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Should I Work Out With Sore Muscles?

    If you work out regularly, you’re familiar with muscle soreness. It’s a reminder that you’re pushing yourself hard. But is that a good thing? Should you work out 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 help reduce 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.

    Read on as we explore the reason behind muscle soreness and how to treat it. We’ll also introduce some workouts to speed up muscle recovery and some tips to avoid muscle strain.

    Why Do Muscles Get Sore After Exercising?

    When you work out, you cause tiny tears in your muscle fibers, resulting in muscle pain and inflammation. The pain is commonly called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, and it’s completely normal. 

    DOMS usually appears between 12 to 24 hours after the workout and resolves up to 24-48 hours. You may experience DOMS after one of the following: 

    • Performing a workout program for the first time
    • Incorporating a new exercise into your workout routine
    • Increasing your workout intensity (increasing your activity speed, number of repetitions, or your dumbbells’ weight)
    • Overtraining without time to let your muscles recover 

    When your muscle fibers repair themselves, they become larger and stronger than before. So the next time you work out, your muscles will be better prepared to handle the exercise-related tension. 

    Lactic acid build-up is another reason for muscle soreness. Your body uses oxygen to produce energy, but when you exercise intensely, there may be no oxygen to keep you energized. So a substance called lactic acid is made. Your body can convert these substances into energy without oxygen. 

    When Shouldn’t You Exercise With Muscle Soreness?

    If you experience one of these following, you should skip your workout routine and take a rest:

    You Have A Hard Time Getting Out Of The Bed 

    If getting out of bed in the morning makes you cry, or you have a hard time doing regular activities like sitting down or standing up, you should give your muscles more time to rest. Instead, focus on your recovery period with stretching exercises

    You Have Dark Urine And Swollen Muscles

    When you put stress on your muscles during exercise, your body releases myoglobin—a protein that provides oxygen to working muscles—and creatine kinase—an enzyme found in any tissue—into the blood flow. 

    Increased amounts of myoglobin and creatine kinase can cause dark urine, swollen muscles, and kidney damage. If you experience these symptoms, you may need to see a doctor. 

    You Need A Painkiller To Push Through

    If your muscles feel sore after exercising, and you need a pain reliever to get through the day, you haven’t given your muscles enough time to rest.    

    You Still Feel Sore Days Later

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

    Also, make sure to schedule a doctor appointment if you’re experiencing any of these symptoms since you may have muscle damage

    • Nausea 
    • Difficulty swallowing  
    • Black and blue marks on the muscle
    • Numbness
    • Muscle weakness

    How To Treat Muscle Soreness

    While there’s no immediate solution for muscle soreness and time is the best remedy, the following strategies can help ease the soreness to some extent:

    Anti-Inflammatory Foods 

    Antioxidant-rich foods help reduce post-workout inflammation and allow your muscles to repair themselves more efficiently. They also alleviate DOMS and reduce lactic-acid buildup.   

    The foods below are excellent sources of antioxidants. Consider taking some of them within 30 to 60 minutes after cooling down:

    • Food-based omega-three fats like walnuts or almonds
    • Black beans
    • Whole-grain carbs like brown rice, oatmeal, and bulgur
    • Spices like turmeric, ginger, and cinnamon
    • Dark green veggies like spinach, kale, and broccoli


    Arnica gel, derived from Arnica flowers, contains an anti-inflammatory compound and is well-known for relieving muscle pain when applied topically. You can rub it to the aching muscle as well as taking other pain-relieving medication.

    Dr. Bronner’s – Organic Magic Balm, available on Amazon, has a natural formula and gives you an instant feeling of relief from post-workout muscle soreness.  

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    Massage Therapy

    Deep tissue massage is a massage technique designed to treat skeletal issues and exercise-related pain. It can involve your entire body or a specific area.

    While other massages focus on relaxation, the deep tissue technique alleviates muscle pain and prevents tension buildup. It can be a great option for those who engage in high-intensity sports like running or those who have muscle injuries.

    Watch this video to learn more about deep tissue massage: 

    Foam-rolling also reduces the post-exercise soreness and prepares you for the next training session. It’s a kind of self-massage that uses a foam-roller. 

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

    Contrast Bath Therapy

    Contrast Hydrotherapy means repeatedly taking cold and hot baths. The change of body temperature alters your heart rate and helps muscle recovery.

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

    On the other hand, taking a cold bath or applying ice packs on painful muscles reduces blood circulation to the damaged areas, decreasing inflammation and muscle soreness.

    Compression Tights

    Wearing a compression garment 24-48 hours after exercising prevents your muscle soreness from worsening and repair muscle injury. It also enhances blood circulation, which reduces recovery duration.

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

    Marena Recovery Knee-Length Compression Girdle with High-Back, Stage 2 (pull on)
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    Rest And Sleep

    Many injured muscles repair themselves when you’re sleeping. So letting your body rest and giving more time to your muscles to recover is an effective way to reduce post-workout soreness and inflammation.

    What Exercises Help Reduce Muscle Soreness?

    Doing light workouts increases your blood circulation and comforts your muscle tension after working out.

    Here are some recovery workouts that you can safely incorporate into your workout routine during muscle soreness days:

    • Yoga
    • Stretching or resistance band exercises
    • Walking or easy hiking
    • Swimming 
    • Light cycling

    How To Avoid Muscle Soreness?

    Muscle soreness happens anyway, but here are some tips that may reduce muscle soreness in the future.

    Warm Up 

    Warming up increases your blood circulation and speeds up your heart rate, preparing your muscles for working out. 

    It also ensures that muscles are getting enough oxygen, which reduces the risk of soreness. So when you warm-up before starting exercise, you’ll have less muscle pain and inflammation. 

    Cool Down

    Cool-down exercises eliminate the lactic acid that builds up in your muscles during working out. So you’ll have less intense muscle soreness and a shorter recovery process. 

    Stay Hydrated 

    Water keeps your blood flow moving through your body, which can reduce inflammation and deliver necessary nutrients to your muscles. So make sure to stay hydrated during exercise to reduce post-workout muscle tension.

    You can also drink naturally flavored waters, available on Amazon to prevent dehydration. 

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    Bottom Line

    Muscle soreness after exercising is inevitable. It’s a sign that you have engaged your muscles and is a result of the microscopic tears that occur during a workout. 

    However it shouldn’t make you skip your workout routine. Doing some light workouts help you alleviate your muscle soreness and accelerate your recovery. Also, some strategies help treat some of the pain. 

    Last update on 2023-11-22 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API


    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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