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Here’s How To Get Rid of Muscle Soreness
CBD Topical
Sports Performance
Sports Recovery

Here’s How To Get Rid of Muscle Soreness


Have you ever had a tough workout, felt energized and rejuvenated, went to bed, but then woke up feeling like you could barely move? To one degree or another, everyone can experience soreness in their muscles for a variety of reasons. Sometimes we sleep wrong; other times, we go a little too hard when exercising. Other times, we become stiff and sore from being in the same position for too long. Let’s look at some of the factors that can cause us to get sore in the first place, as well as some ways we can prevent soreness so we can keep on doing what we love!

Why Do We Get Sore Muscles?

Our muscles get sore when the tissue that makes them up gets damaged. While this may sound bad, our muscles are actually supposed to get sore! In fact, when we exercise and our muscle fibers are damaged, they can grow back stronger. This is how we build muscle when we lift weights — we’re purposely destroying our muscles so that they become better than they were before. When we exercise, we make thousands of tiny tears in our muscles. These tears can cause inflammation in whatever muscle is being used. When we rest, these tears start to repair themselves, but we still feel the inflammation as soreness. This is why often, taking an anti-inflammatory medicine like ibuprofen is all it takes to get rid of a little nagging muscle soreness. Unfortunately, like all good things, this process can be overdone. While muscle tissue is strong, it can only take so much stress. When we strain, sprain, pull, or tear our muscles, it’s more difficult for them to grow back stronger, and it can take longer. If the injury is severe enough, we may even have weaker muscles after injuring them.

Which Muscles Experience Soreness?

We tend to feel the most soreness in the back, leg, arm, abdominal, and neck muscles because of how much we use them when we’re physically active. However, any muscle in the body can become sore if it’s under stress. For example, if you go skiing, you might excessively flex your thigh muscles. When you finish, you’ll probably feel a bit sore if you don’t go skiing on a consistent basis. In the same vein, if you’re not used to walking but decide to go for a brutal 10-mile hike, your thigh, leg, foot, and possibly even your stomach muscles might get sore. On the other hand, if you spend the whole day sitting in a hard chair, then you might have very stiff, sore glutes because those muscles are taking on the stress of the whole body. If you injure yourself and can’t exercise for a while, you might experience much more soreness along with a decreased range of motion your first time back in the gym. This is because inactivity can cause even more muscle tension than overactivity.

What Are the Types of Muscle Soreness?

While there are a number of ways to categorize pain, muscle soreness has two main categories:
  • Acute soreness: This type of muscle soreness is what we’re typically used to on a day-to-day basis. If you are at the gym and trying to increase the amount of weight you’re lifting, you’ll probably feel a little sore when you’re done exercising. When this happens, your muscles will typically feel better within a few hours.
Acute muscle soreness is generally felt immediately, but also goes away pretty quickly.
  • Delayed soreness: If you’ve ever done an intense physical activity that was outside of your ordinary routine (like going for a long hike, going skiing, or spending a day working outside), you might feel fine that night.
However, one or two days later, you might wake up with intense soreness all over your body. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and happens because muscles are inflamed from the new exercise. The difference in these two types of muscle soreness can explain why sometimes you can have a little bit of tenderness following physical activity, but other times you may feel like you can barely move for a few days.

Neuropathic Conditions

While most muscle soreness has to do with the tearing and healing of muscle tissue, there are some health conditions that can cause the feeling of specific or general muscle soreness. Diseases like celiac, diabetes, fibromyalgia, and small fiber peripheral neuropathy can cause feelings of tenderness all over the body because they can damage the body’s pain sensors (neurons). A common symptom of neuropathic conditions is a generalized soreness all over the body that makes basic daily tasks difficult and painful.

Stress

Even if it doesn’t always affect specific muscles, being overly stressed can wreak havoc on every part of your body. When you’re emotionally or mentally wound up, your muscles will be, too. If you’re ever in a stressful situation, you might feel different parts of your body tense up, which may cause you some light soreness. More importantly, stress can make muscle healing and active recovery more difficult.

How Can You Avoid Muscle Injury and Excess Soreness?

What Should You Do If You’re Already Sore? As with most things in life, it’s better to be proactive than reactive. There’s really no way to completely eliminate muscle soreness from your life, but you can take steps to make it less severe and not as common. Here are a few ways you can avoid excessively sore muscles:

Warming Up Before Exercising

If you ever took a gym class, you probably had to warm up before doing physical activity. This might have consisted of doing a few jumping jacks, some push-ups or situps, and a lot of stretching. While doing stretches can be very helpful in loosening up your muscles, doing a bit of cardio before working out is generally a better option because it increases your blood flow. This can help bring more oxygen to your muscles. Try doing 10 or 15 minutes of light exercise on the treadmill or elliptical before your main workout, and see if it makes a difference in your soreness. Doing the same activity as a post-exercise cool-down can also be helpful in easing muscle aches.

Getting Quality Rest

One of the most important factors for avoiding excess muscle soreness and encouraging your muscles to repair themselves is getting good quality rest. A lack of sleep or downtime can have serious effects on your body’s ability to bounce back from the physical strain and stress of exercising. Try to get a full night’s sleep on a consistent basis. You may need to time your intense workouts to make sure you’re getting enough rest days between them.

Lower Stress Levels

The tension that builds up when you exercise is only exacerbated by emotional and mental stress. Mental health affects physical health more than you’d think! If you often feel worried or anxious, work on decreasing your stress levels, as this can have a positive effect on how you feel physically. It can impact your muscle recovery, as well.

Avoid Overdoing It

While exercise is very important in maintaining overall health, remember that it's always possible to overdo it. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you’re lifting weights, work up to larger weights very slowly. If you enjoy running, don’t jump from running a 5K to running a marathon. Work up gradually, slowly, and deliberately, and your muscles will thank you!

Drink Water

You don’t need to drink two gallons of water a day, but if you want to avoid injury and excess muscle soreness, stay hydrated! Dehydration can slow your muscle recovery significantly. General recommendations range between two and four liters of water a day, but that depends on your age, weight, and activity level. One way to get enough water is drinking before you actually feel thirsty. Drink a few glasses of water right before you go for a long run or hit the gym to ensure good hydration.

Practice Good Nutrition

Another important area of muscle health and recovery is eating well. Different forms of exercise will require slightly different nutritional needs, but generally, getting enough whole fruits, vegetables, and high-quality protein is essential for overall health and recovery from vigorous exercise.

Be Careful With Problem Areas

If you have a specific muscle group, tendon, or ligament that has a tendency to get injured, be careful! A badly twisted ankle can become easily reinjured, even for years afterward. Remember to take it easy and proceed with caution, especially if you’ve had surgery or suffered a severe muscular injury. It’s important to keep track of what works, what doesn’t, and what could be improved. Take note of how you’re feeling after exercising, and try to make small improvements, one day at a time.

What Should You Do If You’re Already Sore?

It’s great to try and prevent muscle soreness, but what if you’re reading this because you’re extremely sore right now? If that’s the case, here are a few things you can do to relieve muscle tension and get better quality relaxation.
  • Rest: If you’re experiencing excess muscle soreness, it’s important to get high-quality rest. This may include making sure that you’re getting a better night’s sleep and taking the necessary downtime for your muscles to heal.
  • Ice: Using an ice pack for a sore area can decrease surface inflammation and help you feel better. If you’re sore in a particular part of your body, like your knee, ankle, or back, try icing it after activity and see if it makes a difference in your level of soreness over the next several days.
  • Heat: Just as ice can numb painful and tense muscles, heat can relax them. Taking a hot shower, enjoying a warm bath with Epsom salts, or relaxing in a jacuzzi are all good ways to get some relief. Using a heating pad on the problem area can help as well.
  • Medications and supplements: The most commonly used medications for muscle soreness are NSAIDS (nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs). These medicines work to chemically reduce inflammation in your body. Over-the-counter medicines like acetaminophen can also be used to reduce low-level pain.
If the pain is intense enough, a doctor might prescribe a stronger medication. The drugs typically prescribed for intense muscle pain are opioid medications and muscle relaxers. Natural supplements have also become more popular recently, and there are many options for dealing with post-workout soreness.
  • Massage: Massages help stimulate your connective tissue so that oxygen and nutrients can reach the area of soreness. Some muscles are easy to massage on your own, while others might require help from either another person or a machine.
A foam roller is a great way to self-massage, but sometimes seeing a massage therapist is a better option for nagging muscle soreness.
  • Topicals: There is a wide range of topical creams, balms, and lotions designed to increase blood flow and numb, warm, or relax your muscles. Some ointments like lidocaine have medications in them to address pain, while other natural topicals use herbs and spices to calm and soothe muscles.
  • Relax: Finally, simple relaxation is an important part of dealing with muscle soreness. Remember, stress and anxiety just make things worse!
While it’s important to address the physical areas of muscle soreness, don’t forget about your mental health. Your attitude and outlook can have a massive impact on your overall wellness.

Staying Active

When we leave a car sitting for a long time, it might develop problems when we start driving it again. The same could be said for our bodies and the muscles that make them up! Staying active is vitally important to maintaining a good quality of life. If you struggle with muscle soreness from exercise or have particular “problem areas” that tend to get injured or overly sore, try some of these strategies to beat your soreness and keep moving forward. Sources: Stress symptoms: Effects on your body and behavior | Mayo Clinic Aerobic exercise: How to warm up and cool down | Mayo Clinic How Much Water Should You Drink a Day | University Hospitals Nutrition for Muscle Repair and Recovery | NASM

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