How To Treat Sore Muscles (9 Methods)

Unbelievably, sore muscles after exercise means that your muscles are busy getting stronger. It is important not to stop doing your training when this happens as it will eventually get better.


These aches and pains that gym goers experience usually occur within a day or two after exercising, and it is quite normal. Why do muscles get sore? What exactly causes the pain? During exercise, muscle tissue gets stressed as it is not used to being exercised. Microscopic tears occur in the fibres of muscles and it is believed that this goes hand in hand with inflammation, hence the achy muscles. Any person that exercises well will end up with stiff, sore muscles, even those that are following a regular exercise pattern.

Sore muscles can be very off-putting to newbies especially if they follow their own regime without expert guidance, and they usually give up soon thereafter because they think that they have damaged their bodies. People new to exercise need to understand that this is not the case. To date there is no known cure for the stiffness or sore muscles, but experts have tried various applications like massages, heat treatments, ice packs or anti-inflammatory cream or pills to assist with recovery.


 However, these pains should be minor pains. If not, consult your doctor immediately. It is recommended that before the onset of any exercise, gym goers should do proper warmup and stretch exercises. Definitely do not overdo the first week if you are a new gym goer. Rather concentrate on lighter forms of exercise such as swimming or walking on a treadmill until the soreness subsides. Besides warming up, it is important to do about 10 minutes of cool-down exercises after a workout. Walking on a treadmill before commencing with more stretching exercises will do the trick.


Most regular gym goers agree that heat treatments work best on sore muscles as the increase in muscle temperature allows more oxygen into the muscles, and more oxygen from the increased blood flow erases the chemical irritants that cause the pain. Although both dry and moist heat can be used, moist heat offered the most reduction in pain. Moist heat can come from a warm bath, heating packs or warm damp towels. Epsom salts is also known for relief in inflammation of muscles, and if used in a hot bath, you hit two flies with one swat.


Cold therapy reduces swelling in muscles and joints and should never be applied directly onto naked skin. If you do not have an ice pack hande, a bag of frozen veggies will also suffice. The longer a person exercises, the less damage will occur in muscle tissue, and the quicker the recovery from the soreness. If normal day to day tasks become to much due to the aches in your muscles, then you have overdone your training. Some athletes believe that they should feel sore or stiff muscles after exercising to prove that they have done a great workout, but it is not necessary to have the aches and pains to prove that you have had a decent workout.


There are things that gym goers can do after a workout to relieve soreness in their muscles. Hydrate during and after you work out as water keeps the fluids moving through your body. This will flush out waste products, deliver nutrients to your muscles, and will help ease any inflammation. If unsure whether you are dehydrated or not, check the colour of your urine. Pale yellow is good, but a darker colour is an indication of dehydration, unless you are on certain vitamins that also cause a darker urine colour.


Gym goers can also use external methods to help relieve the pain. SMR, or self-myofascial release is an alternative but the perfect way to release tightness in connective tissues and skeletal muscles. This can be applied by using massage sticks, foam rollers or lacrosse balls on the affected areas. Use this immediately after exercising as it improves lymphatic circulation and stimulates blood flow. Start by using a soft foam roller on the sore muscles when you are new to exercise. These can be swopped for firmer ones where you can apply more pressure to the painful areas as you progress. Foam rollers can be purchased in shops that sell exercise equipment, and this form of self-massage helps with flexibility, muscle fatigue and painful muscles. This easy way to assist with aching muscles, (place the roller on the floor and slowly roll the body area that is in pain over it), will make you feel better in no time.


If all else fails, wear a pressure garment. This will not only prevent the symptoms from getting worse but will increase blood flow to assist in the healing process. Compression garments like leggings, socks or sleeves can be bought for almost all the muscled areas on a human body.


Remember to eat a nutritious snack about 30 minutes after a workout. This will assist the muscles’ recovery. The recommended snack will contain about 40g of protein and 40g of carbs especially if you had an intense workout. Protein wil replenish amino acids which helps rebuilding muscles, and carbs replaces the fuel used up during the exercises.


When sore muscles are present, it is important to increase your daily intake of protein rich foods to make sure that there is a constant flow of amino acids. 2g per kg of body weight every four hours is ample.


Some people may not know it, but sleep is important if recovery from exercise is required. Sleep promotes the creation of new proteins in the body, increasing the repair to damaged muscles and tissue. A decent rest of about 7-8 hours is recommended.


Try to alternate the intensity of workouts if you have sore muscles. Your sore muscles will need a bit of a break in between heavier training sessions, so do lighter exercises every alternate day until you are more fit. Yoga, light resistance training or swimming will do the job. It is also ideal to concentrate on different muscles on different days. Please avoid the intake of pain tablets for sore muscles as these will hamper the healing process of the painful areas.


Most unfit gym goers will experience pelvic or abdominal pain early in the workout. If experienced, be aware of where and in what way the pain occurs. Is it in the hips? The lower part of the abdomen? Is it a sharp, stabbing pain, or a continuous one that remains?

Body mass, age and whether you are male, or female all contribute to where and how pelvic pain is experienced during or after a workout. The more you weigh, the better your chance of pain in the pelvis due to pressure on that area. This almost always causes inflammation in that region. Women are more prone to pains in the pelvis due to various reasons. Skeletal changes may occur if a woman gave vaginal birth, or hormonal changes can play a roll. In odd cases pulled muscles, fatigue or dehydration will also cause a pain in the pelvic or lower stomach area.

If pains in these two areas are experienced, there are ways to eliminate them. Limit your sugar and caffeine intake during exercise, drink lots of water, eat foods that are high in fibre, and bring down your weight if you are overweight. If this pain persists for longer than 72 hours after exercising, please consult your doctor.


As a matter of interest: there are different types of pain. Muscle pain is different to pain in for instance the skin of a human body due to underlying mechanisms. Muscle pain is usually a referred pain caused by electrical nerve stimulation, is difficult to tolerate, and has a pressing feeling. Pain in the skin is easier to tolerate, has a cutting feeling and although it is also caused by electrical nerve stimulation, it can be located easily.

Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs convey mixed feelings from experts. While some recommend it for sore muscles, others state that it can increase the risk of having a stroke, heart attack or internal bleeding. The later experts advise to rather eat foods rich in antioxidants. The number one fruit on their list is watermelon as it is rich in L-citrulline, an amino acid. Ginger, cherries and pineapples also contain lots of antioxidants.


If fruits are not readily available, they recommend omega-3 fatty acids and fish oil supplements. Turmeric also has a powerful anti-inflammatory ingredient, but for those that want to go all natural, milk protein is suggested.

Arnica is a name that is widely known and has been used on aching muscles for decades. An ointment containing arnica oil will bring relief.

The last thing people who have sore muscles want to hear are the next two statements: exercise really does help to reduce the pain in protesting muscles, and not all stretching exercises help to warm up or cool down muscles. Speak to a gym instructor to find out which ones do work.

Happy gymming!


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