area.

Using a sauna for sore muscles

It’s easy to assume that saunas are good for sore muscles because of the heat and steam. But is there any merit to that assumption?

Saunas help sore muscles by increasing blood flow to the muscles and increasing endorphins in the body. They also induce the production of heat shock proteins which protect your cells from harm.

However, something else to consider is that saunas increase heart rate, whereas you want your heart rate to return to normal after exercise in order to start the recovery process. In addition, our bodies need fluids to repair muscles but sweating in the sauna decreases bodily fluids.

How long should you use a sauna for sore muscle relief?

In order to get the most out of your sauna use, you need to time it correctly.

Using a sauna after working out two times a week, for 20 minutes at a time, has been shown to increase hGH by roughly 150%. hGH is a growth hormone that helps with muscle recovery.

hGH is short for “human growth hormone.” It is a legally prescribed hormone, but saunas are one way to induce it holistically.

hGH can boost recovery after:

  • Surgery
  • Wounds
  • Hurting your muscles

The regrowth of muscles is called muscle-protein synthesis and typically takes a day or two. But with the boost of hGH, your muscles can recover faster.

Find out more about how heat helps with muscle recovery in this article!

Is a sauna good after a workout?

Saunas make you feel good because they boost endorphins and help you relax. Since they are incredibly effective in so many areas, it’s worth considering whether saunas are good after a workout.

Using a sauna directly after working out will reduce pain the most. A study published in the Journal of Clinical Medicine Research found that an application of moist heat immediately after exercise was the most effective way to reduce the pain of delayed onset muscle soreness. 

After you workout, your muscles are the most responsive and ready to repair. Using the sauna will help ease this process by releasing the necessary hormones and increasing blood flow. 

But there is such a thing as too much of a good thing, so be sure to follow safety guidelines.

Wondering if you should visit the sauna before or after your workout? I’ve got the pros and cons of each here.

Other potential benefits of the sauna

When used regularly, saunas can effectively increase your cardiovascular capability.

Saunas can help improve cardiovascular health by increasing bodily functions that carry extra oxygen and nutrients to your cells. Increased blood flow also improves your heart health by decreasing blood pressure.

Cardiovascular and heart health are necessary to your health, which is the main reason people work out. Using the sauna has the above benefits that will help you reach your goal of being a fit, healthy person.