Facebook Pixel

Soothing Muscle Soreness

Rate This

It's a beautiful spring day, just right for getting outdoors and biking along the river or taking a long hike in the woods. After an hour or two, or maybe even more, you head home feeling refreshed and relaxed.

The next morning, you can barely drag yourself out of bed. As the day progresses, your muscles feel even stiffer and achier. You might feel so much discomfort that you think you should forget about exercising.

Muscle soreness several hours, or a day or two, after physical activity doesn't necessarily mean you've done something wrong. Unlike a muscle strain or tear, the condition known as delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is normal, although it can be bothersome. It's caused by the minor changes muscles experience as they're adjusting to new movements or activities.

Don't let a little soreness throw your exercise plan off-track. Try these suggestions for easing the aches:
• Massage the sore area a few hours after exercise. It may reduce swelling and soreness by 30 percent.
• Apply a cream designed to relieve soreness. Alternatively, put ice on sore muscles or soak them in warm water. These all may ease pain temporarily.
• Put your sore muscles back in motion, gently. Light exercise can reduce soreness by 40 percent.
• Wear a compression sleeve on your arm for five days immediately following stressful exercise (such as the motion used in curling a hand weight up from your leg to your chest).
• Do a light warm-up before you exercise. Forget what you learned in high school—stretching before or after exercise won't help you feel less sore.
• Try taking ibuprofen. The American College of Sports Medicine says it may help; it also says that no herbal remedies have been proven useful for muscle soreness.


Connolly DA, Sayers SP, McHugh MP. "Treatment and Prevention of Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness." Journal of Strength Conditioning Research, 17(1): 197-208, 2003.

Zainuddin Z, Newton M, Sacco P and Nosaka K. "Effects of Massage on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Swelling, and Recovery of Muscle Function." Journal of Athletic Training, 40(3): 174-180, 2005.

"Tips Address Exercise-Induced Muscle Pain and Soreness." American College of Sports Medicine. Available at http://www.acsm.org

Zainuddin Z, Sacco P, Newton M and Nosaka K. "Light Concentric Exercise Has a Temporary Analgesic Effect on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, But No Effect on Recovery From Eccentric Exercise." Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 31(2): 126-134, 2006.

Kraemer WJ, Bush JA, Wickham RB, et al. "Influence of Compression Therapy on Symptoms Following Soft Tissue Injury From Maximal Eccentric Exercise." Journal of Orthopedic Sports Therapy, 31(6): 282-290, 2001.

Herbert RD, Gabriel M. "Effects of Stretching Before and After Exercising on Muscle Soreness and Risk of Injury: Systematic Review." British Medical Journal, 325: 468-470, 2002.

Rahnama N, Rahmani-Nia F, Ebrahim K. "The Isolated and Combined Effects of Selected Physical Activity and Ibuprofen on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness." Journal of Sports Science, 23(8): 843-850, 2005.

© 2007 National Women’s Health Resource Center, Inc. (NWHRC) All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from the NWHRC. 1-877-986-9472 (toll-free). On the Web at: www.healthywomen.org.

Add a CommentComments

There are no comments yet. Be the first one and get the conversation started!

Enter the characters shown in the image.
By submitting this form, you agree to EmpowHER's terms of service and privacy policy

We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.

Muscle Injuries

Get Email Updates

Muscle Injuries Guide

HERWriter Guide

Have a question? We're here to help. Ask the Community.


Health Newsletter

Receive the latest and greatest in women's health and wellness from EmpowHER - for free!