Muscle soreness can range in intensity from fairly mild to downright distracting. Common causes of soreness include tension, illness, poor posture and vigorous exercise. Bouts of physically demanding work -- such as house painting, gardening or snow shoveling -- can also cause your muscles to bunch up and ache. What you need are techniques designed to help your sore muscles heal, loosen up and relax. Experiment with different treatments -- or combinations of treatments -- to discover what works best for you.
Rest the muscles that are causing you trouble. Overtraining, or training too intensely without adequate rest, can lead to extreme muscle and joint soreness, as well as fatigue, loss of appetite, mood changes and a drop in athletic performance. If you've recently boosted the intensity, frequency or duration of your workouts or if you're an exercise newbie, refraining from physical activity for a few days might be the most effective approach for treating soreness.
Apply ice or heat to muscles that are sore from strain. Within 24 to 72 hours of a muscle injury, applying an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel is often helpful for reducing inflammation and discomfort. After that, you might find heat application offers greater relief.
Take acetaminophen or ibuprofen to lessen pain and discomfort. If you opt to take ibuprofen -- a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, or NSAID -- use it for a short period of time, preferably no more than several days.
Massage sore areas or arrange to have a professional massage. "The New Harvard Guide to Women's Health" recommends massage therapy as a means to reduce stress and muscle soreness.
Stretch tight, sore areas throughout your work day if pain is not severe. First, do three to minutes of light cardio activity to raise muscle-tissue temperature and increase circulation. Move into and out of stretch positions slowly and carefully. Hold stretches for up to 30 seconds while breathing evenly to help muscles relax and lengthen.
Use a foam roller to work out kinks. Foam rolling involves rolling a foam roller against affected areas to self-massage them. The roller serves as a substitute for a massage therapist's hands. Research evidence presented in a 2013 issue of Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise suggests foam rolling is an effective tool for reducing soreness after exercise. Go easy at first until you discover exactly how much pressure to apply to your aching muscles.
Eat foods that might reduce post-workout soreness. The American Council on Exercise points to evidence that certain foods -- including watermelon, protein-rich tempeh and cherry juice -- might reduce muscle soreness and decrease recovery time.
- MedlinePlus: Muscle Aches
- American Council on Exercise: If My Muscles are Sore from Previous Workouts, Is It Safe to Exercise Them?
- Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine: Practical Management -- Nonsteroidal Antiinflammatory Drug (NSAID) Use in Athletic Injuries
- The New Harvard Guide to Women's Health; Karen J. Carlson, et. al.
- Neck and Shoulder Pain; Harvard Health Publications
- Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise: Foam Rolling as a Recovery Tool Following an Intense Bout of Physical Activity
- American Council on Exercise: Foods That Fight Muscle Soreness
- American Council on Exercise: Don’t Be a Sore Loser -- Dealing with Muscle Soreness