June 16, 2022

How to Handle Muscle Soreness from Exercise

The Qilo Team avatar
The Qilo Team
The Qilo Team avatar
Medically reviewed BY
The Qilo Team
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When you're new to the world of exercise or are switching up your routine, it's normal to experience some muscle soreness. This is also referred to as "delayed onset muscle soreness" (DOMS), it refers to the pain and stiffness that comes after exercise. The pain is caused by microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, which occur when you stress them beyond their normal range of motion. As your body repairs these tears, it produces inflammation and fluid retention around the damaged area, which causes swelling and inflammation.

DOMS typically starts within 24 hours after exercise, peaks 48 hours later, and can last up to 10 days.

What Causes Muscle Soreness?

When you exercise, your body needs more energy than it's used to getting from food alone. It uses glycogen (a stored form of sugar) for energy during exercise, but this isn't enough for long-term activity. So your body starts breaking down its tissues for fuel—specifically the proteins in muscles to create glucose!

This process of breaking down muscle tissue is called catabolism, which is why muscles get sore after an intense workout. Your body is breaking down and rebuilding itself while you work out! But don't worry—it's part of the natural process of building stronger muscles that will last longer. So the muscle soreness you feel after a workout is a result of microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. As your body repairs this damage, it builds new tissue and strengthens the supporting structures around your muscles.

But what if you're still sore after a few days? This can be a sign that you're overtraining, which means you're doing too much exercise for your current fitness level.

Handling Muscle Soreness

There are tips to help recover from and ways to ease muscle soreness so you can recover faster and get back into the swing of things with your exercise routine. Now let's look at some tried-and-true methods for getting past the pain.

1. Stretch

When done with every exercise stretch. Stretching helps improve blood flow (oxygen and nutrients) to the muscle, which helps reduce inflammation and speed up recovery time.

To stretch, take deep breaths and stretch your muscles gently as often as possible to help them recover faster. Hold each stretch for 30 seconds or longer while breathing deeply through your nose (you should feel a slight pull in the muscle). Don't bounce or push through the pain when stretching—that can cause more damage! Repeat each stretch two or three times per day until the soreness is gone (don't overdo it—you should never feel pain when stretching).

Try foam rolling (rolling on top of a foam cylinder) or stretching exercises like yoga poses or Pilates moves. You can also try massaging your tight spots with oil or lotion—just make sure not to massage too hard!

2. Drink Plenty of Water

Drink plenty of water before and after your workout. Water helps flush out toxins in the body and keeps skin supple and hydrated, which is important for avoiding dry skin or chafing during exercise.

Make sure to stay hydrated—this is especially important if you're exercising outside in hot weather or if you're sweating a lot during your workout routine. Dehydration can cause muscle aches and pains that make it difficult to continue with your exercise regimen.

3. Take Cold Baths

Try ice baths or cold therapy—this will help reduce inflammation and swelling in your muscles, which will also help them recover faster from workouts without causing further damage!

Use ice packs on sore areas for 15 minutes per hour after working out for best results! This helps reduce inflammation in muscles which can cause discomfort when they're tight from exertion during exercise sessions

4. Stay active

To lessen soreness, your best bet is to stay active. This can be done by walking around the block or doing some yoga in your living room.

Get moving as soon as possible. The longer you wait to move around, the more likely it is that the soreness will set in. If you have just finished a high-intensity workout or an intense weight-lifting session, get up and walk around right away. It's best if you do this within 10 minutes of finishing your workout; if not, try walking for about five minutes and then taking a shower to remove sweat from your skin (this will make the muscles feel less tight).

5. Have a light massage

Before you hit the gym, you should be prepared with an effective pre-exercise warm-up routine. This can help reduce muscle soreness and increase your range of motion.

If you're new to exercise and have never experienced muscle soreness before, pay attention to how your body reacts after a workout. Do certain muscles feel tighter or swollen than others? Is there any pain when moving them? If so, now is the time for some R&R: rest and relax! A light massage is a great way to ease tension in overworked muscles—and it's especially helpful if done regularly.

6. Eat Balanced Diet

Eat a balanced diet to make sure that your body gets all the nutrients it needs while recovering from exercise. A good rule of thumb is to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables per day as well as two servings of lean protein like fish or chicken breast (or one serving of red meat). You should also include whole grains like brown rice or quinoa at least twice per week. Drinking milk or eating yogurt will also give your body extra nutrients that aid in muscle recovery.

You can combat muscle soreness by eating certain foods and drinks. For example, a study in the Journal of Applied Physiology found that drinking coffee before exercise may reduce muscle pain after exercise. Drink coffee after your workout as well, but don't drink it before you work out: caffeine increases your energy level and can make the workout feel easier than it is.

Another study in the same journal found that eating whole-grain bread or cereal instead of white bread or cereal may help with muscle soreness. This was due to an increase in vitamin B12 levels from whole grains, which helps prevent damage from oxidative stress (the buildup of free radicals caused by intense physical activity) during exercise.

7. Apply heat to sore muscles

Applying heat can help relax your muscles, which will reduce any pain you're feeling. Heat can help relax your muscles by increasing blood flow to the area. Heat also increases the elasticity of your muscles and connective tissues, which is important for healing injuries. However, if you have soreness due to inflammation, applying heat for too long may increase pain—so it's important to pay attention!

If you don't want to take a hot shower, try using a heating pad or a warm bath instead (especially after exercise). Just make sure not to turn up the temperature too high because this could cause further harm rather than reduce it! Don't forget that if an injury is serious enough that it requires medical attention then heating up will probably not be enough while waiting for an appointment with a doctor either so keep track of how much time passes between when something happens before seeking medical advice; otherwise, there might be other problems later on down the road."

8. Get a good night's sleep.

Sleep is important for muscle repair and growth, but it also plays a role in your overall mental health. Getting a good night's sleep can help you stay focused, alert and productive throughout the day. According to Harvard Health, adults between the ages of 26-64 should get between 7-9 hours of sleep per night.

If you're going through a period of muscle soreness from exercise, getting enough sleep can help you feel better faster. In addition to feeling less sore during the day (and possibly avoiding injury), getting more restful sleep may also improve your mood and decrease stress levels if those are contributing factors for your body aches as well!

9. Try other types of exercise.

If you have been feeling sore after your workouts, try some gentle exercise to help ease the pain. Some examples include:

  • Swimming
  • Yoga
  • Walking
  • Running (on a treadmill) or cycling indoors on a stationary bike, or outdoors on a bike path
  • Rowing machines at the gym (these are like ergometers but with less force exerted on your body)
  • Hiking up hills and walking down them while carrying weight in a backpack (carrying backpacks is great for building muscle and endurance)


Although muscle soreness is normal and can be expected after exercise, there are ways to minimize it.

Muscle soreness should not be confused with injury: if your pain increases in intensity or severity over time or if it continues for more than a few days after the workout has ended, see your physician immediately.

Muscle soreness is a common after-effect of exercise, and it can be pretty frustrating when you're trying to get in shape.

Hopefully, with these strategies in hand, you won’t have to feel muscle soreness for long. The next time you encounter it—and you will!—you can try out different methods and see what works best for you and your body. We know that the internet is full of all sorts of opinions about the best and worst ways to recover from a workout, but we hope this post has given you some solid information to work with as you continue your journey toward a healthier lifestyle.

Of course, when in doubt you can always consult your doctor or fitness experts like our fitness physicians and trainers here at Qilo.

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