You were proud of yourself for going to the gym and completing a phenomenal weightlifting workout, when a day or two later, the pain kicks in. Sore muscles from a workout are usually due to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Intense exercise can cause microscopic tears in the stressed muscle, along with inflammation. The muscle will likely heal on its own within 48 to 72 hours; however, there are steps that you can take to help expedite the recovery.
Perform a light workout for about 20 minutes. Placing the muscles under stress while they are trying to heal can cause extensive damage; however, allowing your body to become warm can help to alleviate the soreness from your weightlifting session. Use a supportive cardio machine, such as the stationary bike or elliptical trainer, to increase the blood flow and flush the lactic acid from your muscles. Keep the intensity on low.
Place one-half cup of baking soda into a warm bath and soak your body in it. The alkaline in the baking soda helps to neutralize the lactic acid that the workout brought on. Rinse off with a cool shower after the bath. The cool shower can help to reduce the inflammation, which is needed for recovery.
Massage the muscle to draw blood to the area, which will help it to heal. If the discomfort is in just one or two particular muscles, you can massage the area yourself. Warm the muscle up for 10 minutes with light movement or a warm shower. Gently knead the muscle with your fingertips. Employ the help of a massage therapist if the soreness is in several different muscle groups, such as your quadriceps, back and shoulders. Stick to a Swedish massage to break up the lactic acid, rather than a deep tissue, which may cause further damage.
Fill a plastic bag with ice and rest it on the affected area for 15 minutes. Both heat and ice help blood flow to the sore muscle; however, because ice helps your blood vessels constrict, it is effective in treating inflammation.
Rest the muscle. Though rehabilitative treatments can help relieve the stiffness and soreness in your muscles, they also need to heal, which requires rest. Allow the stressed muscle groups 48 hours before performing another weightlifting session.
- Take preventative measures the next time you lift weights by warming up before your workout. Jog on a treadmill or use the elliptical trainer for 10 to 15 minutes before your strength training session to warm your muscles up and prepare them for activity.
- Contact a doctor if the area of pain becomes swollen, the pain gets worse or your muscles do not respond to any treatments.
Beth Rifkin has been writing health- and fitness-related articles since 2005. Her bylines include "Tennis Life," "Ms. Fitness," "Triathlon Magazine," "Inside Tennis" and others. She holds a Bachelor of Business Administration from Temple University.