Aches and soreness after a tough workout can remind you of the hard work you put in at the gym -- or signal a more serious injury, such as a muscle strain. Taking measures to prevent sore muscles before and after exercise can help to reduce your overall soreness and making sure you rest your muscles enough to give them sufficient time to recover can equal a reduction in sore muscles.
Exercise-related muscle soreness falls into two categories, according to the American Council on Exercise. The first is immediate muscle soreness, which occurs while you are exercising or immediately when you complete an exercise session. The second is delayed muscle soreness, which takes place anywhere from one to two days after your exercise session and disappears three days after onset.
Strength training causes micro-tears in muscle fibers that heal into stronger, denser muscles. While this natural process is occurring, soreness can manifest. When a heavy load is placed on the muscle fibers, small fibers that comprise the muscles are slightly torn. As a result, the body needs to take action to repair itself, which takes a number of nutrients, including carbohydrates and calcium.
If you experience extremely sore muscles following exercise, you can take an over-the-counter pain reliever, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, which helps to reduce swelling and ease pain, according to Medline Plus. Applying ice within the first one to three days where the muscles ache can help to reduce muscle soreness. Repeated exercise can ultimately train the muscle fibers to strengthen with each use, reducing soreness with each ensuing exercise session.
Preventing muscle soreness involves warming up before exercising. This helps to prevent strain and warms up the muscles, according to the "Doctors Book of Home Remedies II." In addition to stretching before, you should stretch with purpose, keeping in mind what exercises you will be performing. For example, if you are running, you should stretch the hamstrings, quadriceps, abdominal and back muscles. Stretching after you exercise also will be helpful in reducing soreness. Finally, you should adhere to the 10 percent rule of exercise -- only increase the amount of weight lifted or the time and intensity you exercise by 10 percent each time.
According to Medline Plus, sometimes muscle soreness is the result of an underlying injury. You should seek medical attention if your muscle pain does not diminish within three days; especially if the pain is severe to unbearable, the muscle is swelling or very red or the pain accompanies a medication change, such as taking a higher dosage of statins. Medline Plus recommends calling emergency services and seeking immediate attention if you experience sudden weight gain; have difficulty catching your breath; cannot move a portion of your body; or if you have been vomiting.