Anyone who’s stepped into a gym has probably heard the refrain, “no pain, no gain.” While the origins of the phrase date back to Benjamin Franklin, the actress Jane Fonda popularized the expression as a motivational buzz phrase in her early ‘80s legendary workout videos.
Read on for your guide to sore muscle relief after working out.
Why Do Muscles Get Sore?
You may wonder, indeed, “Are sore muscles a good sign?” If so, “How sore should I get?” As explained in this article by the UK’s biggest health website, NHS.uk, normal muscle soreness is nothing to get alarmed about, but rather a sign that you’re getting stronger.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (or DOMS for short) can happen when you start to exercise, change up your exercise routine, or increase either the intensity or length of your workout. The soreness is from microscopic damage or tears in the muscle fibers. It usually starts 1 or 2 days after exercise and may last between 3 and 5 days.
How to Relieve Sore Muscles After Exercise
Here are several ways to reduce post-exercise soreness:
- Work the muscles gently through light exercise and stretching.
- Icing particular areas of muscle soreness can decrease inflammation and prevent pain.
- Resting the muscles, elevating the muscle area, and providing compression through elastic bandages can all help provide sore muscle relief.
If you want to know how to relieve sore muscles fast, try some of these solutions:
- Take an NSAID (a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug) like ibuprofen or naproxen. Taking an NSAID after exercising can help for occasional muscle pain relief. In fact, some endurance athletes like ultra-marathoners take them before or during extreme workouts to avoid pain. Still, you should know doing so routinely can have consequences like kidney problems or delayed recovery times, according to the athletic advice website RunnersConnect.
- Muscles may feel better with brief applications of heat to increase the blood, but the main recourse, especially for the first 48 hours, should be cold. Try a warm bath with Epsom salts like Dr. Teal’s Pre- and Post-Workout Epsom salts with menthol or even a warm shower.
- Over-the-counter gels or creams, which contain ingredients like camphor, capsaicin, or menthol, can bring relief to sore muscles. Some names to look for include Penetrex, IcyHot, Biofreeze, Sombra, and Aspercreme.
- A good sports therapy massage by a trained professional is wonderful. Even a friend or loved one can help knead out tight muscles. However, if it’s just you, try a percussive massage gun for around $100 on Amazon.
- Similar to the massage ideas above, a showerhead like this one by Waterpik with a PowerPulse Massage feature can be the solution to how to relieve sore muscles after a workout. If you have access to a jacuzzi, many swear by them for muscle soreness after exercise or sports.
What Helps Sore Muscles Recover Faster & Prevents Soreness
There are a few additional things that you can do while working out or right after that may help with how to help sore muscles.
- Hydrate by drinking water while working out.
- Right after working out, get myofascial relief by using a foam roller.
- Grab a bite within 30 minutes after any intensive workout. Greek yogurt, cheese, and a few whole-wheat crackers, or a pair of eggs with toast and perhaps a piece of fruit are good options.
- You might try adding tart cherries to your diet, or better yet, drinking their juice. Research shows that marathoner runners who consumed tart cherry juice before and after races had less muscle soreness. The athletes also showed signs of improved muscle recovery and function. Raspberries also are rich in the anthocyanins that help decrease inflammation.
- There is good evidence to show that consuming caffeine (the amount in about two cups of coffee) before strenuously working out can prevent fatigue and muscle soreness.
- Snag your Z’s. Sleep is essential for recovering after exercise. While you’ve heard a lot about REM sleep, according to many studies, the non–rapid eye movement (NREM) phase of sleep helps with necessary protein synthesis required to repair damaged muscles.
Relief for Certain Specific Muscle Pains
Sometimes an individual will seek pain for a particular muscle group. For example, female runners may ask, “How do you relieve thigh muscle pain?” As explained by GuruMD, pain in the outer part of the upper thigh could be a sign of Greater Trochanteric Pain Syndrome (GTPS). How to cure thigh muscle pain can be addressed by the aforementioned remedies, but if these don’t resolve it, the pain may signal a need to see a doctor.
How to Relieve Pain From Common Exercise-Related Injuries
If your pain is not just sore muscles after a workout, but from an injury, such as a strained muscle or tendon, or a more severe sprain of a ligament, remember RICE (rest, ice, compression, and elevation) along with pain-relieving medicine are the first line of treatment.
When should you see a professional? If these above remedies don’t cause the pain to subside, or the pain is intense, or there is bleeding or suspected bone trauma, a doctor should be seen. Remember that either dark-colored urine or decreased urine production and severe swelling at the site of injury can also signal the need for you to see a physician.
Knowing how to heal sore muscles can give an exerciser confidence that he or she will be able to manage their discomfort and get past the pain caused by bumping up the intensity of their workout. Also, the knowledge that muscle soreness is part of a healthy process that will increase strength and stamina when the muscles recover helps many of us welcome a bit of post-workout pain.