Treating Post-Workout Soreness

Exercise is an important part of being healthy. But, it often brings about soreness afterwards. In our post, learn how to prevent and treat post-workout pain.
Treating Post-Workout Soreness

Last update: 14 October, 2019

Physical activity is a crucial part of leading a healthy lifestyle. But it can also lead to post-workout soreness and pain, especially in your muscles. These consequences are very common after working out for the first time or after increasing the intensity of a workout.

In today’s post, we’ll explain why pain and soreness sometimes follow a workout and how to prevent it. If you already experience post-workout discomfort, you can also benefit from our recommendations on treating it.

Post-workout soreness and pain

In many people, muscles start to hurt right after finishing the last exercise of a workout. We know this type of discomfort as “acute pain” and it’s not uncommon that muscles continue to contract involuntarily for up to 12 hours after exercising.

Aside from acute pain, muscle pain tends to start within the 48 to 72 hours following a workout. In this span of time, the muscles that participated in the exercises repair themselves and grow stronger. Body soreness or pain commonly lingers for several days.

How can you treat post-workout soreness and pain?

Keep these thoughts in mind to help ease your recovery and treat post-workout discomfort:

  1. Take the time to thoroughly elongate your muscles.
  2. Consider muscle massages in especially affected areas.
  3. Rest.
  4. Use ice if you are experiencing inflammation.
  5. If not, use heat to stimulate blood flow to the muscles.

Despite following these tips, many times muscle pain is inevitable. But your habits and endurance during workouts can help improve it.

Habits that help reduce post-workout muscle pain

You can try certain actions to help reduce and relieve post-workout pain. Take a mental note:

  • Warm-up well. Your warm-up can be a key component in preventing post-workout soreness. Warm-ups can activate the body’s metabolism and muscular system progressively, preparing it for what’s to come.
  • Stay hydrated. Water helps control body temperature, loosen joints and transport nutrients to create energy. If your body is low on hydration, it has a hard time stepping up to the needed physical state. In addition, failing to hydrate yourself correctly can lead to cramps and muscle fatigue, which usually begin to appear at the end of a workout.
post workout soreness hydration

  • Rest. Hands down, getting sufficient rest is one of the most important factors for preventing post-workout soreness. In order to prepare your muscles for another round of exercise, you need to let them rest for at least 48 hours. If they lack that rest, fatigue or muscle damage will appear again in addition to the consequences of excessive exercise.
  • Good technique. Following through your exercises correctly helps protect yourself from post-workout pain. Make sure you’re working out correctly and contact a professional who can supervise and help you avoid mistakes.
  • Post-workout stretching. Just like rest, another crucial factor for post-workout treatment is a good stretch. Elongating your muscles after exercising will help ensure good blood flow, which translates into better recovery.
  • Never push your limits. Don’t go overboard. Instead, be conscious at all times of your physical state and don’t push your body past its possibilities. With time, you can increase the intensity progressively.

Recovery time: an essential factor

Recovery time plays a crucial role in any exercise routine.  It’s the time that allows the body to react to all of the stimuli from the workout. In other words, it’s when the effects of exercise manifest.

Recovery also allows the body to restore energy reserves and repair damaged tissue. Exercise, or any kind of physical work, can provoke changes in the body, such as torn muscle tissue, complete use of energy reserves– muscular glycogen– and loss of liquids.

Without the needed time to repair and restore itself, the body will continue to consume energy, making sacrifices in order to withstand intensive workouts.

The way your body adapts to exercise

When your body suffers physically from exercise, it adapts to withstand it more efficiently. It’s like learning a new skill: at first, it’s hard. But as time goes on, it becomes a new norm. If your body faces a new tension or stress, it works harder to adapt to it.

But there are limits on the amounts of stress that your body can handle. Crossing said limits, you risk suffering an injury. Some examples include tackling too big a feat too fast. Or, on the opposite side of the spectrum, doing too little and not giving your body a chance to grow stronger.

How can you stretch correctly after working out?

Studies have shown that the only stretching methods that have positive effects on muscle pain are proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation (PNF) exercises. You can do them by:

  • Isometrically contracting –without moving– the muscles that you want to stretch for a few seconds.
post workout soreness stretching

  • After, relax the muscle for a few seconds.
  • Lastly, try to passively increase your range of movement until you feel the tension. When you feel slight discomfort, hold that position for at least 15 to 20 seconds.
  • Repeat 2 or 3 times.

In summary, these are the basics that you need to know to treat post-workout soreness or pain. With our simple tips, you can reduce the discomfort that follows your exercise routine. What are you waiting for? Try them out for yourself.

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  • Appell HJ, Soares JM, Duarte JA. (1992): Exercise, muscle damage and fatigue. Sports Med. 13: 108-115
  • Sady, S. P., Wortman, M., & Blanke, D. (1982). Flexibility training: ballistic, static or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation? Archives of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation, 63(6), 261–3.