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Oh, My Aching Body: Muscle Soreness

Oh, My Aching Body:
Muscle Soreness

Why do I get sore after I exercise?
How can I ease my sore muscles?
How can I prevent getting sore?

Maybe you just started playing basketball or you've added weight training to your workout. You felt fine yesterday, but you woke up this morning and—ouch! Suddenly, muscles you didn't even know you had are sore. Washing your hair feels like torture and your legs ache when you go down the stairs. This isn't what you bargained for—or is it? back to top

Why do I get sore after I exercise?
Getting stiff and sore a day or two after exercising is natural, especially when you're trying something new. Even the most highly trained athletes get sore after intense exercise. It's called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) because it kicks in about 24 to 48 hours after you exercise harder than usual. Your muscles feel like they're screaming because they're not used to the extra work yet.

When you exercise, your muscles get small tears that fill up with fluid. But don't freak out. Your muscles will repair those tears all by themselves. And every time your muscles "tear and repair," they get a little stronger. That means the more you do when you work out, the less likely you are to get sore. back to top

How can I ease my sore muscles?
Sore muscles are your body's way of letting you know it has been working hard and could use a little TLC. Here are some soothing tips to try:
  • Soak in a warm bath to help your muscles relax. Add some yummy-smelling bath oil, close your eyes, and think about the great workout you had.
  • Stretch gently after your workout to help get rid of the lactic acid that has built up in your muscles and made them sore.
  • Moving may be the last thing you want to do right now, but a brisk walk or swim followed by some stretching will help loosen up your body and keep you from getting stiff.
  • Resting, icing your sore muscles, wrapping sore joints with an ACE bandage for support, and propping up tired limbs will help ease the pain. back to top
How can I prevent getting sore?
Sore muscles aren't fun, but that mild discomfort (not pain) is a sign that you're doing something good for your body! Here are some tips that can help reduce muscle soreness:
  • Rest for a day between workouts so your body has a chance to recover.
  • Dehydrated muscles get sore and tired faster than well-watered muscles.
  • Don't overtrain. Too much exercise too soon can lead to injuries. And you're more likely to burn out and give up on exercise if you overdo it.
Of course, if you feel more than mild discomfort, check with your health professional to make sure that your pain is not something more serious. back to top

Last Modified Date: 3/22/2001
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