How to ease sore muscles and recover faster after a workout

What to do for muscles that hurt after a workout? Sore muscles after exercise is a normal part of your fitness journey. However, there are a few things you can do to ease your sore muscles and recover faster after working out.

So, why do we have sore muscles?

Especially when we’re starting to exercise again, after a while away or we’re stepping up our workout regime, muscles get stressed more and discomfort of up to 48 hours after the actual workout can happen. 

There’s even a name for it: “Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common result of physical activity that stresses the muscle tissue beyond what it is accustomed to,” says David O. Draper, professor, and director of the graduate program in sports medicine/athletic training at Brigham Young University for WebMD

The Canadian Chiropractic Association explains it further: 

Resistance training causes micro-tears of muscle fibres, drawing increased blood flow and inflammation to the area, even leading to mild swelling, which stimulates the pain receptors in the muscle tissue and makes them more sensitive to movement.

The important aspect is, they mention, that the “muscle damage is temporary. As muscle rebuilds itself, it gets stronger and can handle heavier loads.

And while the discomfort should be manageable and normal even, it’s worth mentioning it to your personal trainer. (if you’re working with one)

Is it ok to exercise with sore muscles?

Here’s when working with a Personal Trainer is beneficial as there’s no clear answer whether you can continue working out with sore muscles. 

First of all, be sure that your muscles are only sore and you’re not actually injured. Most sore muscles will feel considerably better after 48-72 hours. Any signs of swelling, stabbing pain, or discoloration are indicators that something else is going on. In those cases, please consult your healthcare provider for support. 

It depends on how impaired your movement is, how sore your muscles are, which muscles hurt etc. 

If you’re sure you’re having sore muscles and not an injury, consult your personal trainer. A trainer will ensure you’re not overtraining a certain muscle. They would rather focus on overall strength until your body adapts to heavy resistance. 

Personal trainers tend to encourage movement in some shape or form, it helps take away the stiffness. (see the ‘Active Recovery’ section below). Work out different muscle groups if you’re working out on consecutive days, and give your sore muscles some rest. 

How to ease sore muscles and speed up recovery after a workout?

  1. Massage

Getting a sports massage from a physiotherapist could be your best bet but it may not be an option that’s readily available. A review has shown “massage to be the most effective” method of reducing DOMS and perceived fatigue. Sports massages following exertion can improve blood flow to stressed tissues and prevent fluid buildup in the muscles.”

Of course, massaging the painful muscles yourself or even using a foam roller can be very effective as well.

  1. Active Recovery

Depending on your level of soreness, Active Recovery with light movements like walking, swimming, cycling, and yoga can help. 

  1. Hydrate with electrolytes

Drink plenty of water, add electrolytes and give your body the fuel it needs to heal. So plenty of colorful fruits and vegetables in your diet will help your recovery. 

  1. Take an Epsom salt bath

Epsom salts contain magnesium that helps relax sore muscles and aid with better circulation. 

Soak for at least 15 minutes. If you’re soaking in an Epsom salt bath for aches and pains, make sure not to use water that’s too hot. This might worsen instead of reducing the swelling.” (Source)

  1. Take an ice bath

An ice bath? Yes, an ice bath as it is “can reduce muscle inflammation, flush out lactic acid, and help your muscles to start the healing process after strength training.” according to Healthline

This study found that the best results were seen with baths that had a temperature of 11-15 degrees celsius and were ‘enjoyed’, more like endured, between 11-15 minutes. 

If you don’t have a bathtub or the idea of sitting in ice-cold water for a few minutes isn’t that appealing, ice packs might be a good alternative. 

  1. Sleep and Rest

Another way to support your body is by resting and taking it easy on those sore muscles. 

Your main takeaways about what to do when your muscles hurt after a workout

It’s absolutely normal to feel sore muscles after a workout, especially if you’ve just stepped up your workout intensity. 

With regular muscle soreness, you’ll feel better after around 48 hours, so it should not hold you back from working out again. There are some simple steps you can take to speed up your recovery if you have painful muscles. 

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