What to Do When You’re Really Sore From Your Workout

If you’re anything like me, you love a good workout. But sometimes, you can end up really sore afterwards. Here’s what to do when that happens.

Understand why you’re sore

It’s normal to feel sore after a workout. This is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is caused by increased stress on your muscles, which can occur during activities like weight training and high intensity interval training. Understanding why you’re sore is the first step to learning how to manage it. In this article, we’ll look at the causes of DOMS and tips for relieving it.

Identify the type of soreness

It’s important to understand the type of soreness you’re feeling after a workout. It can make a huge difference in what you should do to help your body recover and reduce the likelihood of any long-term issues caused by overtraining or pushing yourself too hard.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the most common type of soreness after exercise and is usually felt 12-48 hours after an intense physical activity. DOMS is caused by microtears in muscle fibers and other soft tissue, releasing inflammatory proteins that cause discomfort and swelling.

This type of muscle soreness can be minimized by doing dynamic warm-ups before exercising, cooling down afterward and avoiding overtraining. Doing exercises that target the specific group of muscles used during a workout can also help to reduce DOMS. For example, if you experience DOMS after running, you should include hip extension exercises like glute bridges or clamshells into your post-run routine as they are known to help reduce this type of soreness.

Other types of pain include overexertion pain which is felt immediately after exercise exacerbates existing injuries or chronic pain; Sharp pain which comes suddenly while exercising due to nerve impingement or ligament strain; Referred pain which radiates away from the site of the injury; Acute muscle cramps which occurs when involuntary muscle contractions come on suddenly without warning; Joint stiffness and swelling from joint inflammation due to injuries, arthritis or even autoimmune disorder; Sprains which are usually caused by overstretching due to inadequate warm-up before an activity (i.e., running/ jumping) that overload weak weakened muscles/ligaments/joints . Treatments for these issues will vary depending on the cause but may involve applying heat/ice packs, rest, NSAIDs, splints/braces for strains/sprains and adapting exercises accordingly for chronic conditions such as arthritis. Knowing how to respond quickly when experiencing various types of pains will help ensure a safe recovery period so that you can start enjoyably enjoying exercising again soon!

Understand the cause of the soreness

Recognizing the cause of the soreness is the first step to finding the right solution. Different types of exercise will produce different levels of soreness, and understanding why your body is responding in this way can help you determine which remedies are most effective.

One potential cause may be acute muscular overload from a particularly tough workout or a sudden increase in physical activity. Acute muscular overload leads to microscopic tears in muscle fibers, resulting in delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This is characterized by a dull, deep-seated pain that usually sets in 12-24 hours after exercise and may last for several days. Because DOMS is an expected result of difficult workouts or new activities and causes no damage to your muscles, it is not considered serious or cause for concern.

Muscle stiffness can also arise from prolonged periods of immobility or prolonged use of the same muscle groups without adequate rest. This usually occurs when sitting down for long stretches at work or engaging repetitive movements such as cycling or running long distances.
Muscle stiffness typically eases with simple stretching movements and can also be alleviated with sports massages and hot/cold therapy sessions.
In rare cases, severe pain may be caused by soft tissue damage (strains/sprains) that requires medical attention if it persists beyond a certain point. If this is suspected to be the root cause, it is best to seek professional advice immediately.


Recovery is an important part of any workout routine and can often be overlooked. Taking the time to properly recover and manage soreness can help you avoid injury, stay motivated, and get back in the gym feeling energized. In this section, we’ll discuss the best ways to recover from your workouts and manage soreness.


Rest is a key component of recovery from a tough workout and can help you come back strong. When it comes to your muscles and how you recover, rest plays an important part in the process. If you don’t allow your body enough time to rest, it will be unable to repair damage done from your workout, leading to fatigue and injury.

If a particular area of your body is feeling particularly sore after a workout, take extra precautions to ensure it gets the rest it needs by avoiding any further strain on that area until it’s feeling better. This could mean taking an extra day off if needed or temporarily changing up your routine in order to give the sore spot more time to recover.

When resting following a tough workout, be sure to hydrate properly and eat plenty of protein-rich foods with complex carbohydrates in order to refuel your body’s energy stores. Additionally, active recovery activities such as walking or light stretching can also help reduce inflammation and speed up the recovery process by increasing blood flow throughout the body.


Adequate hydration is absolutely essential when you’re recovering from a workout. Even mild dehydration can heavily impair performance and cause extreme fatigue, muscle cramps, and prevent the body from being able to heal itself properly. It is recommended that you drink at least 8 glasses of water or other hydrating liquids each day to ensure full hydration throughout your body.

It’s also important to include electrolytes in your big picture of hydration, especially after intense workouts or extended sessions. Electrolytes are minerals such as sodium and potassium that are found in your blood stream, muscles, and organs. They help regulate fluid balance within the body and help with muscle function recovery following exercise-induced exertion. Ingesting foods or drinks high in electrolytes helps you replenish lost fluids while simultaneously fueling your muscles back up to their peak performance potential. Common recovery beverages — such as coconut water — are often made with electrolytes in order to assist with optimal post-workout refueling so they can be useful options for post-exercise replenishment.

Eat protein and healthy carbs

After a strenuous workout, it is important to replenish the body with quality proteins and carbohydrates. Eating the right foods after your workout can help to reduce inflammation, replenish energy stores, refuel your muscles and assist with repair and recovery.

Protein provides essential amino acids needed by the muscles to repair themselves following intensive exercise. Great sources of lean protein include chicken breast, lean beef, tofu, egg whites and fish. Combining lean proteins with whole grains like quinoa or brown rice can also offer complex carbohydrates for additional energy for recovery and muscle building.

Eating moderate sizes meals throughout the day is often the best option for post-workout nutrition. The body needs time for digestion so having smaller sized meals helps in fueling up with essential nutrients after a workout instead of overloading your system at once. Avoid eating packaged food or unhealthy snacks as much as possible; healthy choices should include fresh vegetables, fruits or nuts in order to get some vitamin C which assists in regeneration of muscles as well as fighting fatigue. It’s important to include some healthy fats such as extra virgin olive oil, avocado or peanut butter into your daily diet so that you can get healthier benefits from your meals and workouts too!


When you have an intense workout, you may experience pain and soreness the next day. Fortunately, there are treatments you can use to help ease your soreness. Whether it’s using ice and heat therapy, taking a hot bath, or using a foam roller, there are several treatments that can help alleviate your pain and promote better recovery. Let’s explore some of these treatments and how you can use them.

Foam rolling

Foam rolling is a type of self-myofascia release that you can use to release “knots” in your muscles and increase your range of motion. Foam rolling helps to improve blood circulation and flexibility, reduce muscle pain, reduce muscle tension and scar tissue buildup, and speed up the recovery process. You can use a foam roller for the entire body, including the back, chest, arms, legs, feet, hips and glutes.

To use a foam roller, start at a tender spot in the muscle and slowly roll up and down to break up knots. Roll with short strokes over an area that feels uncomfortable or tight – no more than 10 seconds per area. Stop when it becomes too painful or if you start to feel numbness or tingling. Make sure to roll two or three times over each area (this will create gentle pressure on the muscles) before moving on to another tender spot. You should use about half of your body weight for pressure when foam rolling; adding too much weight could result in further injury instead of promoting recovery. Additionally, make sure to keep your breathing slow and deep as you work through any tight areas – just like with stretching!


Stretching is an essential part of any workout. Not only will it help to reduce soreness, but stretching can also improve your flexibility, mobility and posture. However, it’s important to note that different types of stretching may provide different results for different athletes.

Static stretching is the most common type of stretching and involves holding a single position for 10-30 seconds. This type of stretch can be effective for increasing range of motion, reducing fatigue and improving flexibility. Dynamic stretching involves active movements such as leg swings or lunges that require the body to move within a certain range of motion. This type of stretch is beneficial when performing higher intensity exercises, as it helps increase muscle temperature and blood circulation while building neuromuscular connection.

Foam rolling is another great way to reduce soreness after a workout by gently working all the knots out from muscles and fascia tissue. Foam rolling can aid in both post-workout recovery as well as injury prevention by helping maintain healthy tissue in areas that are prone to injury or overuse.

Lastly, massage therapy is often recommended for people who are feeling particularly sore from their workout routines. Massage therapy has been linked with improved sports performance, improved mobility and reduced risk of injury due to enhanced healing capabilities from increased blood flow throughout the body’s tissues


Massage can be an effective way to treat muscle pain and inflammation resulting from your workout. It can help relieve tension, reduce stress and improve circulation so that nutrients and oxygen get to the area faster and help accelerate healing. Therapeutic massages may not provide permanent relief, but they can help stimulate the release of endorphins which have pain-relieving properties. Swedish massage is considered the most popular and it is designed to relax tight, sore muscles using a moderate amount of pressure; deep tissue massage uses a firm pressure to target deeper muscles as well as tendons and other connective tissues; sports massage may be used if you have an injury or need rehabilitation post-workout; trigger point therapy uses direct pressure on “trigger points” or areas of thickened muscle fibers in order to reduce muscular tension. Whatever type of massage you choose, make sure it’s done by a qualified professional with experience working with athletes.


Avoiding muscle soreness after a workout is possible through simple preventive measures. Firstly, you should always warm up properly before you start a workout. This will help prepare your muscles for the upcoming exercise and will help to decrease the occurrence of post-workout soreness. Also, you should always begin with an easy warm-up exercise before you dive into the challenging one. This will help slowly increase the intensity and also help prevent soreness. Additionally, you should make sure to hydrate properly during your workout and afterwards.

Warm up and cool down

Before you start your workout, warm up with five to 10 minutes of light, low-intensity aerobic activity such as jogging or walking. This helps your body get ready for the more vigorous activity to come and can reduce the risk of injury. After you finish your workout, cool down with a few minutes of light stretching or other low intensity activity. Stretching helps prevent muscle soreness that may result from intense workout activities and can help improve mobility and flexibility. Additionally, cooling down at a steady pace also allows for gradual transition into post workout rest and prevents rapid changes in body temperature which could further aggravate post-exercise muscle soreness.

Increase intensity gradually

When first starting a workout routine, it is important to allow your body time to get used to the new movements and stresses you are placing on it. Too much too soon can be overwhelming and painful. Increase the intensity of your exercise no more than 10 percent at a time and never increase two variables together (frequency, intensity or duration). Doing so gives your muscle fibers time to adjust and will help build overall strength. After a few weeks of consistent exercise, you may begin adding in higher intensity workouts such as HIIT intervals or hill sprints, allowing for further progress in your results with minimal soreness.

Vary your workouts

Varying your workouts is essential for avoiding overuse injuries, improving flexibility, and developing strength in different muscle groups. Incorporating different exercises into your routine can increase the range of coordination and balance, allowing you to use energy more efficiently and enhance performance. By switching up various aspects of the workout—speed, resistance or duration—your body is constantly challenged, enabling you to achieve steady progress with less risk of injuries or plateauing. Moreover, varying your workout will help keep it enjoyable and prevent burnout from doing the same routine day after day. Consider adding new exercises to avoid boredom and maintaining a balanced weekly approach that includes both cardio and strength training activities as well as stretching and foam rolling.

When to See a Doctor

Experiencing soreness after a workout is a normal part of exercising. However, if the soreness is particularly intense or lasts more than a few days, it could mean something more serious. If you’re in this situation, it’s important to know when to see a doctor. Let’s take a look at the signs that it could be something more than just post-workout soreness.

Severe pain or swelling

If you experience severe or prolonged pain post-workout that does not improve with rest, it is important to see a doctor for proper diagnosis and treatment. Other signs that you should seek medical attention include swelling in your limbs or muscles, persisting chills or fever, difficulty walking or a lack of feeling in the affected area. While these symptoms can usually be treated without surgery, ignoring them can lead to serious injuries and long-term complications.

In addition, if the pain is limiting your ability to exercise and is disrupting your everyday activities, you should visit a qualified physician immediately. A doctor will review your medical history, lifestyle habits and physical findings to determine the cause of the condition. Depending on the diagnosis, appropriate treatment will be recommended ranging from physical therapy to medications or surgery. By taking prompt action when injured during a workout session, you can minimize disruption of regular activities as well as minimize potential risks associated with more serious conditions such as chronic inflammation or joint injuries. Additionally, if already prescribed physical therapy by your physician before workout sessions begin – make sure to discuss any post-exercise soreness with them prior to continuing activity levels without modifications.

Unusual symptoms

If you experience unusual symptoms or your soreness does not improve after one to two days, it is important to contact a doctor. Unusual symptoms that suggest an injury or illness rather than the normal soreness caused by exercise may include warmth or swelling in the joint, dysfunction of movement in the muscle or joint, as well as difficulty holding or controlling movements. These are all signs of a potentially serious underlying issue, such as a muscle-tendon strain, tendinopathy, ligament sprain/rupture, muscle contusion/bruising, stress fracture and tears of cartilage structures such as labrum.

If you are extremely sore and stiffness persists without any improvements with rest and other measures taken at home for more than a few days after your workout (or following any physical activity), it is essential to visit your doctor right away for an assessment of your condition. Accurate diagnosis helps ensure appropriate treatment and quick recovery. Your doctor will be able to determine what kind of treatment is right for you. This could include rest and/or physical therapy depending on the severity of your symptoms.

Persistent soreness

If you’re experiencing persistent soreness that is lasting more than a few days, it’s always best to see a doctor. They may recommend rest, ice, and/or medication to help reduce pain and inflammation. Your doctor can also better diagnose any underlying medical problems that could be causing the pain. Although most incidents of extreme soreness are harmless, in some cases intense soreness could be indicative of a serious injury or medical condition such as a muscle strain or dehydration. If you experience severe symptoms including difficulty breathing, dizziness or weakness following exercise, seek medical attention immediately.

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