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Sore — now what?

Published in Weight Management Author: Alyssa Monson

So, you had a great work out or you spent your day getting yardwork done in the beautiful weather, but now you are sore. What now? Don’t let sore muscles prevent you from doing what your love with these tips for easing the pain and preventing it next time.

First, let’s start with what causes your muscles to be sore. When you exercise, you may cause microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers especially during motions that require your muscle to contract while the muscle is lengthening (like the downward motion of a squat or pushup). These microscopic tears and the increased blood flow may cause swelling and pain (muscle soreness). During exercise, your muscles use energy and there are some by-products that are thought to cause pain in your muscles.

Easing pain

  • Soak in a tub of warm water — with or without Epsom salt.
    • Heat will feel good while it is on, but it won’t make the pain go away completely. But it can help to increase the blood flow to the area to aid in healing.
    • Epsom salt has magnesium which can be absorbed through the skin and helps with muscle recovery.
  • Get moving again
    • Moving around helps get the blood flowing to the sore areas. This will bring oxygen and nutrients and carry away waste products.
  • Massage


  • Warm up well.
    • Use dynamic stretches that use the same muscles you will be using.
    • Dynamic stretches are movements that cause a stretch but are not held in the end position (i.e. arm circles). For example, start with a light jog for one minute, next switch to high knees and cross overs before you begin a run. Or another stretch you can do while jogging is to emphasize your back stride and bring your heel to your butt, bringing your heel up as high as you can.
  • Cool down properly using active recovery.
    • Perform easy low-impact aerobic exercise to increase blood flow and bring valuable oxygen and nutrients while carrying away waste products.
    • Cool down ideas: Resistance training — a light weight, steady pace, medium repetition set. Cardio — a slower pace, easy 5-10-minute walk, exaggerating longer steps.
  • Stretch. After you use your muscles, they are left in a shortened state. Stretching helps to get those muscles back to a more neutral state.
  • Rehydrate. Your muscle is about 70 percent water and you lose water when you sweat during a workout or a day of yard work. Dehydration can cause muscle fatigue sooner.
  • Ice overworked muscles.
    • Try out an ice pack wrapped in a thin towel applied the sore area right after the activity to decrease inflammation. Use heat later to increase blood flow to the area.
    • You also can use an ice bath for large areas.
  • Sleep well. Aim to get 7-9 hours of sleep to help your body recover (mentally and physically) from your day and your physical activity.

Certain muscle pain or soreness can be a sign of a serious injury. If your muscle soreness does not get better within a week consult your healthcare provider.