5 Ways to Relieve Muscle Soreness After Workout

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relieve muscle soreness

Muscle soreness can bring you down after a workout. Know all the remedies to cure aching muscles and tips to prevent muscle soreness.

“No pain, no gain”, a phrase you must have heard many times. This saying is probably right to a great extent in the world of physical workouts. But, think of those times when your pain was so unbearable, that you couldn’t think of deriving any gain from it.

There must have been many instances where you have undergone pain due to muscle soreness, after a good session of muscle exercises. The reason – may be, a little too much stress on a muscle group.

The pain generally starts during the activity or just after it. This is a very common and recurring issue. Just as regular workout is important for good health, so is protecting the muscles from soreness. Read below to know how to relieve muscle soreness after exercise.

What are the most common causes of muscle soreness?

A physical activity that exerts additional strain on muscles, any more than usual, can lead to muscle soreness. Even if you are a physically fit and active person, or have just started working out, you can have sore muscles because of exercising. The following are the most common causes for post-workout muscle soreness:

  • You are a beginner or have just started working out.
  • Just added a new exercising activity to your workout plan.
  • Have increased the number, speed, or intensity of a workout.
  • Non-stop workout activity without adequate breaks.
Did you know?

Often, soreness in muscles is due to excess physical stress. These can involve straining or injury in the tendons, ligaments, and fascia. But research [1]MedlinePlus: Muscle aches suggests that muscle soreness can also be due to infections like flu, or disorders like lupus. Fibromyalgia is also another common cause of muscle soreness.

What are the types of muscle soreness?

Muscle soreness can be very uncomfortable and often makes it difficult to return to exercising. There are 3 different kinds of muscle soreness, and it is important to know the difference between them. Let us understand the types in a little more detail:

Mild muscle soreness: This is the most commonly experienced form of muscle soreness. The pain is mild, and the function of your muscle is not impaired. Most people have mild muscle soreness after a considerably good workout session.

Delayed onset muscle soreness: Delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. The pain is a little more than mild and will typically stay for a couple of days. You will have limited movement of the muscle. DOMS is usually the result of the first day of a full workout or working out more than usual.

Injury-type muscle soreness: This is the result of injury. The pain is very sharp and commonly immobilizing. This kind of muscle soreness requires an approach called RICE (Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation). A doctor would have to advise you whether you can get back to that training or not. Some of these injuries can be so severe that they might require surgery.

How to relieve muscle soreness after exercise?

The way a body recovers depends on various factors. While some work wonderfully for some people, others might not. To understand this, you should know your body well. Read on to see which of these ways work for you best to relieve muscle soreness after a workout.

Sleep and hormones: We know that getting the optimal number of hours of sleep is good for health. But do you know that sleep plays a vital role in muscle recovery? It promotes increased blood flow and oxygen to the muscles. It regenerates cells which enhances the repairing and recovery process.

During the deep-sleep stage, the pituitary gland releases hormones that are excellent muscle repair stimulators. Likewise, another hormone called prolactin is released during sleep, which reduces inflammation.

Stretch: It is only a myth that you should not move when you have muscle soreness. Try gentle stretches whenever you can. This will help in maintaining motion and mobility. A physical therapist or your doctor might suggest some stretches that you can try.

Massage: A massage is a way of applying gentle but firm and deep strokes that target the different layers of the muscles and tissues. A massage relaxes the muscles, connected tissues and the nerves by reducing painful spasms and contractions. A massage therapist can help you through the recovery process.

Heat and cold therapy for treating pain after muscle exercises 

For thousands of years, external application of heat and cold have both been used to relieve muscle soreness, strains and injuries. There is no strong evidence to prove that one is better than the other. Both heat and cold are considered equally efficient in alleviating pain sensations, albeit in intrinsically different ways. Here are the ways in which heat and cold therapies can be used for pain reduction: 

  • Heat: Simply apply heat on the affected area with a heat pad. Research [2]PubMed: The Efficacy of Sustained Heat Treatment on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness says that this will promote blood flow around the area and relax the sore muscles. Applying heat can also reduce swelling. Moist heat is better than dry heat as the former provides quicker results than the latter.
  • Cold: Cold therapy, also called cryotherapy might not have any direct effect on the muscle soreness, but it numbs and relaxes the nerves that sense pain. Putting an ice pack for about 13 minutes, on the swelling or the sore area, relieves the pain.

Home remedies for sore muscles after exercise 

There are a lot of home remedies that can help to relieve muscle soreness after exercise. Below are few research based home remedies:

  • Apple cider vinegar – Apple cider vinegar has alkalizing and anti-inflammatory properties. Due to these qualities, it is one of the best home remedies for inflammation and pain.  Add a teaspoon of apple cider vinegar to a glass of water and drink it. You can even apply ACV directly on the area that is hurting.
  • Epsom salt – Epsom Salt has magnesium sulfate, which makes it a quick remedy to treat sore muscles. The magnesium absorbs the fluids present in the tissue causing pain and soothes the muscles. Add a cup of Epsom salt to a tub of warm water and rest the aching muscle in it. If you have high blood pressure, diabetes, or a heart problem, consult your doctor before using Epsom salt.
  • Turmeric – Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties because of a compound called curcumin [3]PubMed: Modulation of Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage, Inflammation, and Oxidative Markers by Curcumin Supplementation in a Physically Active Population: A Systematic Review . This makes turmeric very beneficial in reducing soreness in muscles and pain management. Turmeric is widely used as a cooking ingredient for color and flavor. If you want to use turmeric for bringing down muscle pain all over your body, you can take it in the form of a supplement.
  • Tart cherry juice – Tart Cherry juice is rich in antioxidants. Antioxidants are very effective in treating sore muscles and provide quick relief from the pain. Just add tart cherry juice to a smoothie and drink it. It provides relaxation to the aching muscle.
  • Essential oils – Essential oils have been used to treat physical pains and cramps for centuries. Be informed, essential oils should not be used directly as they might cause irritation because of their strong nature. Just add 2 to 3 drops of peppermint oil or lemongrass oil to a spoonful of coconut oil or olive oil and massage the area of pain. You will find relief quickly.

How much pain is too much?

Normally, muscles experience a mild burn after a good workout, or some increase in workout levels. This burn is actually beneficial to the body since it builds the right amount of stress in the muscles for the improvement of muscle strength. The mild pain you experience in this case is good for you. 

Alternatively, if a post-workout pain is preventing you from doing normal activities every day, it implies that your exercise was too much. It is called “too much pain” if it hurts you for more than 3 days. Watch out for other symptoms like bruising, swellings, and restricted movements

How can I know if I should continue working out or not?

If the pain starts during or just after the workout, stop it right there. If the pain starts during the workout, it simply means that there is a problem with the exercise. The pain is an indication from your body to stop doing the workout and to prevent any further muscle or joint damage.

If you continue doing the workout, it will lead to muscle breakdown. It can also lead to kidney damage. In its severe forms, its symptoms can be:

  • Swelling in limbs
  • Pain – Severe to unbearable
  • Loss of motion in one or multiple parts of the body
  • Less urination, or dark-colored urine.

If you realize that your workout is the reason for your muscle soreness and pain, it is a good time to stop. You can get back to exercising when your muscles have recovered completely.

Take away

Muscle soreness can be disruptive and very uncomfortable, but the pain often goes away in a few days. Always remember that every pain has a cause behind it. Increased pain and swelling implies severe injury. 

Some injuries might turn blue or black in color. This is because the blood vessels are damaged. There might also be a possibility that ligaments, tendons, cartilage, or bones have suffered injuries. These can only be diagnosed and treated after an X-ray.

Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications like ibuprofen, acetaminophen, aspirin, and naproxen can also help in decreasing the discomfort and pain from muscle soreness. But if you experience a sharp pain that doesn’t decrease or go away after 72 hours, you must consult the doctor.

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