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How To Prevent Muscle Ache After Your Workout 
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How To Prevent Muscle Ache After Your Workout 

How To Prevent Muscle Ache After Your Workout

Muscle ache is the discomfort or soreness felt in your muscles, often following physical exertion such as exercise or strenuous activity. It’s that feeling of tenderness or stiffness that can occur in your muscles after pushing yourself during a workout or engaging in activities that your body isn’t accustomed to. 

This feeling can vary from a mild, dull ache to more intense soreness, and it’s typically most noticeable within the first 24 to 48 hours after your workout. It’s a common pain and is often a sign that your muscles are adapting and getting stronger as a result of your workout.

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Key Takeaways

Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to your body’s signals and avoid overexertion, especially when increasing workout intensity or trying new activities. Gradually progress your workouts to allow your muscles to adapt and recover effectively.

Stay Hydrated: Proper hydration is essential for maintaining muscle function and flexibility. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout to reduce the risk of cramps and muscle soreness.

Incorporate Recovery Strategies: Implement active recovery techniques such as stretching, foam rolling, and massage to alleviate muscle tension and promote circulation. Additionally, prioritize a balanced diet rich in nutrients to support muscle repair and growth.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Woman with Muscle Pain

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) refers to the muscular discomfort or pain that typically develops 12 to 24 hours after engaging in strenuous physical activity, especially if the activity involved eccentric muscle contractions or movements that lengthen the muscle fibers. DOMS is most pronounced between 24 and 72 hours post-exercise, peaking around the 48-hour mark, hence the term “delayed onset.”

DOMS is characterized by localized soreness, stiffness, and tenderness in the affected muscles. It can range from mild discomfort to significant pain, depending on factors such as the intensity and duration of the exercise, individual fitness level, and the novelty of the activity. Common activities that can lead to DOMS include weightlifting, running downhill, plyometric exercises, and eccentric-focused movements like lowering a weight slowly during resistance training.

Although the exact mechanisms behind DOMS are not fully understood, it is believed to result from microscopic damage to muscle fibers, inflammation, and the release of various biochemical substances in response to the stress of exercise. Despite the discomfort it causes, DOMS is considered a normal part of the muscle repair and adaptation process. As the muscles recover and adapt to the stress placed on them, they become stronger and more resistant to future bouts of DOMS.

While DOMS cannot always be completely avoided, certain strategies such as gradually increasing exercise intensity, staying properly hydrated, incorporating adequate recovery time, and engaging in post-workout stretching and foam rolling can help alleviate its severity and duration. Over time, as the body adapts to regular exercise, individuals may experience less severe DOMS or even become less susceptible to it.

What The Doctors Say

Courtesy of Dr. Naomi Albertson

According to Robert D. Herbert, Marcos de Noronha, and Steven J. Kamper, authors of a review published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, stretching before or after exercise does not produce clinically important reductions in delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in healthy adults.

The review, which included twelve studies, found that muscle stretching conducted either before, after, or both before and after exercise did not result in significant reductions in muscle soreness. The studies, involving both laboratory-based and field-based trials, showed a high degree of consistency in their results.

The authors concluded that while stretching may have some minor effects on reducing muscle soreness, these effects were not clinically significant. Therefore, based on the evidence from randomized studies, stretching is not recommended as a reliable method for preventing or reducing delayed-onset muscle soreness in healthy adults.

According to Dr. Jabeen Begum, a medical expert reviewed by WebMD, active recovery workouts can be beneficial for easing muscle soreness after exercise. She emphasizes that when you’re just sore and not injured, engaging in active recovery can help you feel better faster compared to passive recovery, which involves resting your body.

Dr. Begum explains that muscles often experience soreness after exercise due to tiny tears in the muscle tissue, which is a natural part of the muscle growth and strengthening process. Additionally, she mentions that trying new exercises or movements can result in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which typically occurs hours or even days after the activity. However, she clarifies that DOMS isn’t caused by lactic acid buildup, as previously believed, but rather involves actual damage to the muscles.

Active recovery workouts are recommended because they increase blood flow to the muscles and joints, aiding in the removal of toxins and delivery of fresh nutrients for healing. Dr. Begum advises that these workouts should be moderate in intensity, targeting a heart rate of 30% to 60% of your maximum. Studies have shown that recovery workouts are less effective when they’re overly strenuous.

Some examples of exercises for active recovery include low-intensity exercise like walking or cycling, yoga, foam rolling, swimming, and water exercise. However, Dr. Begum cautions against using active recovery if you’re experiencing pain that exceeds normal soreness, as it could indicate an injury. In such cases, rest or medical care may be necessary.

In conclusion, Dr. Begum suggests incorporating active recovery into your post-exercise routine to help alleviate muscle soreness and promote healing. However, she advises seeking medical attention if you experience any symptoms of injury or if the pain persists despite rest and other self-care measures.

5 Ways To Get Less Muscle Pain

Courtesy of Chloe de Winter from Go Chlo Pilates & Well+Good

Understanding how to optimize your workout routine is key to achieving your fitness goals while minimizing the risk of injury or discomfort. Here, we outline five practical strategies aimed at helping you enhance your exercise experience and promote overall well-being.

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Warm-up and Cool Down

Start your workout with a proper warm-up to gradually increase blood flow to your muscles and prepare them for activity. Incorporate dynamic stretches and movements that mimic the exercises you’ll be doing. After your workout, cool down with static stretches to help relax and lengthen your muscles, reducing the likelihood of stiffness.

Hydrate Properly

Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your workout to stay hydrated. Proper hydration helps maintain muscle function and flexibility, reducing the risk of cramps and muscle soreness. Electrolyte-rich drinks can also be beneficial for replenishing minerals lost through sweat during intense workouts.

Gradually Increase Intensity

Avoid sudden increases in workout intensity or duration, as this can lead to muscle fatigue and increased soreness. Instead, gradually progress your workouts over time to allow your muscles to adapt and recover more effectively. Listen to your body and avoid overexertion, especially if you’re new to exercise or trying out new activities.

Incorporate Recovery Techniques

Include active recovery strategies such as foam rolling, massage, or gentle stretching on rest days to promote circulation and alleviate muscle tension. Additionally, consider incorporating techniques like yoga or Pilates into your routine, which can improve flexibility and reduce muscle tightness over time.

Fuel Your Body Properly

Ensure you’re consuming a balanced diet that provides adequate nutrients to support muscle recovery and repair. Prioritize lean protein sources to help rebuild muscle tissue, along with complex carbohydrates for sustained energy and essential fats for overall health. Eating a balanced meal or snack containing protein and carbohydrates within 30 minutes to an hour after your workout can also aid in muscle recovery.

Relieve Sore Muscles After a Workout

Courtesy of Caroline Jordan

To help relieve sore muscles after your workout, you can try out different strategies focused on helping you recover and feel better. Here are some effective methods you can consider:

  1. Rest: Giving your muscles time to recover is crucial. Avoid overtraining and allow your body adequate rest between workouts.
  2. Gentle Stretching: Engage in gentle stretching exercises to help alleviate muscle tightness and improve flexibility. Focus on targeting the specific muscles that feel sore.
  3. Foam Rolling: Use a foam roller or massage roller to apply pressure to sore muscles. Foam rolling helps release tension, increase blood flow, and reduce muscle stiffness.
  4. Massage: Consider getting a professional massage or using massage tools at home to target sore muscles. Massage helps improve circulation, reduce inflammation, and promote relaxation.
  5. Hydration: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, which aids in flushing out toxins and promoting muscle recovery.
  6. Nutrition: Consume a balanced diet rich in protein, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats to support muscle repair and growth. Consider incorporating foods with anti-inflammatory properties, such as berries, fatty fish, and leafy greens.
  7. Heat Therapy: Apply heat to sore muscles using a heating pad, warm towel, or warm bath. Heat therapy helps increase blood flow, relax muscles, and alleviate pain.
  8. Cold Therapy: Alternatively, apply cold therapy using ice packs or cold compresses to reduce inflammation and numb soreness. Cold therapy is particularly effective within the first 48 hours after intense exercise.
  9. Over-the-Counter Pain Relievers: If necessary, you can take over-the-counter pain relievers such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to help alleviate muscle soreness. However, use them sparingly and follow the recommended dosage instructions.
  10. Active Recovery: Engage in light, low-impact activities such as walking, swimming, or cycling on rest days to promote blood flow and aid in muscle recovery without causing further strain.

It’s essential to listen to your body and adjust your recovery routine based on the severity of muscle soreness and your individual needs. If soreness persists or worsens, consult with a healthcare professional for further evaluation and guidance.


After your workout, it’s normal to experience muscle soreness or discomfort, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This sensation typically peaks within 24 to 48 hours and is often a sign that your muscles are adapting and becoming stronger. 

To minimize muscle pain and promote recovery, focus on incorporating proper warm-up and cool-down routines, staying hydrated, gradually increasing workout intensity, and incorporating recovery techniques such as stretching and hydration. 

Listening to your body and implementing these strategies, you can optimize your workout experience and support overall muscle health and well-being.

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