How to Reduce Workout Pain

Fact Checked

Jupiterimages/Stockbyte/Getty Images

A good workout can leave you feeling great, but it can also leave you sore the next day. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, can set in 12 to 24 hours after a workout and last for up to 72 hours. If you've just started exercising or just tried a new workout, you might have developed microscopic tears in underused muscles. Strains and sprains can also cause soreness, but proper self-care can help reduce workout pain.

Drink plenty of water before, during and after exercise. Aim for 20 to 24 ounces of water for every hour you work out, finish your exercise session with a big glass and keep sipping throughout the day.

Stretch before and after working out. Walk briskly for five minutes to warm up, performing dynamic stretches such as swinging your arms and legs and clasping alternating knees to your chest with each step. Save static stretches for after your cool-down, when your heart rate has returned to normal.

Eat a snack rich in protein, healthy fats and complex carbohydrates within two hours after exercising to aid in muscle repair. Try a fruit smoothie with a scoop of protein powder, an apple with peanut butter or a slice of whole-wheat toast with melted low-fat cheese.

Get a massage after your workout. As an alternative, perform myofascial release on yourself with a foam roller, a piece of hard, solid foam that uses direct pressure to release muscle tension.

Compress a strained or sprained muscle to help reduce swelling. Wrap the sore body part in an elastic bandage or wear a brace. Elevate the area after wrapping. Stack pillows beneath the affected body part to keep it elevated while you sleep.

Place an ice pack on a strain or sprain for 15 to 20 minutes at a time every two to three hours, for up to 72 hours after you incur the injury.

Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication such as ibuprofen according to the package directions.


While sore muscles need rest, gentle movement can help alleviate pain. A leisurely walk on a flat surface or a restorative yoga class can make you feel better on rest days. It's important to include rest days in your workout routine to help prevent damage to your muscles.


Do not allow an unwrapped ice pack to touch your skin directly, and do not leave it on while you sleep. If using a bag of ice or frozen vegetables, wrap it in a dry hand towel before applying it to your skin. Do not apply heat if you have swelling. If your muscles are sore but not swollen, soaking in a hot bath can help provide pain relief.