Muscle Aches and Stiffness After Exercise

Anyone who has ever lifted a weight or gone for a run is familiar with the soreness and stiffness that frequently follow the workout. This soreness can appear shortly after the end of the workout. It can also be delayed a day or two -- a common condition known as delayed onset muscle soreness. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help alleviate your muscle ache.

A woman stretching while cooling down from a run. (Image: Manuel Faba Ortega/iStock/Getty Images)

Too Much

Some muscle ache and stiffness can be expected if you engage in new workouts. Perhaps the muscle groups you're working haven't seen that kind of activity in a while and will need time to become conditioned to the new regimen. Other causes of muscle aches are due to tense muscles, over-training and overuse. Repeating a difficult workout, or a similar workout that targets the same muscles while still sore, can lead to tears and other injuries.

Take Time to Heal

For a day or two after the exercise that caused a particular muscle's soreness -- if soreness lasts that long -- ice the affected area to soothe it and encourage it to heal. If it is still sore after that period, switch to heat treatment to help your muscles relax. Stretching dynamically before your workout and statically after your workout can help ease the exercise-induced tension in your muscles, which will reduce the amount of soreness you feel.

Balanced Diet

A healthy, balanced diet that includes plenty of vitamins and minerals will help your body heal effectively by giving it the tools it needs to repair and rebuild your muscles. Antioxidant-rich foods, such as berries and dark green vegetables, will also aid in the recovery process. Eating nutritious carbohydrates, such as whole grains, and lean proteins, such as fish, will ensure that your body has sufficient materials to repair your muscles.

Medical Treatment

In most cases, muscle aches, stiffness and soreness are not a serious problem. Usually, they are merely a normal side effect of your workout and mean that you are working hard and getting stronger. However, consult a doctor for proper treatment if you experience severe, unusual pain or cramping; pain that lasts longer than about three days; severe weakness or inability to move; or symptoms such as fever or vomiting.

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