Sore Joints After Exercise

Exercising is a part of a healthy lifestyle, yet an injury can occur when performing the same movement over time. After lifting weights or running, your joints may become sore. In most cases this pain does not indicate a serious injury, and the body will heal itself with proper treatment. Many times, joint pain can be prevented by making simple adjustments to your workout.

A woman holds her knee kn pain. (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)


A common cause of joint pain is overuse. When this happens, minor tears to the joint can occur. These tears should not prevent motion and are not a serious injury, but will cause discomfort. Other causes of pain include a serious injury such as a sprain, which is caused by stress. A sprain either tears or stretches joint capsules. Another type of injury is a subluxation, which is a partial dislocation of the joint. A third type of injury, synovitis, is caused by trauma to the joint and results in swelling due to the accumulation of synovial fluid in the joint.

The Three Stages of Injury

The first stage of an injury is the acute or inflammatory stage, which lasts around four to six days and involves initial swelling, pain and loss of joint function. Next is the subacute or repair stage, which lasts around 14 to 21 days after the injury; this is where healing begins and some scar tissue is formed. In this stage, the inflammation eventually disappears. Chronic or maturation stage is the third stage, and only occurs when the healing process is disrupted. In this stage, range of motion is limited and recurring pain can persist. This stage can last for up to a year.


To prevent joint pain, avoid locking your joints when exercising; when doing a leg press exercise, push as far as you can without locking the knee joints. While performing a bench press, push the bar up as far as you can, but don't lock the elbow joints. This applies for any kind of weight resistance training. If you are a runner, do not use the treadmill, as it puts added pressure on the knee joints.

Strengthen the Muscles

Another major cause of joint pain is muscular weakness in the area, which puts added pressure on the joint. For shoulder pain, strengthen all of the deltoid muscles, the internal and external rotator cuff muscles, the pectorals, biceps and triceps. For elbow pain, strengthen the forearms and the biceps and triceps. Similarly, wrist pain can sometimes be eased by strengthening the forceps. For knee pain, strengthen the quadriceps and hamstring muscles. Hip pain involves strengthening all of the gluteus muscles. For ankle pain, strengthen the calves and tibialis anterior muscles.


The best way to heal after exercise is the PRICE method, according to Harvard Medical School. PRICE stands for protect, rest, ice, compress and elevate: Protect the area with bandages or tape. Rest the sore joint. Ice the affected area every two hours, for 30 minutes at a time. Compress the joint to decrease swelling with a wrap or bandage. Elevate the injured area above the heart. In addition, limit or stop the exercise that caused the pain for at least two weeks. If your elbows are sore after a bench press exercise, either skip the activity or reduce the weight and increase the number of repetitions. When strengthening muscles, use a slow, controlled, smooth motion and a light amount of weight. For running, use an elliptical machine or run on a softer surface, like grass.

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