How Long Does Muscle Pain Last After the Gym? 9 Ways to Reduce the Soreness

Starting a workout routine, making time to go to the gym, and adapting to a routine can be challenging enough. But it’s harder to stay on track when you experience muscle soreness. How long does this pain last?

Muscle pain usually lasts 24 to 48 hours after the gym. The pain you feel immediately after or during exercise is caused by lactic acid building up in your muscles and will go away quickly. However, the persistent pain is due to an intense workout or a change in activity. 

Read on as we pull the curtain on different types of muscle soreness and ways to treat them. We’ll also give you some tips on how to prevent muscle pain after a workout session.

Why Do My Muscles Feel Sore After Exercising?

Muscle soreness comes in two varieties: acute and delayed onset muscle soreness.

Acute muscle soreness happens when lactic acids build up in your muscles. How does that happen? 

Your body produces energy through aerobic inhalation—getting oxygen from the air. But when you work out intensely, that oxygen isn’t enough for your muscles. So, your body has to rely on an anaerobic inhalation process to keep you energized.

This biochemical energy-producing process doesn’t need oxygen and produces lactic acid.

On the other hand, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) usually happens when you start a new exercise routine or perform eccentric exercises—those involving slow and lengthening muscle contractions.

High-intensity workouts and new routines cause microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. The body’s reaction to these tears is inflammation accompanied by soreness. 

Acute muscle soreness disappears when you stop exercising or shortly after that, but DOMS takes one to three days to resolve. 

How Can I Treat Muscle Pain?

Time is the best remedy for muscle pain. But there are a few ways to relieve some of the soreness:

Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID) 

NSAIDs like Aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen help reduce inflammation and muscle soreness. Their anti-inflammatory properties quickly reduce muscle soreness. 

However, they can increase the risk of gastrointestinal bleeding, stroke, and heart attack. If your pain is bearable, it is better to use natural alternatives instead.

Anti-Inflammatory Foods 

Antioxidant-rich fruits like pineapple help reduce inflammation and have pain-relieving effects.

Watermelon is also beneficial. It contains an amino acid called L-citrulline, which increases blood flow in muscle tissues and reduces the lactic acid buildup. As a result, it decreases muscle pain severity.  

Here’s an infographic of the best anti-inflammatory foods:

Foods that fight

Antioxidant Supplements

Antioxidant supplements like fish oil and curcumin may also help. Curcumin is found in turmeric.

Fish oil and other omega-three supplements, like Nordic Naturals Ultimate Omega available on amazon, also have the same effect. They help reduce DOMS and enhance muscle recovery after exercise.

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Topical Arnica 

Arnica gel has a great reputation for easing muscle soreness. It is a non-greasy gel derived from Arnica flowers. You can apply it to the aching muscle alongside taking other pain-relieving medication.

Boiron Arnica Gel available on Amazon is effective for reducing the inflammation caused by eccentric and high-intensity workouts.

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Massage

Self-Massage can help relax your muscles, and the manipulation prevents tension buildup. Foam-rolling— a kind of self-massage—reduces the post-exercise soreness and prepares you for the next training session.

Watch this video to learn about foam-rolling and how it can help you: 

https://youtu.be/DzSU2FiFKTM

 

Heat Therapy 

Taking a warm bath immediately after the gym or applying a warm pack on the aching muscles increases the blood flow. Better circulation helps your muscles receive more nutrients and oxygen, reducing the amount of lactic acid in your muscles and the pain.    

A hot Epsom salt bath also reduces inflammation and eases the sore.

Cold Therapy

As mentioned earlier, the microscopic tears that occur in muscles during high-intensity workouts cause inflammation. Cold therapy reduces blood circulation to the damaged areas, thereby decreasing inflammation and muscle soreness.

You can take a cold bath, or apply an ice pack or compress on painful muscles. However, make sure not to put the ice directly onto your skin.     

Stretch Exercising

A stretching routine alleviates the post-exercise discomfort and reduces recovery time. Here are some practical stretch exercises for painful muscles. Remember to perform all these exercises gently.

  • Chest.<span style=”font-weight: 400;”> Clasp your hands behind you. Extend your arms downwards and look at the ceiling. Hold on there for 10 to 15 seconds, then release.
  • Shoulder. Stand and extend your arms forward and parallel to the ground. Make medium circles with your hands and reverse. Perform ten repetitions. 
  • Hamstring. Lay on your back, extend your legs, and clasp the hamstring with your hands. Slowly raise your legs, then bend the knee and release. Repeat with the right leg. 
  • Calf. Stand near the wall with one leg in front of the other. Bend the other leg. Try to keep your back knee straight and your heel on the ground. Then lean toward the wall. Hold for 30 seconds.  

Check out the following stretches, too.

Sore muscles stretch

Compression Garment

Wearing a compression garment 24 hours after exercising prevents your muscle soreness from worsening. It also keeps your muscles in place and enhances blood circulation, which speeds up the recovery duration.

You can get full-body pressure garments or muscle-specific pieces like sleeves, leggings, and socks.

Sub Sports Mens Long Sleeve Top Muscle Recovery Compression Post Work Out -S
  • Wearing the R+ recovery immediately after exercise increases the flow of oxygen to the muscles that need it the most, reducing the impact of any delayed onset muscle soreness and shortening your recovery time. Graduated Compression reduces inflammation and the build-up of lactic acid, shortening recovery times.
  • Tactel Fiber ensures extreme comfort with its super-soft, lightweight design. Lycra Fiber provides optimal compression with maximum freedom of movement. Integrated mesh zones and Moisture Transport Technology move sweat away from the skin keeping you cool, dry and light.

Can I Exercise With Muscle Soreness?

It depends on the severity of the pain. If the pain is sharp, recovery exercises like yoga and low-intensity cardio like walking and swimming are beneficial for reducing muscle soreness.

You can also work on other muscle groups to let your painful muscles rest until the pain gradually disappears.

But if the pain doesn’t bother you so much, you can continue your exercise routine. It may feel a little uncomfortable when you start exercising, but the pain will go away when your muscles get warmed up. 

Muscle Injury vs. Muscle Soreness vs. Muscle Fatigue

Muscle soreness is uncomfortable but not much unbearable. If the soreness is severe and won’t disappear after a few days, you may need to see your doctor.

Plus, if you experience any of these symptoms, make sure to schedule a doctor’s appointment since you may have muscle damage:

  • Nausea 
  • Difficulty swallowing  
  • Swelling
  • Black and blue marks on the muscle
  • Numbness
  • Muscle loss of function
  • Muscle weakness

Doctors usually suggest at-home treatments like ice. But for severe injuries, they may need X-rays to arrange further medication and treatments.

Muscle fatigue mainly manifests with muscle shakes, which root in low blood sugar. Exercising intensely with an empty stomach can cause these shakes.  

Will I Keep Getting Muscle Pain?

Once you endure this pain, it won’t appear again unless you increase the intensity. DOMS is a sign that your muscles are adjusting to a new activity. Next time you repeat the same exercise or do it with the same intensity, there is no severe tissue damage like the first time. So the less pain and the faster recovery you will have.

How to Prevent Muscle Soreness

Muscle soreness is inevitable, but here are some tips that will lower the muscle pain in the future:

  • Stretch your muscles well before and after exercising.
  • Perform warm-up and cool-down exercises for at least five minutes each.
  • Make sure to stay hydrated while exercising. Naturally flavored waters can be beneficial.
  • Keep a regular exercise routine.

Conclusion

Post-exercise muscle soreness makes exercising more challenging. But you shouldn’t let it stop you. The pain typically disappears after two days, but there are ways to accelerate your muscle recovery. Here are nine methods to make your muscle soreness go away: 

  •  Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID)
  • Anti-Inflammatory Foods 
  • Antioxidant Supplements
  • Topical Arnica 
  • Massage
  • Heat Therapy 
  • Cold Therapy
  • Stretch Exercising
  • Compression Garment

 

Last update on 2021-10-16 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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James Wright

James (36) has been working out since he was 15 years old. He has a home gym where he pumps iron, does bodyweight workouts and boxing. He likes sharing his experiences with others who want to build a better physique.

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