young man feeling muscle pain in arm at the gym

Top 10 Muscle Soreness Treatments for Muscle Recovery

Blog written by VYBE.

Nothing makes you feel pumped like a great workout. You’re powered out but full of energy. Fueled by adrenaline, you’re ready to take on the world – until you wake up the next day and every fiber of your muscles hurts. Your arms ache. Your back is sore. Lowering yourself on the toilet becomes an exercise in pain tolerance. Instead of reading the morning news, you start googling at-home massage remedies and other muscle soreness treatment recommendations, wondering if you may have overdone it at the gym.

Unfortunately, the saying “no pain, no gain” applies to strength building as well. Some muscle soreness or stiffness after exercise is par for the course. But if you’re feeling like you’ve been run over by a bus the next day, you may have done too much too soon. In this article, we’ll tell you what’s normal and what isn’t. Plus, we’ll show you how to prevent muscle soreness after a workout and treatment options that will help you get back into action as quickly as possible.

What causes muscle soreness?

Sore muscles are an equal-opportunity ailment. No matter how old you are, you’re likely to experience muscle pain or stiffness from time to time. Poor posture, strenuous activity and even cold weather can cause aches and pains that make the most athletic teen feel like a senior citizen.

Discomfort that starts after physical activity is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The pain typically starts between 12 and 24 hours after a workout and gradually increases before getting better after around two to three days. It is the result of microscopic damage to the muscle fibers that happens during training. To heal these tiny tears, your body increases inflammation, resulting in stiffness and soreness. While this process may be annoying, it is what ultimately allows your muscles to grow and become stronger.

Any high-intensity workout can cause muscle soreness, but some exercises are more likely than others to bring on DOMS. Eccentric exercises are the most common triggers. These are slow, controlled movements during which you contract a muscle while lengthening it at the same time. Examples include:

  • The downward motion while doing a squat or push-up
  • Lowering the body after a pull-up or crunch
  • Lowering the weight after a shoulder press
  • Straightening your arm in a downward motion after a biceps curl

Delayed onset muscle soreness always appears several hours after a strenuous event. If you experience pain during or immediately after a workout, the reason is likely a buildup of metabolites such as lactic acid in your muscle cells. This causes a burning sensation, known as acute muscle soreness (AMS), which should resolve quickly once the activity stops.

Sharp pain with a sudden onset or pain that lingers beyond a few days are signs that you may have a strain or more serious injury that warrants a trip to the doctor. Prolonged muscle soreness without an identifiable trigger should also be checked out to rule out an underlying medical condition.

What can you do to prevent muscle aches?

How to prevent muscle soreness depends on the reason why your muscles hurt. If your posture is to blame, it may be as simple as paying attention to body ergonomics. Whenever you have to sit for long periods of time, make sure you take regular breaks to get up and move around.

Also ensure that you’re getting enough quality sleep. Without sufficient snooze time, our bodies can’t properly regenerate.

Stress is another factor that can contribute to muscle pain, because it creates tension in your body. It’s a natural defense mechanism – our muscles contract to ward off injury when we’re in danger. Reduce stress and make time to relax to give your muscles a chance to release before they become painful.

Dehydration and deficiencies can also lead to muscle pain, so your aching body may signal that something is missing. The solution may be as simple as upping your H2O intake. Aim to drink at least eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day. If that’s not cutting it, you may want to get a blood test to see if your body is missing any key vitamins or minerals.

How to prevent muscle soreness after a workout

When it comes to exercise, some mild to moderate soreness is completely normal, especially when you start a new routine. As your body adapts to your workout, the severity and duration of discomfort usually lessen. Until then, you can keep the ouch-factor to a minimum by following these tips:

  • Keep your muscles toned by sticking to a regular exercise schedule.
  • Up the intensity of your workout gradually so your muscles can adjust to the increased workload.
  • Always make time for a proper warm-up and cool-down.
  • Delayed-onset muscle soreness is exacerbated by dehydration, so make sure you drink plenty of water while exercising.
  • Give your body time to recuperate by putting in rest days.

To support muscle soreness recovery after your workout, you can boost your body’s natural healing power by eating anti-inflammatory foods such as pineapple, ginger, or cherry juice. Supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants such as curcumin, and milk protein also has been shown to speed up recovery after exercise.

Tips to Reduce Muscle Soreness

When all efforts of prevention have failed and your muscles are screaming in protest with every move, don’t worry. There are a few things you can do to ease your suffering while you let your body’s natural healing process run its course.

Here are our top 10 muscle soreness treatments for muscle recovery:

1. Get a Massage

A massage is one of the most effective – and enjoyable – remedies against stiffness and soreness. Pressure therapy not only soothes muscle pain by increasing blood circulation and reducing knots, it also improves the general strength of your muscles.

If you can’t get an appointment with a professional, consider at-home massage with a deep muscle massager gun. Choose between vibration therapy and percussion therapy to massage away tension and supply your muscles with oxygen to boost the recovery process.

2. Up Your Protein

Since muscles are made of proteins themselves, adding extra nutrition directly through your diet will facilitate muscle recovery after a heavy workout. Eating more protein will help you rebuild the muscle mass that got damaged during your workout.

3. Rest

Give your muscles a break to undergo their regeneration processes in peace. Allowing for time to recover will help them adapt to the higher level of activity, which will make it easier for you to achieve your fitness goals in the long run.

4. Sleep with a Weighted Blanket

Weighted blankets provide a hugging feeling and exert pressure on the entire body at once, which not only helps in improving sleep but also provides an all-night long soft massage sensation to your muscles.

5. Take a Cold Bath

An ice bath is a very effective way to reduce muscle soreness and inflammation after working out. The cold reduces blood flow around the injured area, reducing pain-causing inflammation and swelling. Because of its effectiveness, this remedy is popular with elite athletes for post-exercise recovery.

6. Use Heat Therapy

If the idea of playing penguin makes you shudder before you even turn on the cold water, heat therapy may be a more comfortable solution for you. By increasing blood flow, heat supports your body’s natural regeneration efforts. A 2013 study showed that applying heat immediately after a workout can even help reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness.

7. Refuel with Chocolate Milk

You don’t need expensive sports drinks or recovery shakes. The solution to your workout woes can likely be found in your fridge! Chocolate milk provides an ideal combination of carbohydrates and protein. It delivers the necessary energy and building blocks for a speedy recovery while replenishing nutrients lost during your workout.

8. Drink More Water

Drinking water after a workout not only replaces fluids lost during vigorous exercise, it also helps flush away the metabolic waste produced in the muscles. Always have a water bottle on hand during your sweat sesh and stay well-hydrated while you train. Learn more about how much water you need to drink while working out here.

9. Avoid Alcohol and Caffeine

Both alcohol and caffeine are diuretics, which means they aid in removing fluid and salt from your body. This adds to dehydration and can hinder muscle soreness recovery. Alcohol can also interfere in the synthesis of protein, which is essential for muscle regeneration. If you want to get back to being pain-free as soon as possible, it’s best to avoid these drinks for a few days.

10. Take Anti-Inflammatory Drugs

Everyone’s pain tolerance is different, and sometimes, you need a treatment that alleviates muscle soreness quickly. In this case, an anti-inflammatory may be your best bet. Always make sure that you have a doctor’s OK to take any medication. Also remember that these drugs might be helpful in reducing pain in the short term, but because they reduce the inflammation that is part of the muscle-building process, they will hinder your strength-building efforts in the long run.

Final Thoughts

Physical activity is one of the best things you can do for your body, so don’t let pain keep you from working out. By following the tips above, you can stay in shape without suffering unwanted consequences.


Contributing Writer: Marion Rhodes