How to Make Sore Muscles Feel Good

Three Parts:Treating Muscles During a WorkoutSoothing Muscles After a WorkoutPreventing Muscle Soreness

Muscles can often feel sore after exercise or other strenuous activity. Although muscle pain can be aggravating and keep you from exercising, the good news is that the more you exercise, the less your muscles will hurt in the weeks to come. Use these simple tips to alleviate common muscle soreness!

Part 1
Treating Muscles During a Workout

  1. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 1
    Warm up and ease into your workout. For your muscles to be limber and avoid injury during intense exercise, you must ease into your routine which gives them time to become warm and pliable. Avoid jumping right into a heavy or intense workout routine.
    • Start with light exercises and gradually increase the intensity.[1] For example, if you are weightlifting, don't start with your heavy weights: begin with easy repetitions of light hand weights before you begin intense bench presses.
  2. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 2
    Stretch properly. Stretching at the start and end of your workout will also help to get the lactic acid out of your muscles. Waiting hours after a strenuous workout before stretching is not the best. Stretch soon after activity that may cause soreness to prevent becoming stiff.
    • Be sure that you stretch after warming up, as your muscles will be more limber and less likely to become injured by stretching. Check out this helpful wikiHow article for advice on how to stretch properly to increase flexibility and reduce your risk of injury.
  3. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 3
    Stay hydrated. Dehydration at the start of an exercise routine or sport is dangerous not only because it can cause you to become light-headed and faint, but also because it can lead to muscle soreness afterwards. Proper hydration during intense physical exercise increases oxygen to your muscles, which gives your muscles more stamina and also aids in their recovery as you work out.[2]
    • Try not to load up on water directly before you exercise, which can cause bloating and cramping. Instead, stay well-hydrated all the time, but especially in the 24 to 48 hours leading up to an intense workout.[3]
    • The rule of thumb for drinking water is to drink half of your body weight in ounces.[4] So, if you weigh 160 lbs, you should consume 80oz a day (or 2.3 liters or 9.8 cups). This number takes into account water contained in food as well as water in other beverages, such as milk or juice.
    • Be sure to stay well hydrated during your exercise routine: a good rule of thumb is to drink one cup (8 oz) of water for every 15 minutes of intense exercise.[5]

Part 2
Soothing Muscles After a Workout

  1. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 4
    Ice up. Ice-cold water immediately after an intense muscle workout has been shown to reduce muscle soreness more than any other single treatment.[6] It reduces muscle inflammation and prevents much of the soreness from lingering in your muscles. [7] If you are a professional or college athlete or workout at an elite gym, you might have an ice bath there that you can utilise to help reduce muscle soreness. If not, try these strategies instead:
    • Jump into a cold shower or bath. The colder, the better: professional athletes use ice water, but if you can't stand it, just use cold tap water with no hot water added. It won't work as well as ice water, but it will be better than warm or lukewarm water.
    • If you're an athlete, consider investing in a five-gallon bucket. For soreness of the arms (like from baseball practice), a five-gallon bucket filled with ice water will allow you to ice the whole arm at one time. This method will also work for feet.
    • When icing a muscle or muscle group (rather than your whole body), make sure wrap an ice pack in some sort of buffer before applying the ice. This will keep the extreme cold from injuring your skin. Try putting crushed ice in a plastic bag, then wrapping it in a tea towel or washcloth before applying to the affected muscles.[8]
    • Use plastic wrap to secure ice to limbs or the body. If you need to be moving around (cooking, cleaning, etc.) while using ice, plastic wrap can help secure ice onto a muscle while you move.
    • Ice your muscles for 10 – 20 minutes.
  2. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 5
    Heat up. While the first step should always be ice, a few hours later it’s a good idea to apply heat to the affected muscles to help stimulate blood flow to your muscles and help them to remain limber instead of tight.[9] Apply heat for about 20 minutes.
    • Take a hot shower or bath. The water will relax your muscles as you soak.
    • Adding Epsom salts to your bathwater is an effective home remedy for sore muscles. Epsom salts are made of magnesium, which is absorbed into the skin and works as a natural muscle relaxant. Add two to four heaped tablespoons to a full bathtub and stir a little to dissolve. Enjoy your bath. You should feel some relief immediately after you finish your bath.[10]
    • For stiff neck, take uncooked rice and fill a tube sock and tie off the end. Microwave for 1.5 minutes and use as a heat wrap. It is reusable.
    • For isolated sore muscles, you can apply peel-and-stick heating pads directly to the skin and wear them under your clothes for hours. These can be purchased at most pharmacies.[11]
  3. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 6
    Keep moving. While it's tempting to completely relax your muscles as you recover, studies show that light activity that uses your sore muscles can reduce the length of time that you're sore. It's important to give your muscles time to recover, though, so be sure that you don't overdo it.[12]
    • Exercise helps muscle soreness by increasing blood flow to the affected muscles, which helps them to eliminate waste more quickly and keep muscles from becoming stiff.
    • Consider the intensity level of the workout that made you sore, and then do a lighter version of that activity the next day (similar to the intensity of a warm-up).[13] For example, if running five miles has you sore, take a brisk walk for a half a mile to a mile.
  4. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 7
    Get a massage. When you exercise to exhaustion, tiny tears occur in muscle fibers. The body's natural response to these tears is inflammation. Massage helps reduce the amount of cytokines the body produces, which play a role in inflammation.[14] Massage also seems to increase the amount of mitochondria in your muscle, which enhances the muscles' ability to extract oxygen.[15]
    • Massage also helps move lactic acid, lymph, and other stagnant toxins from the muscles.
    • Seek out a massage therapist and allow him to work on your sore muscles. Massage therapy is relaxing, meditative, and healing.
    • Massage the muscles yourself. Depending on the location of the soreness, you can try to give yourself a massage. Use a combination of your thumbs, knuckles and palms to work deep into the muscle tissue. You can also use a lacrosse or tennis ball to really work into knots and take the pressure off your hands.
    • If you are massaging a sore muscle, don't focus on the middle of the sore muscle. Focus more on the connections at each end. This will help the muscle to relax more quickly.[16] So if your wrist is sore, massage your forearm.
  5. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 8
    Invest in a foam roller. These handy devices make it possible to give yourself a soothing deep-tissue massage both before and after working out, which can loosen up your muscles and help prevent soreness as well as treating muscles and knots that are already sore. These are very useful for sore thigh and leg muscles but can also be used on the back, chest, and buttocks. Press the roller into the sore muscle and rub it up and down. The action helps relieve tension and stress.
    • Known as "self-myofascial release," this method of massage was once only used by professional athletes and therapists but is becoming mainstream for anyone who participates in sports or fitness activities.[17] You can purchase a foam roller at any athletic store or online.
    • Check out this helpful wikiHow article for advice on how to use your foam roller to best soothe sore muscles.
    • If you don't want to spend the $20 – $50 on a foam roller, you can use a lacrosse ball or tennis ball to roll under your body.
  6. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 9
    Take pain medication. If you need immediate relief, try acetaminophen or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (also known as NSAIDs) like ibuprofen, naproxen, or aspirin.[18]
    • If you are under the age of 18, or if the person you're caring for is under the age of 18, avoid the use of aspirin. Aspirin in children under 18 has been linked to a dangerous disease called Reye's syndrome, which results in acute brain damage.[19]
    • Try to avoid using NSAIDs on a regular basis. NSAIDs might reduce your muscles' ability to repair themselves naturally if you take them too frequently. It's best to find more natural ways of treating muscle pain if you can.[20]
  7. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 10
    Know when soreness is normal and when it signals a problem. The feeling of muscle soreness after an intense workout or when you exercise muscles that have not seen much action lately is usually normal, but there are some signs to watch out for that might indicate a more serious condition.
    • Normal muscle soreness after working out usually hits a day after your exercise routine, especially if you change your workout routine, increased your intensity, or worked muscles that you're not used to working. This muscle soreness typically peaks on day two and then gradually subsides.[21]
    • Pay attention to any sudden shooting pains that happen while working out, which can signal a torn muscle. Also, watch for pain in your joints which might signal damage to a ligament or meniscus, or could be a sign of osteoarthritis.[22]
    • Call your doctor if you experience any muscle pain that comes on suddenly or does not respond to the use of over-the-counter pain medication, or if the pain does not start to resolve after a few days.[23]

Part 3
Preventing Muscle Soreness

  1. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 11
    Plan a proper diet, including keeping hydrated. If your muscles are sore from intense activities such as weightlifting, your muscles are rebuilding themselves, needing water and lots of protein. Aim to take in 1 gram (0.035 oz) of protein per day for every pound of lean body mass you have.
    • For example, a 160 lb. man at 20% body fat would want to take in approximately 130 grams (4.6 oz) of protein per day. This will speed up recovery times considerably, as well as prevent muscle loss from poor nutrition. Eat Protein 15 to 45 minutes after workout for best results.
    • Drink lots of water while you workout and throughout the day. Your muscles need water to function at their peak, and your body needs water to repair your muscles. Don't forget to drink water.
    • Eating carbohydrates before and after your workout aids in muscle recovery and gives you the fuel necessary to power through your routine.[24]
  2. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 12
    Consider taking vitamins, antioxidants, and other supplements. Muscles need particular vitamins and minerals to repair properly as you work out, so prepping the body with the right supplements will help prepare it for strenuous exercise.
    • Vitamin C and antioxidants, in particular, have been effective in helping to prevent muscle soreness.[7] Blueberries, artichokes, and green tea are antioxidant-rich,[25] while chili peppers, guavas, and citrus fruits are all high in vitamin C.[26]
    • Look into supplementing with branched-chain amino acids (bcaa: L-leucine, L-isoleucine, L-valine) and others before exercise — such as l-glutamine, l-arginine, betaine, and taurine -- may help prepare to clear waste products from your muscles. This also may promote recovery and protein turnover, rebuilding muscle.
    • Consider adding a protein supplement. Protein helps rebuild the muscles. You can try eating more natural sources of protein (like eggs, yoghurt, or chicken) or consider adding a scoop of protein powder in your post-workout smoothie.[27]
    • Consider adding creatine to your diet. Creatine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the body, but adding more creatine to your diet can help your muscles repair themselves more quickly after an intense workout. Creatine supplements are available at health food stores.[28]
  3. Image titled Make Sore Muscles Feel Good Step 13
    Try tart cherry juice. Sour cherry juice is quickly becoming recognized as a superfood, known for its antioxidants and other benefits. In one study, scientists found that tart cherry juice provided relief for mild to moderate muscle soreness.[29]
    • You can find 100% tart cherry juice at most major grocery stores or health food stores. Look for a brand that does not mix the juice with another type (for instance, cherry-apple juice), as those brands tend to put in a minimum amount of cherry. Also, be sure that the juice does not contain any added sugar or other ingredients.
    • Try using tart cherry juice as the basis for a post-workout smoothie, or drink it on its own. It's great straight out of the freezer or place a plastic cup of cherry juice in the freezer for about 45 minutes to create a delicious cherry slushie.


  • Be careful if you plan to immerse a whole arm as indicated above with the 5 gallon (18.9 L)-bucket method. This may result in a rapid loss of body warmth and may affect your circulation. Do NOT do this if you have blood pressure or heart problems. Even if you are completely healthy, proceed slowly by dipping your arm in bit by bit, starting at the fingertips, especially if it is a hot day. It may be even better to make something resembling a Popsicle from regular water and wiping the arm with it (again, starting at the fingers), then drying immediately and massaging (moving from the hand towards the body). Be gentle to avoid causing pain or over-agitating the muscles.
  • Sustained icing of sore muscles is not very effective. It is generally recommended to ice for 15 – 20 minutes, taking the ice off for the same 15 – 20 minutes, and repeat as desired. The reason for this is that icing for longer than the 15 – 20 minutes will not cool the muscle any more than it already is. Also, if iced for too long, the icing period can lead to frostbite, damage of the soft tissue, or skin damage.
  • Joint pain is a serious problem and can result in sustained, critical injury. Try not to confuse muscle pain and joint pain. If the pain does not go away after a few days rest and the other procedures prescribed here, it may be wise to contact a physician.

Sources and Citations

Show more... (26)

Article Info

Featured Article

Categories: Featured Articles | Back and Joint Care