How to Reduce Muscle Soreness After a Workout

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If pain and discomfort show up 24 to 48 hours after a strenuous workout, it is likely due to delayed onset muscle soreness. The stress placed on your muscles while lifting weights or running, for example, causes microscopic tears in the muscle fibers and connective tissues. All muscles in the body, including the abdominals, are subject to DOMS after an intense training session. Along with soreness, DOMS may cause swelling, stiffness and tenderness in the affected muscle groups, Barring an injury, your muscles will repair themselves in about 72 hours, but there are steps you can take to help alleviate the sore symptoms.

Chill the Pain

  • Though a hot bath may sound relaxing, especially when you are experiencing muscle pain, the Johns Hopkins Department of Orthopedic Surgery recommends treating with ice rather than heat for the first four days after straining your muscles. Along with numbing the nerve endings, ice helps to constrict the blood vessels and prevent or reduce swelling and fluid buildup.

    Put ice and cold water in a sealed plastic bag for a homemade ice pack; a bag of frozen vegetables will also work. Place a clean towel on the sore muscle, such as the quadriceps or abs, for example, and lay the ice pack on top of the towel; the towel protects your skin from the ice. Leave the ice bag in place for 20 minutes. Repeat three times per day as long as the soreness persists.

Bath Therapy

  • If several parts or much of your body is in pain from working out, then soaking in a tub filled with cool water may be easier than individual ice packs. Adding one-half cup baking soda to your bath water can help to neutralize the lactic acid build up in your muscles and restore the pH balance. Soak for 20 minutes one to three times per day. Alternatively, Epsom salt can be added to your bath to treat your workout pain. The magnesium and sulfate in the Epsom salt can be absorbed through the skin and help your muscles to relax. Pour 2 cups of Epsom salt into your bath and soak for 12 minutes.

Rest and Relax

  • Treating the symptoms of DOMS can help to diminish some of the discomfort but you may not be rid of the pain until your muscles have a chance to fully recover. This requires rest for 48 to 72 hours after your workout. Avoid being sedentary for those two to three days; stopping all activity can lead to muscle stiffness. Perform mild range of motion exercises once a day, such as arm circles, leg rotations, leg lifts and side bends, to keep the blood and oxygen flowing to your muscles. Aim for one to two sets of 10 to 12 repetitions for each exercise. Avoid any movements that cause or increase your pain.

Interventions and Precautions

  • Oral over the counter pain medications, like nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, or NSAIDS, such as aspirin or ibuprofen, can help to temporarily ease the pain and discomfort of muscle soreness. Continue to rest until the muscles are pain-free on their own to avoid causing a severe injury; NSAIDS may help to ease the pain but they will not repair the muscles.

    Speak with a doctor before using over the counter pain relievers if you have had any stomach or kidney problems. Consult with a physician if the pain becomes debilitating, the area of the affected muscle becomes severely swollen, or if your urine becomes dark in color, the latter of which can be a sign that your kidneys are not functioning properly, according to ACSM, Warming up with moderately paced cardio exercise for five to 10 minutes before your training session can help to ward off or reduce the chance of DOMS occurring after your workout.

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