Sore muscles after exercise  just makes you wanna go “Awwwwwww…” When you get up from a chair, walk up stairs, try to play with your kids or perform house duties you are constantly reminded of the beating you gave to those sore muscles. The funny thing is that I can’t get upset at my sore muscles after exercise because although it hurts, “it hurts good!” I know that I gave some good attention to my muscles, I am less stressed and know that sore muscles after exercise will pass and my muscles will be stronger. In the mean time; however, what can we all do to make post-exercise soreness better?

Sore Muscles After Exercise: How to Relieve the Pain!

The best way to reduce sore muscles after exercise is simple: perform light exercise. While this information isn’t groundbreaking, the best way to to reduce sore muscles after exercise is to simply keep moving! It may be nearly impossible to perform a high-intensity workout, or even a moderate one at that, but continuing with light exercise will temporarily relieve the pain. According to emedicine.com, your sore muscles after exercise will diminish immediately after beginning light exercise, but; unfortunately will return soon after. 

How Light Exercise Reduces Sore Muscles After Exercise

  • When you exercise, you cause  micro tears to the muscles. However, there is no need for concern, as these micro tears are necessary to cause adaptation, which results in the muscle fibers growing a little bigger each time. During the repair phase the  muscles can regrow as fibrous and sometimes crisscrossed band as they muscles try to knit themselves back together. These new crisscrossed fibrous bands are called adhesions. When you perform light exercise to relieve sore muscles after exercise, these adhesions break up and may help to loosen your tight muscles. 
  • Light exercise increases blood flow and the temperature to your muscles, which may help remove waste materials from the muscle areas. Basically, you are flushing the sore areas with fresh blood and nutrients to help speed up the healing process.
  • Your body’s natural painkillers are released with a light exercise workout routine. These painkillers, or endorphins, are hormones released during exericse, sex, pain, consumption of spicy food and during intense excitement. The immediate release of endorphins during light exercise may contribute to the fairly immediate pain relief experienced as you kick up your light workout routine.

Other Ways to Relieve Sore Muscles After Exercise That May Work

Unfortunately, there is not much else that has been proven in research studies to help relieve sore muscles after exercise.  But here are a couple of other options to consider if you are really hurtin’.

  • Stretching – Sorry to say that stretching doesn’t help reduce post-exercise soreness according to a Cochrane Review. The review was significantly large and 14 studies were included, so I am fairly confident that stretching doesn’t help with post-exercise soreness. However, foam rolling although uncomfortable and can be tender may help break down fibrous muscle adhesions that cause pain. It is thought that by breaking down the adhesions the fibers regrow in more of an organized arrangement. Unfortunately, the effects of foam rolling have not yet been well-researched. But if stretching of foam rolling feels good, then do it!
  • Cold-water bath – While a cool down may help, a cold-water bath, or cryotherapy, may be better in reducing post-exercise soreness. According to another wonderful Cochrane Review, “There was some evidence that cold-water immersion reduces delayed onset muscle soreness after exercise compared with passive interventions involving rest or no intervention.” In other words, if you can tolerate a cold-water immersion bath, then it may help with soreness later! Because the studies reviewed were not of optimal quality, there are no specific recommendation in what the temperature of the water should be or how long you should sit in cold-water. Generally, cold-water is defined as a temperature less than 15 degrees Celsius. Remember that cryotherapy is typically used for its analgesic effects. Whether or not it physiologically helps the healing process is still debatable. Personally, I can’t take them and would rather be sore…
  • Cherry Juice – Interestingly, cherry juice may be another possible method of reducing post-exercise soreness. An article in the 2006 British Journal of Sports Medicine reports “data shows efficacy for  cherry juice in decreasing some of the symptoms of exercise induced muscle damage. Most notably, strength loss averaged over the four days after eccentric exercise was 22% with the placebo but only 4% with the cherry juice.” A similar article in The Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition reports similar benefit. In a study involving 54 runners, they found that drinking 355 mL bottles of tart cherry juice twice daily for 7 days prior to the event and on the day of the race reduced post-run pain. So there is an interesting connection between cherry juice and muscle soreness that needs further clarification. According to the authors, the numerous anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory properties of tart cherries may be responsible for this positive effect.  It may not be a bad idea to give consuming cherry juice a try to reduce post-exercise muscle soreness.
  • Yoga – If you aren’t on board with including yoga routines regularly into your workout, such as the morning yoga workout, you are missing out on the many physical, mental and spiritual benefits of the practice. As mentioned earlier, yoga is a form of light exercise. When performed regularly, you keep your muscles conditioned, which may prevent them from getting sore.  In addition to treating soreness, yoga may help to prevent soreness. 

Things That Probably Don’t Work to Reduce Muscle Soreness After Exercise

  • Ice massage
  • Acupuncture
  • Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS)
  • NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), such as Aleve or Ibuprofen
  • General analgesics, such as Tylenol

*Overconsumption of pills, particularly NSAIDs, are known to have severe side effects, such as stomach pain and bleeding.

Sore Muscles After Exercise Summary

Overall, prevention with consistent training and including a yoga workout regularly into your workout schedule are the most effective ways in preventing post-exercise soreness. If post-exercise soreness catches up with you, a light workout routine, and then a cold-water bath and cherry juice may be your best options. I know… There is not much else you can do but stay as active as you can and wait it out. Stay consistent with your workout routines to prevent future episodes of sore muscles after exercise.

The person that discovers a sure fire way to treat DOMS will be a billionaire. However, until then we will try almost anything, despite how dubious it may seem. – Unknown

Edited by Kyri Iannou