Fitness Articles

Smart Ways to Soothe Sore Muscles

Decode, Treat and Prevent 5 Common Types of Post-Workout Pain

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Unexplained Aches
Ever have a great workout and then the next day you're sore in an area that you didn't really work? Or perhaps you are in the middle of a workout and are noticing pain or burning in muscles that shouldn't be feeling the particular exercise, such as your lower back aching while doing an abs exercise. This may be a sign of improper form when lifting weights or performing an exercise. Unexplained aches in your back and neck, or general joint pain, can be signs that you have overstressed your joints or exercised in poor form, causing your body to overcompensate and recruit other muscles to help do the work.
How to prevent it: Always make sure that you're exercising with perfect form. If you can't perform an exercise with proper form, it's a sign that you either need to decrease your weight or modify the exercise.

How to treat it: If you generally feel just sore, treat the same as you would DOMS, but pay special attention to where you're sore to determine the cause of it—you can then avoid it the next time you hit the gym. Joint pain can indicate a more serious injury, so don't use the affected joint in any way that causes it pain. Also, be sure to check with your doctor to rule out injury before exercising again.

What not to do: Do not work the area that is sore—especially if you have back, spine or neck aches. Be cautious of any activity that increases the soreness and consider RICE (rest, ice, compression and elevation) for relief.
Burning Sensations in Muscles
When people say "no pain, no gain" in the gym, the pain they're talking about is actually the burn you feel in your muscles when you really push into and past fatigue. (As you've already learned, real pain is no gain to anyone.) This burn is an unpleasant—but normal—sign that you are working. See, when our muscles use energy, they release hydrogen ions or protons. When doing heavy or prolonged exercise, the protons in your muscles actually accumulate faster than your body can release them, making your muscles burn. This burn is a sign that you've reached muscular fatigue or "overload," which is a necessity if you hope to build stronger muscles.
How to prevent it: You can prevent this by working out at a lower-intensity, although every few days it's good to "feel the burn" because you know that you're really working those muscles in a way that will help them get stronger!

How to treat it: Stopping "the burn" is as simple as stopping the exercise you're doing. Rest a minute or two and try again if you feel up to it. The feeling should subside in a matter of seconds or minutes, although you may experience DOMS in the following days as a result of your hard work.

What not to do: Don't feel like you have to feel the burn every time to have a good workout. The best exercise plan is one that switches high-intensity workouts with easier, lower-intensity workouts to prevent over-training. Keep workouts fresh and give the body adequate rest.


Sources:
Active Recovery, from About.com: Sports Medicine
Don’t Be a Sore Loser - Dealing with Muscle Soreness, from ACEFitness.org
Muscle Cramps, from U.S. National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health
Muscle Pain and Soreness, from About.com: Walking
Muscle Pain and Soreness After Exercise - What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, from About.com Sports Medicine
Sore muscles after exercising, from ScienceDaily.com
Sore Muscles? Don't Stop Exercising, from WebMD.com
Stretching Out Does Not Prevent Soreness After Exercise, from ScienceDaily.com
What Makes Muscles Burn?, from Prevention Magazine
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About The Author

Jennipher Walters Jennipher Walters
Jenn is the CEO and co-founder of the healthy living websites FitBottomeGirls.com, FitBottomedMamas.com and FitBottomedEats.com. A certified personal trainer, health coach and group exercise instructor, she also holds an MA in health journalism and is the author of The Fit Bottomed Girls Anti-Diet book (Random House, 2014).

See all of Jenn's articles.

Member Comments

  • Great resource for understanding your body - I saved it for future reference. I have had muscle cramps since I was a young girl (I was very athleic), later from being physically active, later from different medicines and recently from trying to be healthy. I have never heard to not point my toes! Amazing that I have treated for this and no one shared this gem of information. - 6/30/2014 7:06:08 PM
  • THERESAMARGARET
    Thanks! good information. I was going to stop my exercise program, because of the soreness every time. I got scared I shouldn't be working out so hard. I was thinking just go back to walking. Good motivation information. On to Curves now. - 6/30/2014 8:00:39 AM
  • DENNISPARKER
    I think that overcoming muscle pain just takes time. When I exercise heavily, I am sometimes sore for two days.

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    - 6/19/2014 6:25:25 AM
  • Something that helps me feel amazing is to walk to and from the gym, instead of sitting down in the car post-workout. I only have 5-min drive but I noticed that even after cooling down and stretching, I felt tight getting out of the car back at home. I turned the 5-min drive into a 25-min walk and it really helps! - 6/18/2014 9:47:58 PM
  • DENNISSG
    A reliable blog always comes-up with new and exciting information and while reading I have feel that this blog is really have all those quality that characterize a blog to be a best one. - 6/16/2014 3:56:34 AM
  • Good info wish I would have found it before jan jumpstart! - 1/27/2014 6:51:56 PM
  • ROSIEGAINES
    excellent help,i did my first gym session today and just want to tone up,am a bit achy but am not worrying too much,see how i am tomorrow and may go for a light swim - 9/5/2013 4:31:23 PM
  • Great information. After reading the article I learn the name of the pain I sometimes get the day after I exercise "DOMS"= Delay Onset Muscle Soreness. I love when I learn something new:) - 7/17/2013 5:59:12 PM
  • Good info. Thanks. - 6/26/2013 7:13:18 AM
  • Glad you made the distinction between pain and soreness. Once a week I work to fatigue and feel sore the next day. I happen to enjoy the soreness because I know what it means. Now and then I can truly feel the burn too - but again - that's not usually more than once a week. Pain, otoh - uh uh. Nope. don't do pain. - 6/23/2013 6:36:31 AM
  • I am about to do a 21 mile bike ride today and then teach a yoga class. This was an excellent artical to reinforce that I will be alright! - 6/23/2013 6:36:05 AM
  • I've found ice baths to be incredibly helpful. - 6/14/2013 12:28:52 PM
  • Great info. Thanks - 5/31/2013 3:07:15 PM
  • Oh, this is such a relief.

    It's been a really long time since I've worked out, and I've been so sore and uncomfortable the last 24hrs. I was afraid that I might have pushed myself too far, but I'm sure that it's just from being inactive for so long. I'll start doing yoga to help with this soreness and stiffness. - 5/19/2013 9:06:27 PM
  • HAPPYSQUIREL
    Timely article, as I am tracking yesterday's work-out and lamenting the stiffness I am feeling today!!! Great resource! Thank you! - 8/1/2012 11:42:40 AM
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