5 Tips How to Relieve Muscle Soreness After Exercise

la clinica 5 tips to reduce muscle pain after exercise

5 Tips How to Relieve Muscle Soreness After Exercise

A successful workout program can reduce stress and improve overall fitness. Muscle pain after strenuous activity is a common occurrence. Known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, it is caused by the microscopic tears in the muscles produced during a workout. While a little soreness may not interfere with an exercise regime, there are steps, in addition to staying hydrated and eating a healthy diet, that can alleviate or lessen the effects of DOMS. Learn how to relieve muscle soreness after exercise with these 5 simple tips!


Stretch muscles right after a workout as part of the cool-down process, as well as over the next several days. Muscles tend to tighten up during recovery, which can exacerbate the soreness. Move through the slow gentle motions rather than hold the position to help remove lactic acid from the muscles. Stretching helps keep muscles moving, fosters blood circulation, and relieves the tight feeling while diffusing the pain. 

Light Massage

Studies have shown that a massage shortly after a workout and again a few hours later can reduce future pain. Lightly massaging sore muscles reduces tightness and inflammation by lowering the amount of cytokines produced by the body as well as promoting blood flow and increasing mitochondria, which can speed recovery from DOMS by enhancing the muscles’ ability to extract oxygen.

Warm Bath

The heat from a warm bath loosens tight muscles and improves circulation. As with stretching and massage, this improved circulation means more oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood reaches your sore muscles. Add Epsom salt, a soothing mineral commonly used to reduce inflammation and soothe sore muscles. 

Contrast Hydrotherapy

Another DOMS therapeutic treatment technique is to alternate heating pads and cold packs or warm and cold water. Heat causes vasodilatation, which causes increased blood flow to the affected muscle, while the cold temperature results in vasoconstriction, which promotes localized circulation. The alternating temperature also causes the lymph system to relax and contract like a pump to remove stagnant fluids. 

Over the Counter Pain Relief

Sore muscles can be treated with over-the-counter pain medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or other nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory (NSAID). These medications can decrease the discomfort associated with DOMS. Avoid long-term use of these medications, which can interfere with your muscle’s ability to repair themselves. 

What Causes Muscle Soreness After a Workout?

A woman holding her aching back

Microscopic injuries to your muscle fibers cause delayed onset muscle soreness. In most cases, DOMS occurs when you engage in new workouts, such as pulled-back exercises that your muscles aren’t used to yet. Another cause of DOMS is increasing the intensity of your activities. Let’s discuss the common causes of muscle soreness after a workout in detail below.

Microscopic Muscle Fiber Damage

As mentioned earlier, one of the critical causes of muscle soreness after a workout is microscopic injuries to your muscle fibers. When you try new exercises or even increase the intensity of your daily workout routine, your muscle fibers can suffer microscopic damage. Consequently, your body triggers an inflammatory response to try and repair the damaged fibers. This reaction may cause soreness or sensation. For instance, when you push your body too much by lifting weights or engaging in resistance exercises, your muscle fibers will suffer mechanical stress and tension.

Lactic Acid Build Up

Another possible cause of soreness after a workout is due to lactic acid buildup. Lactic acid is produced when your muscles produce energy without enough oxygen. Usually this metabolic process is often experienced during strenuous exercises because your muscles require a high oxygen supply to produce energy. Lactic acid accumulates in your muscles and the bloodstream as you continue working out. 

With time, you will likely experience a burning sensation in the muscles. You might also feel weak or weary. However, it’s essential to note that lactic acid is an indirect cause of delayed onset muscle soreness. Instead, lactic acid buildup tends to stop immediately after you stop exercising. In fact, proper cool down, hydration, and gentle movement are enough to remove the lactic acid from your muscles and blood vessels.

Eccentric Movements

The next possible cause of muscle soreness after an exercise is due to eccentric exercises. Generally, eccentric movements are contractions that occur when a muscle lengthens under tension. For instance, you may experience soreness during the lowering phase of a weight lifting or a resistance training exercise. During eccentric movements, your muscle fibers are forced to contract while elongating. This allows you to overcome external forces like added weight or gravity. However, eccentric movements can induce muscle damage leading to delayed onset muscle soreness. Other eccentric movements include the downward motion of a squat or the descent in a pull-up.

Connective Tissue Stress

Connective tissue stress is the next possible cause of muscle soreness after a workout. During exercises, your connective tissues stabilize and support your muscles and joints. Unfortunately, these connective tissues are stressed and strained when you engage in some exercises, especially resistance training or high impact. For example, the tendons connecting your muscles to your bones are put under stress during weight lifting. This can result in soreness, especially when you perform exercises you are not yet accustomed to.

After How Long Does Muscle Soreness Manifest and Disappear?

An athlete suffering from muscle soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness often manifests itself within 24 to 48 hours after completing an intense exercise. This delay is the reason why it is referred to as delayed onset. Even so, it’s vital to point out that the exact timing varies from one person to another. The intensity of the workout and your fitness levels also determine the precise timing. The soreness is usually at its peak within the first couple of days. You might experience stiffness and discomfort in the muscles heavily used during the exercise. It is also essential to note that daily activities like climbing stairs and walking can also trigger this soreness.

As for how long DOMS typically lasts, it all depends on your body and your fitness levels. The soreness lasts anywhere from three to five days. It gradually decreases as your body adapts to the exercises.

What to Do if the Soreness Persists Beyond a Week?

Muscle soreness that persists beyond a week is a sign of a more serious issue, and the best course of action in such a scenario would be to consult a doctor of physical therapy. You can also try low-impact activities and gentle stretches. Taking over-the-counter pain medication can also help you manage the discomfort. However, talk to a doctor first before using non-prescription medication. 

If you have muscle soreness and joint pain for an extended period after a workout, contact our Chicago or Cicero chiropractic clinics for a free consultation. Our staff of chiropractic specialists can help diagnose and treat sports injuries and help show you how to safely exercise while maintaining good posture. This can help reduce your after-workout muscle pain and soreness. Call (773) 763-1590 or click here to schedule your free no obligation consultation to see how chiropractic adjustments along with regular exercise can keep your body in optimal condition.