If you exercise you know muscle soreness is a real thing. Here’s how to combat it.

Muscle soreness after a vigorous workout is a common experience, especially if you’ve pushed your body to new limits or tried a different type of exercise. This soreness, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), typically occurs 24 to 72 hours post-exercise. While some soreness is a normal part of muscle adaptation, there are several strategies to alleviate discomfort and speed up recovery.

Understanding Muscle Soreness

Muscle soreness is caused by microscopic damage to muscle fibers during exercise, particularly during eccentric contractions (when muscles lengthen under tension). This damage triggers inflammation and a series of repair processes that ultimately strengthen the muscle, but in the short term, it leads to pain and stiffness.

Strategies to Reduce Muscle Soreness

  1. Active RecoveryEngaging in low-intensity exercise, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, can promote blood flow to sore muscles, aiding the removal of metabolic waste products and delivering nutrients necessary for repair. Aim for about 30 minutes of light activity to enhance recovery without further straining the muscles.
  2. Proper Warm-Up and Cool-DownWarming up before exercise prepares your muscles for the activity ahead, reducing the risk of injury and severe soreness. A good warm-up increases muscle temperature and flexibility, which can help prevent strains. Similarly, cooling down with gentle stretching or low-intensity exercise helps reduce muscle stiffness and aids in the gradual recovery of heart rate and blood pressure.
  3. HydrationStaying well-hydrated before, during, and after exercise is crucial for muscle function and recovery. Dehydration can exacerbate muscle soreness and prolong recovery time. Drink plenty of water and consider electrolyte-rich beverages, especially after intense workouts or in hot conditions.
  4. NutritionConsuming a balanced diet rich in proteins, carbohydrates, and healthy fats supports muscle repair and growth. Protein, in particular, provides the amino acids necessary for muscle recovery. Consider post-workout snacks like a protein shake, yogurt with fruit, or a chicken sandwich to replenish nutrients.
  5. Massage and Foam RollingMassage therapy can alleviate muscle tension and improve circulation, reducing soreness. Foam rolling is a form of self-massage that targets tight muscle areas, releasing knots and enhancing blood flow. Spend a few minutes rolling each major muscle group after workouts.
  6. Compression GarmentsWearing compression garments can improve blood flow and reduce swelling in muscles, potentially reducing soreness. These garments apply consistent pressure to the muscles, which may help minimize the inflammatory response and accelerate recovery.
  7. Cold and Heat TherapyCold therapy (ice baths, cold packs) can reduce inflammation and numb muscle soreness immediately after exercise. Heat therapy (warm baths, heating pads) can be beneficial a day or two later by promoting blood flow and relaxing tight muscles.
  8. Adequate SleepSleep is when your body performs the bulk of its repair and recovery processes. Aim for 7-9 hours of quality sleep per night to support muscle healing and overall recovery. Poor sleep can increase the perception of pain and slow down the recovery process.
  9. SupplementsSome supplements may aid in reducing muscle soreness and promoting recovery. Omega-3 fatty acids, known for their anti-inflammatory properties, and branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs), which can reduce muscle damage, are popular choices. Always consult with a healthcare professional before starting any new supplement regimen.
  10. Gradual Progression

To prevent severe muscle soreness, gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts. This allows your muscles to adapt over time, reducing the likelihood of excessive damage and soreness.


While muscle soreness is a natural part of getting stronger and fitter, it doesn’t have to be debilitating. By incorporating these strategies into your routine, you can minimize discomfort, enhance recovery, and get back to your workouts with less downtime. Remember, consistency and listening to your body are key to a successful fitness journey.