Written by Divinity Nutra, Updated on March 19, 2023
Muscle soreness is a common experience after a workout. While it’s a sign that your body is adapting to the stress of exercise, it can be uncomfortable and affect your ability to continue your fitness routine.
If you’re looking for fast relief tips to get rid of sore muscles after a workout, there are a variety of techniques and natural remedies for muscle pain that can help ease discomfort and promote recovery.
In this article, we’ll explore some of the best ways to alleviate sore muscles and get back to feeling your best. We’ll also discuss how to lessen that post-workout soreness for your next exercise session.
What Causes Muscle Soreness?
Working out isn’t the only thing that can lead to sore muscles. Muscle soreness can be caused by several factors, including:
- Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS): DOMS is a common type of muscle soreness that occurs 24-72 hours after engaging in strenuous or unaccustomed physical activity. It is caused by microscopic damage to muscle fibers and the surrounding connective tissue, which leads to inflammation and pain. DOMS is particularly common after activities that involve eccentric muscle contractions, such as downhill running, weightlifting, or plyometrics.
- Muscle strain or injury: Overstretching or overexerting a muscle can cause a strain or injury, resulting in pain and soreness. This can occur when you push yourself too hard during exercise, don’t warm up properly, or perform movements with poor technique.
- Muscle cramps: Involuntary muscle contractions, known as cramps, can cause sudden and intense muscle soreness. Muscle cramps can be caused by dehydration, electrolyte imbalances, muscle fatigue, or poor circulation.
- Lactic acid buildup: During intense exercise, your body produces lactic acid as a byproduct of anaerobic metabolism. While lactic acid is typically cleared from the muscles rapidly, it can temporarily cause muscle soreness during and immediately after exercise.
- Inflammation: Inflammation is a natural immune response to injury, infection, or other bodily stressors. It can cause muscle soreness by increasing the sensitivity of pain receptors in the affected area.
- Overuse or repetitive stress: Engaging in repetitive movements, particularly without proper rest and recovery, can lead to overuse injuries and muscle soreness. This is common in activities such as running, cycling, or playing sports that involve repetitive motions.
- Poor posture or muscle imbalances: Poor posture or muscle imbalances can place excess strain on certain muscle groups, leading to soreness and discomfort. This can be caused by sitting or standing for extended periods, using improper ergonomics, or having weak or tight muscles.
How Long Should Soreness Last?
Muscle soreness after a workout, particularly delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), typically lasts between 24 to 72 hours. However, the exact duration can vary depending on the individual and the intensity and type of exercise performed.
In some cases, muscle soreness may persist for up to five days, especially if the workout involved new or highly strenuous activities that placed significant stress on the muscles. It’s essential to listen to your body and allow for adequate recovery time between workouts.
Should I Still Workout if My Muscles Are Sore?
If you are experiencing mild to moderate muscle soreness, it is generally safe to continue working out, but you should adjust your routine accordingly. Here are some guidelines to follow when exercising with sore muscles:
- Choose low-intensity activities: Engage in low-intensity activities like walking, cycling, or swimming to promote blood flow and facilitate recovery. These types of exercises can help alleviate soreness without placing additional stress on the affected muscles.
- Focus on different muscle groups: If you have soreness in specific muscles, avoid targeting those muscles directly and instead work on other muscle groups. This allows the sore muscles to recover while you continue to stay active.
- Stretch and warm up properly: Ensure that you properly warm up before exercising and incorporate dynamic stretching to help prepare your muscles for the upcoming activity. This can help minimize the risk of further injury or discomfort.
- Prioritize recovery: Give your muscles adequate time to recover by scheduling rest days, incorporating active recovery techniques, and ensuring proper nutrition and hydration. This can help reduce muscle soreness and prevent overtraining.
- Monitor your pain levels: Listen to your body and adjust your workout intensity as needed. If your muscle soreness is severe or worsens during exercise, stop the activity and allow more time for recovery.
Severe or persistent muscle soreness could be a sign of injury or overtraining. If your pain does not improve with rest or if you notice additional symptoms of inflammation such as swelling or a decrease in range of motion, consult a healthcare professional or a physical therapist for guidance.
Does Soreness Mean Muscle Growth?
Muscle soreness after a workout can be an indicator that your muscles experienced stress and microscopic damage during the exercise. This damage often occurs when you engage in new or more intense activities or focus on eccentric muscle contractions. While muscle soreness can be associated with muscle growth, it’s not an absolute indicator of it.
The process of muscle growth, known as hypertrophy, occurs when the body repairs the damaged muscle fibers, making them stronger and more resilient in response to the applied stress. This repair process is what contributes to muscle growth. Although soreness can be a sign that you’ve challenged your muscles, it is not the sole determinant of muscle growth. Adequate rest, nutrition, and progressive overload are also essential factors for promoting hypertrophy.
Keep in mind, you can still experience muscle growth without significant soreness after a workout. As your body adapts to your exercise routine, you may notice less soreness over time, but this doesn’t necessarily mean your muscles aren’t growing. Focus on a well-rounded workout routine, proper recovery, and nutrition to support muscle growth, rather than solely relying on soreness as an indicator of progress.
Now that we’ve gained some introductory knowledge on sore muscles, let’s talk about the 10 best ways to get rid of muscle soreness after a workout.
1. Practice Active Recovery
Active recovery helps reduce muscle soreness after a workout by promoting blood circulation, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to damaged muscle fibers, accelerating the healing process. Simultaneously, it aids in the removal of waste products, such as lactic acid, which contribute to muscle soreness.
Low-intensity activities like walking, cycling, or swimming can gently stretch and engage the muscles without causing further strain, allowing them to recover more effectively. Moreover, active recovery can help decrease inflammation, maintain flexibility, and improve overall muscle function, ultimately leading to reduced soreness and a quicker return to optimal performance.
2. Get Proper Rest
Getting proper rest is essential for alleviating muscle soreness after a workout, as it allows the body to repair and rebuild damaged muscle fibers. During rest, the body undergoes various physiological processes, such as protein synthesis, which contribute to muscle growth and recovery. Adequate sleep is particularly crucial, as it boosts the production of growth hormones that support tissue repair and regeneration.
Resting also provides an opportunity for the immune system to address inflammation and reduce swelling and pain, which helps alleviate soreness. By giving your muscles the time they need to recover, you can prevent overtraining and reduce the risk of injury.
3. Gentle Stretching
Gentle stretching can help lessen muscle soreness after a workout by promoting blood flow, improving flexibility, and releasing muscle tension. As you stretch, you encourage circulation to the affected muscles, which delivers essential nutrients and oxygen to support the recovery process.
Stretching also helps maintain and improve the range of motion around the joints, preventing stiffness and facilitating muscle healing. By gently elongating muscle fibers and releasing tightness, you can reduce the sensation of soreness and discomfort.
4. Use a Foam Roller
Foam rolling, a form of self-myofascial release, can help reduce muscle soreness after a workout by targeting tight knots and adhesions in the muscle tissue, which can contribute to discomfort. By applying pressure to these areas using a foam roller, you can break up the adhesions, increase blood flow to the muscles, and promote healing.
Enhanced circulation delivers essential nutrients and oxygen, while also aiding in the removal of waste products that contribute to soreness. Additionally, foam rolling helps improve flexibility and range of motion by releasing muscle tension and lengthening the muscle fibers.
5. Massage Therapy
Similarly, massage therapy can help reduce muscle soreness after a workout by promoting relaxation, improving circulation, and breaking down those same adhesions and tight knots in the muscle tissue. By applying various techniques and pressure, a massage therapist can target specific areas of discomfort, release muscle tension, and stimulate blood flow to the affected regions.
Massage therapy can also help reduce inflammation, improve flexibility, and maintain a healthy range of motion around the joints. Regular massage therapy sessions can support muscle recovery, minimize post-workout soreness, and contribute to injury prevention.
6. Heat and Cold Therapy
Heat and cold therapy can also help sore muscles after a workout by targeting inflammation, promoting circulation, and providing natural pain relief. Cold therapy, such as applying ice packs or taking cold showers, constricts blood vessels, reducing inflammation and numbing pain in the affected area. It’s particularly effective during the initial stages of soreness when inflammation is at its peak.
Heat therapy, on the other hand, such as applying warm compresses or using heating pads, dilates blood vessels and increases blood flow to the sore muscles. This improved circulation delivers oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, accelerates the healing process, and helps to relax and soothe muscle tension. Alternating between heat and cold therapy can provide optimal benefits.
7. Stay Hydrated
Staying hydrated is essential for sore muscle relief after a workout, as it plays a crucial role in various bodily functions that contribute to muscle recovery. Proper hydration helps maintain optimal blood volume, which in turn enhances the delivery of oxygen and essential nutrients to the damaged muscle fibers.
Additionally, staying hydrated aids in the efficient removal of lactic acid, which can contribute to muscle soreness. Hydration also supports muscle elasticity and joint lubrication, reducing the risk of injury and promoting overall muscle function. Water also plays a vital role in regulating body temperature during exercise, preventing overheating, and minimizing stress on the muscles.
8. Try Essential Oils
Essential oils can help get rid of muscle soreness after a workout through their anti-inflammatory, analgesic, and relaxation properties. Many essential oils for inflammation contain compounds that help provide pain relief, offering comfort to sore muscles. When massaged into the affected area or used in combination with a carrier oil, essential oils can penetrate the skin and promote localized blood circulation.
In addition, the soothing aroma of essential oils can help relax the mind and body, contributing to overall stress reduction and muscle relaxation. Incorporating essential oils into your post-workout recovery routine can help reduce soreness, promote relaxation, and support the healing process of your muscles.
9. Try an Anti-inflammatory Diet
An anti-inflammatory diet can help alleviate muscle soreness after a workout by providing the body with nutrients and compounds that combat inflammation and support muscle recovery. This type of diet emphasizes the consumption of whole, unprocessed foods, such as fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats, which are rich in antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and omega-3 fatty acids.
These nutrients help reduce inflammation, promote tissue repair, and support overall muscle function. This type of diet also encourages the intake of anti-inflammatory herbs that contain natural pain-relieving compounds, such as ginger and turmeric, which can further alleviate muscle soreness. Lastly, don’t forget to avoid inflammatory foods like sugar, alcohol, and refined carbs.
10. Use Dietary Supplements
Numerous anti-inflammatory supplements can help with sore muscle relief following a workout. Here are a few to get you started:
Turmeric, specifically its active compound curcumin, lowers inflammation by inhibiting the activity of certain enzymes and proteins responsible for triggering the inflammatory response. Curcumin blocks the production of pro-inflammatory molecules, reducing inflammation at the cellular level.
- Learn More: 10 Best Turmeric Curcumin Supplements for 2023
Apple cider vinegar (ACV) helps bring down inflammation due to its acetic acid content and the presence of beneficial antioxidants and enzymes. Acetic acid has been shown to have anti-inflammatory effects by modulating certain immune system responses.
- Learn More: 10 Best Apple Cider Vinegar Gummies for 2023
Elderberry lowers inflammation through its rich content of antioxidants, such as flavonoids and anthocyanins, which neutralize harmful free radicals and protect cells from oxidative stress. These bioactive compounds also help modulate the immune system, reducing the production of pro-inflammatory cytokines.
- Learn More: 10 Best Sambucus Elderberry Gummies for 2023
Bonus Tip: Don’t Forget to Eat!
Eating after a workout can help decrease muscle soreness by providing your body with the essential nutrients it needs to repair and rebuild damaged muscle fibers. Consuming a balanced meal with a combination of carbohydrates and proteins promotes the replenishment of glycogen stores and stimulates protein synthesis, both crucial processes for muscle recovery.
Carbohydrates restore energy levels, while proteins supply amino acids, the building blocks of muscle tissue, which aid in repair and growth.
How to Lessen Soreness for Your Next Workout
To lessen muscle soreness for your next workout, it’s essential to follow certain practices that promote muscle health and recovery while preventing strain and injury. Implementing these strategies can help you achieve better results and minimize post-workout discomfort.
- Warm Up: Prioritize a proper warm-up routine to increase blood flow, elevate your heart rate, and prepare your muscles for the upcoming workout. This helps reduce the risk of injury and can decrease the intensity of muscle soreness afterward.
- Drink Water: Maintain adequate hydration before, during, and after your workout to support optimal muscle function, prevent cramps, and facilitate the delivery of nutrients to your muscles, which aids in recovery.
- Rest Muscle Groups: Allow sufficient rest between workouts for the same muscle group, typically 48-72 hours, to enable adequate muscle recovery and repair. This helps prevent overtraining and reduces the likelihood of excessive soreness.
- Use Proper Technique: Execute exercises with the correct form and technique to ensure that you are engaging the appropriate muscles and minimizing the risk of strain or injury, which can contribute to soreness.
- Stretch Post Workout: Incorporate gentle stretching after your workout to maintain flexibility, reduce muscle tension, and promote circulation, which supports the recovery process and helps alleviate soreness.
- Stay Within Your Limits: Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to avoid overexertion and excessive stress on your muscles. Pushing your body too hard can lead to injury and prolonged muscle soreness.
Sore Muscle Relief: Final Thoughts
Sore muscles after a workout are a common occurrence, but with these fast relief tips, you can alleviate the discomfort and get back to your fitness routine in no time. And all of this, without the need for NSAIDs and other anti-inflammatory drugs.
From proper nutrition to stretching and recovery techniques, there are a variety of methods to help get rid of muscle soreness and prevent it from happening in the future. Remember to listen to your body and give it the care and rest it needs to stay healthy and strong.