We’ve all experienced post-workout muscle soreness at one point in our life. And learning to relieve it is what makes you stick to your workout schedule.
You went hard at the gym, around the track, or on the field. You worked up a sweat and felt great! But now it’s the day after and you’re so sore you can hardly get out of bed. What do you do?
Muscle soreness is the bane of any athlete’s existence. A little ache the next morning can be satisfying, but too much can impede daily life – and your workout schedule.
Fortunately, there are ways to find relief beyond taking a few ibuprofens.
How To Relieve Muscle Soreness
To help you fight the curse known officially as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), here are a few tips:
1. Take A Warm Bath (Or Just Visit A Sauna)
It is an age-old practice to dunk yourself in a tub of ice water to treat soreness. But there’s a lot of scientific debate as to whether or not it actually works. What most scientists do agree on, however, is that a warm bath or trip to the sauna can help.
The reason you’re sore after a heavy workout is because of tiny muscle tears that occur after strenuous activity. Warm water and heat increase blood flow to our muscles, which promotes healing of those tears. It’s not a magic cure, but soaking in the tub can take the edge off.
Some athletes report relief when taking a warm bath after using an ice pack wrapped in a towel for a short period of time.
Whatever you do, just remember not to expose yourself to temperature extremes on either end for too long.
2. Use Compression Socks
Just like a warm bath, compression socks have long been used to increase circulation and recovery. They squeeze your feet and ankles and force blood to circulate throughout your legs.
Unlike a bathtub, however, compression socks can accompany you anywhere – even during workouts. Runners often use them to help in endurance training to prevent soreness later on.
Sleeping in compression socks can help recovery overnight after a hard day.
Just make sure you get the right size socks. Too tight and it can slow circulation. Too loose and it won’t be effective. Some can’t ever get used to compression socks, but those who like them wear them everywhere.
3. Go For A Walk
More exercise? To treat soreness after exercising? It sounds counterintuitive, but there’s a school of thought that light endurance training can cause something called exercise-induced analgesia. This essentially means your body lowers your sensitivity to pain after a very light workout.
The next time you’re sore, do a few warm-up stretches or yoga. Then hop on a bike or go for a light jog or walk. During the workout, you may find your soreness fades away.
Of course, be careful not to push yourself too hard. Overdoing it during your recovery phase can make things worse.
4. Rethink Your Exercise Plan
Seasoned athletes know it isn’t necessary to do 110% every single time. If you’re constantly feeling severe soreness after working out, it may be time to tone it down.
Muscle soreness is the result of tiny amounts of muscle damage. Repeatedly exercising to the point of pain can translate to serious damage.
You may want to think of soreness as a warning sign that your body needs a break. Consider taking a rest day until it fades – or even reducing the intensity of your plan for a while.
Other tips to relieve muscle soreness include:
- Massaging the affected area.
- Eating pineapples or tart cherries – the bromelain, an enzyme found in these fruits, can significantly reduce inflammation in the body.
- Eat protein-rich foods.
- Hydrate properly after the workout – studies show a correlation between delayed-onset muscle soreness and dehydration.
If your muscle soreness won’t go away, gets immediately worse after exercising, or results in any strange swelling, it’s time to see a doctor. A medical professional can help determine if your pain is normal or cause for concern.