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How to Relieve Muscle Soreness After Exercise

Having sore muscles after exercising is not uncommon, but that does not mean it's healthy. Sore muscles usually indicate overexertion and can happen to beginners and more experienced exercises alike. Treating sore muscles can help relieve pain and promote healing, and in some cases, allow you to continue exercising again sooner. Consult a doctor if the soreness in your muscles does not go away after seven to 10 days.

  1. Rest your muscles. Rest is important to give your muscle fibers time to repair and heal properly. Avoid straining or exercising the muscles until the soreness goes away.

  2. Massage the muscles to restore blood flow and loosen the muscles up. Gently rub or knead the muscles with your hands or an electric massager. If you can, make an appointment with a professional masseuse.

  3. Take a pain reliever. A mild over-the-counter medication such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help relieve minor soreness and pain. Avoid taking too much ibuprofen, however, as it can cause irritation in the lining of the stomach.

  4. Apply an ice pack to your sore muscles for the first 24 to 72 hours. This helps reduces delayed onset muscle soreness and in the event the muscle has been injured, ice helps reduce the inflammation. If you're brave enough, take an ice bath. After the period of icing, apply heat.

  5. Soak in a hot tub or shower, or apply a hot water bottle to the sore muscles. Heat will dilate the blood vessels, restoring blood flow and relaxing the muscles. Sitting in a spa or steam room will also have the same effect. Drink plenty of water to avoid dehydration if you choose the spa or steam room option.

  6. Perform mild exercise and gently stretch the muscles. Mild exercise such as walking, yoga or swimming can keep the muscles from tightening and causing pain. Like some of the other remedies, stretching and exercise will generate blood flow and keep the muscles loose. Avoid strenuous exercise such as weightlifting, resistance training or high-impact cardio, which can exacerbate muscle soreness.


    To prevent sore muscles, gradually build your way up to vigorous activity if you are a beginner. Include a pre-exercise warm-up and gentle stretching as part of your workout.

    Eat a healthful snack after exercising. Choose foods high in carbohydrates and protein, such as lean meats and a bagel or peanut butter on toast, which will help build and repair muscles, helping to reduce soreness. Eat the snack within 15 to 60 minutes after exercising; this is the period when your body will most effectively process the proteins and carbohydrates.

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About the Author

Solomon Branch specializes in nutrition, health, acupuncture, herbal medicine and integrative medicine. He has a B.A. in English from George Mason University, as well as a master's degree in traditional Chinese medicine.

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