Though post-workout soreness can seem like a punishment for a job well-done, the pain you feel a day or two later is actually a sign that you effectively exhausted your muscles. Unless you have sustained an injury, the common cause of post workout discomfort is delayed onset muscle soreness. When you go on a long run or perform a strenuous weight training session, for example, you can sustain microscopic tears in your muscles and connective tissue. The pain can spread to your joints, which are prone to becoming overworked once the muscles fatigue. The tears will heal naturally, usually within two to four days. Applying some tried and true recovery methods can help the process along.
Rest the affected area or muscle group until the pain has subsided. Continuing to train muscles that have not had an adequate amount of time to recover can lead to further damage and injuries. The amount of time required for the pain to ease depends on the severity of the condition. Most workout soreness goes away within 24 to 96 hours.
Apply ice to the particular muscles and joints that are sore. Fill a sealable plastic bag halfway with ice and cold water; squeeze the air out of the bag and seal the top securely. Wrap the bag in a towel and place it on the appropriate area for 20 minutes. Avoid placing the ice pack directly on your skin, which can lead to damage.
Keep the sore joints from becoming stiff by performing range-of-motion exercises. Perform light movements and avoid placing any further stress on the joints. Examples of range-of-motion exercises are ankle, wrist and arm circles, and ankle, wrist and neck flexion. Perform eight to 10 repetitions of each exercise, two times per day.
Keep a limb in which you are experiencing soreness elevated above the level of your heart to minimize swelling. For leg soreness, for example, lie on a sofa or bed and place one to two pillows under the affected leg. Keep the injured area elevated as much as possible until the swelling and pain are noticeably reduced or gone.
Consult a physician if pain is sharp and intense, the injury becomes worse or if the area does not show improvement within one to three days. Seek medical attention if you are not able to put pressure on the area, such as being unable to walk on your leg, ankle or foot.