After a strenuous workout, your body may feel worse than when you started. Muscle soreness is normal, especially if you're doing an exercise that's different or more strenuous than usual. Muscle soreness usually occurs a day or two after exercising and goes away within a week. Until then, you can reduce the pain with home remedies and over-the-counter care. Consult your doctor if muscle soreness lasts longer than a week.
When you overwork a muscle, give it time to rest and repair itself. If you continue to exercise when your muscles are fatigued, you risk further pain or injury. Muscle pain that is localized, or only affecting several muscles, usually occurs after exercising. Systemic muscle pain, on the other hand, occurs all over the body and is generally caused by an infection, like lupus or Lyme disease. If you have systemic muscle pain, consult your doctor to determine its cause.
For the first few days after muscle pain starts, ice is generally more effective than heat at reducing muscle pain. Fill your bathtub up halfway with cold water. Add a full bucket of ice cubes and get into the tub, keeping your chest above the water. Stay in the water for up to one minute. Repeat every few hours for the first three days.
After the first three days, heat may feel better on your sore muscles. Fill a hot water bottle, then place it on your sore muscles for 15 minutes at a time. Repeat every hour.
Apply a medicated over-the-counter cream that contains aspirin to soothe pain and reduce swelling while your muscles are healing. Taking over-the-counter oral pain relievers like ibuprofen, aspirin and acetaminophen will also help temporarily reduce pain. Although you may find relief with over-the-counter heating creams, they may irritate sensitive skin. Test a small amount on your skin before rubbing it on your muscles.
If your muscle pain is accompanied by any other symptoms, like a stiff neck, dizziness, a fever or difficulty breathing, call your physician's office. If you have allowed your muscles to rest but you still experience pain each time you exercise, you should also contact your doctor. You may have an injury, like a muscle strain or sprain. In some cases, some medications may cause muscle pain. If you experience muscle pain after exercising and you have just started taking a new medication, consult your doctor to see if this could be a side effect.
- MedlinePlus; Muscle Aches; Dr. Linda J. Vorvick; May 2009
- Fitness; Can Hot Baths Prevent Sore Muscles?; June 2006
- "The Doctors Book of Home Remedies"; Deborah Tkac; 1990