What to do for Sore Muscles After Workout?


Whether you’re new to exercise or have been working out for years, there’s always the chance that you will have sore muscles after workout.  It happens all the time with me when I change my workout routines.  A lot of questions surround this phenomenon with one of the most common being what to do for sore muscles.  Additionally, people wonder whether sore muscles after exercise are a sign of a good workout?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Before we can answer the above questions, let’s talk about DOMS.  DOMS is the reason your muscles are sore after exercising.  Immediately after a workout, your muscles might feel fine.  However, over the next 8-24 hours, you could feel increasing discomfort that could last as long as a week.  Because of the physical stress you place on your muscles, they get small microscopic tears.  Along with inflammation, these muscle fiber tears cause minor pain known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  The good news is that these tears aren’t serious.  They are a sign that your muscles are trying to adapt to a new or more challenging workout routine.  The process of rebuilding these muscle fibers leads to increased growth.

What to do for Sore Muscles?

Unfortunately, preventing DOMS is highly challenging and there isn’t one catch all solution.  There are a few tricks that may help in easing the pain though.  Stretching and flexibility training can certainly help, although some research has found that it has no impact on DOMS.  Hand in hand with these is a good cool down after your workout routine.  You can keep it really simple and do some light cardio or even just walk.  Yoga has shown some effectiveness in reducing DOMS as well.

Another method is using a heat remedy.  Research has shown that applying heat to the skin increases blood flow and helps heal the small tears resulting in less soreness.  Overall, just recognize that you need to rest your muscles and give them time to grow.  You may even have to reduce the intensity of your next workout if you’re still sore.  Listen to your body and don’t overwork it.  If you can’t perform regular activities because of sore muscles, overtraining may be the issue, not DOMS.

Are Sore Muscles After Exercise Good?

Many people want an immediate sign that a workout is helping them progress.  While you won’t see an overnight increase in muscle size, DOMS is a nice way of telling people they worked their muscles adequately hard.  However, it is not necessarily an indicator of a good workout nor is that lack of soreness a sign of a bad workout.  Soreness just means your muscles did something that they weren’t used to doing.  If you’re sore after every workout, it might be a sign that your muscles need more recovery time.

In conclusion, the best thing to do for sore muscles after workout is to simple rest, recover, and let them grow.  Try yoga or applying heat.  Tone down the intensity of your next workout as needed.  Additionally, sore muscles after exercise aren’t an indicator of a good workout, so don’t worry if you’re not sore after every workout.  Just don’t confuse DOMS with overtraining or injury.