How To Relieve Soreness After A Workout

How To Relieve Soreness After A Workout | Capitol Physical Therapy | Washington DC Physical Therapists

We’ve all heard the expression “no pain, no gain” when it comes to exercise.

But, is there any truth to this?

When we exercise, we put our muscles under stress, and may experience muscle soreness as a result.

A certain amount of soreness is considered both normal and natural.

For instance, soreness following a sweat session can tell us what muscles we used, and if we were working at a high enough intensity to result in changes to our body.

Just because this pain is normal and common doesn’t mean it can’t be uncomfortable.

It also doesn’t mean there aren’t any issues with working out too much.

Thankfully, there are natural solutions to help deal with this soreness.

We’re a physical therapy clinic in Washington DC and we want to help you learn how to deal with the soreness you sometimes experience after a workout.

Keep reading to learn more about the causes of muscle soreness, and natural treatments to relieve it.

What Causes Muscle Soreness?

A workout has many health benefits and can include:

Despite the benefits, any of these workouts can also cause muscle soreness.

In the 24 to 48 hours after exercise, it’s normal to experience delayed onset muscle soreness, also referred to as DOMS.

This type of muscle soreness is different from acute muscle soreness, which is soreness that occurs during or immediately after a workout.

This happens when muscles “burn” energy, which gets broken down into lactic acid.

When lactic acid remains in the area where it was “burned”, soreness can result.

Over time, the lactic acid is picked up and carried away by the bloodstream, so the soreness does not last long.

DOMS instead occurs as a result of microscopic tears and muscle damage.

The most common exercise that causes DOMS is eccentric exercises or exercises where you tense a muscle while you lengthen it.

High intensity exercise can especially cause tiny tears in your muscle fibers.

An increase of inflammation in the body occurs as a result of the body working to repair these tears.

This inflammation causes soreness to occur two or so days after a workout.

Soreness is expected, and it’s not really an issue if it resolves itself in a couple of days.

But, that doesn’t mean it’s a terribly pleasant experience.

If soreness lasts longer than a couple of days, you may have worked out too much and injured yourself.

If you have experienced an injury, it’s a good idea to contact a sports and running injuries physical therapist to schedule an injury consultation and discuss solutions.

You can also work to prevent or reduce your risk of injuries in the first place by making sure you properly warm up before a workout

How To Relieve Muscle Soreness Quicker

So, we’ve established that muscle soreness isn’t always a bad thing.

However, there are still steps you can take to relieve it.

In this section we’ll look at some of the strategies you can use to help limit the soreness you feel following a workout.

1. Active Rest

Active rest is the idea that you don’t just stop completely cold after a tough workout.

We encourage you to instead engage in some level of lower intensity exercise to help you transition from a high intensity workout to resting state.

This can look like:

  • Walking after a long run
  • Performing the motion of a weights workout without the weight
  • Cycling at a low pace with low resistance after an intense spin bike session.

RELATED: Gait Training Physical Therapy

If you stop cold after a workout, it may make your muscles sorer.

This wind down period can help with post workout pain management.

2. Apply Heat To Muscles

A heating pack can help relieve soreness.

When applied to muscles, heat can help increase blood flow which results in more oxygen getting to the area you’ve just worked out.

If you are using this method, you’ll want to be careful to only use it for up to ten minutes at a time to avoid falling asleep while using the heat pack.

If you have a history of heart problems, make sure to speak to your primary care provider before using heat.

RELATED: Understanding Heat And Cold Therapy

3. Post Workout Stretching

When we use muscles during exercise, it causes them to contract.

Ensuring we stretch properly after a workout gives our muscles a chance to lengthen and can relieve tension.

Properly stretching after a workout is often neglected.

But, it can play an important role in helping you to avoid post workout soreness.

How To Relieve Muscle Soreness Quicker | Capitol Physical Therapy | Washington DC Physical Therapists

How To Tell If You’ve Been Working Out Too Hard

While working out is good for us, it’s possible to overdo it.

Some people think “going hard” every day at the gym is the fastest way to see results, but the fact is your body requires rest to heal properly.

Not resting and working out too much increases your risk for injury.

Overtraining can also be counterproductive to the goals of working out.

Working out too much can lead to an increase risk for health issues, such as:

Next, we’ll take a closer look at some of the telltale signs you’ve been working out too hard.

1. You Feel Significant Pain

While some amount of soreness is good, feeling significant pain isn’t.

Pain can be the result of muscle overuse or a sign of an injury, including:

If muscle soreness is interfering with your daily activities, and making it hard to perform everyday tasks, this is a sign to tone it down next time you work out.

2. You Feel Moody After

In general, exercise is thought to be a mood booster and a way to promote emotional wellbeing.

So, if you’re feeling moody after a workout, something is probably wrong.

This can result from a combination of factors including overexertion, fatigue, low blood sugar, and dehydration.

If your workouts are leaving you feeling worse off, it may be time to reexamine your approach.

3. You Gain Weight Despite Exercising

This one may seem counter intuitive.

Unless you’re working out with a goal to build major muscles, which can result in weight gain, most people will expect to see some amount of weight loss from exercise.

Overtraining, however, can lead to weight gain, and there are a couple of reasons for this.

Our bodies are very good at conserving energy, so when you go hard at the gym your body may respond by trying to conserve energy later on.

Muscle also weighs more than adipose tissue, also known as fat.

It can also lead to eating more calories than you realize because exercise leaves you feeling hungry.

4. You’re Having Trouble Sleeping

You would think over exercising would be great for your sleep.

You’re tiring yourself out, right?

Why shouldn’t you sleep like a baby after a hard workout?

Although you may feel tired following a workout, however, overtraining can lead to restless sleep and waking up throughout the night.

RELATED: Physical Therapy Treatments For Insomnia

5. You’re Not Able To Complete Your Workout

Your workout will naturally become harder towards the end of it.

Those last few reps should be difficult, you’ve been working out those muscles and they’re starting to get fatigued.

But, if you’ve pushed yourself to a point where it seems impossible to actually complete your workout while maintaining good form then you’ve probably pushed yourself too far.

Book Your Appointment With Capitol Physical Therapy Today

Have you been feeling excessive or unusual soreness after your workouts?

Or have you suffered a workout or sports related injury which has led to a reduction in your strength or flexibility?

Are you eager to recover so you can get back to the active lifestyle you enjoy?

We’re Capitol Physical Therapy and we can help.

Book your appointment with Capitol Physical Therapy today.

Capitol Physical Therapy
1331 H St NW #200,
Washington, DC 20005


9560 Pennsylvania Ave. # 202,
Upper Marlboro, MD 20772


Capitol Physical Therapy offers orthopedic and other pain related solutions, with our versitile team of physical therapists in Washington, DC