How to get rid of sore muscles

By: Matt Niesen, Certified Athletic Trainer

There’s nothing quite like the sense of satisfaction that comes with completing a hard workout or starting a new exercise routine. However, we’re all familiar with what comes after working your body to its limits: muscle soreness. Sore muscles are usually caused by lactic acid build up. On the other hand, there is a more severe condition that may also occur, called DOMS. DOMS is short for delayed onset muscle soreness and typically occurs 24 to 48 hours after an activity. As opposed to soreness that results from lactic acid, DOMS is the result of small tears in muscle fiber that combine with an inflammatory process to result in pain. If you are experiencing debilitating pain from a workout, you should always consult a medical professional who may refer you to an orthopedic doctor or a physical therapist.  

Symptoms of DOMS Include:

  • Muscle soreness
  • Lack of strength
  • Slower muscle contractions
  • Muscle stiffness

If you seem to be experiencing these symptoms, or even if you just want to decrease that pain after a hard workout, your body may need a little help with recovery. This can be done with techniques and tricks both before and after a workout. 

Sore muscles while running. Image of sore muscles of the knee

How to get rid of sore muscles- Prevention

The first step to treating sore muscles is to take the right steps before a workout to prevent the pain in the first place. Some strategies include:  

  • Hydration

Despite what advertisements may want you to believe, water is the best choice for workouts. If your fitness routine leads to excessive sweating, either because you are exercising in hot weather or working out vigorously, you might want to also replace electrolytes and sodium by drinking a sports beverage. However, this should typically be done in addition to drinking water, and not as a replacement. Drinking plenty of water can help flush out toxins from your body and prevent dehydration, which can make muscle soreness even more painful.

  • Proper Warm Up

It is not uncommon when starting a workout to skip the warm-up and jump straight into exercising. However, loading your muscles without adequate preparation not only increases your chances of getting severe DOMS,  it also puts you at risk for injury. Some examples of a good warm-up before starting the tough exercises include stationary biking. using elliptical machines, or jumping rope. 

  • Control the Intensity

Working out longer and harder and boosting the intensity of your workout each time may make muscle soreness somewhat inevitable. Instead of jumping in and increasing both, opt to either move up in sets and reps with lower weights, or increase the weight while keeping reps static. This will allow the muscles to adapt without overload and will produce different results. 

How to get rid of sore muscles- Treatment 

Being sore after a workout is unavoidable sometimes, especially if you've increased your exercise intensity or started something new. Whatever the case, you can help your body recover using various tactics. Some tips to help decrease the ache include: 

  • Nutrition 

To start, consuming protein and carbohydrates immediately after exercise can help repair any damaged muscle by providing the amino acids and glucose needed for protein synthesis, a.k.a. muscle building. In addition, foods such as mushrooms, tart cherries, and pineapple have been identified as possessing anti-inflammatory properties that may be effective in reducing some muscle soreness. An easy and common way to ingest these nutrients after a workout would be to make a healthy smoothie at home. 

  • Ice

Icing can be done either topically or in the form of an ice bath. Applying ice topically will help ease the soreness that sets in the next day. Ice baths, on the other hand, reduce swelling and tissue breakdown that causes DOMS by constricting blood vessels.

  • Foam Rolling

Foam rollers are exercise devices used for massage and fitness. When used for self-massage, they help soothe tight, sore areas and speed up muscle recovery. They are especially helpful if you have lower back pain and you roll on your back.  It has been suggested that foam rolling may decrease muscle tissue swelling and enhance tissue healing. Foam rollers may also be used during some activities such as yoga. 

  • Active Recovery 

Spending some time doing a proper cool-down, instead of simply stopping once you’re done with the strength exercises helps muscles recover. This can include light cycling or a stretching program. Doing this immediately following a strength workout can help reduce muscle soreness.

If your soreness does not resolve, your physician may prescribe physical therapy at JOI Rehab.  JOI and JOI Rehab are now offering virtual appointments. 

If you are interested in scheduling an appointment at JOI Rehab for physical therapy, call (904) 858-7045. To see a JOI Orthopaedic Specialist, please call JOI-2000, schedule online or click below.


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