Post-Exercise Muscle Soreness: Causes and Remedies

Blogs, / By Winsen Citra

Congratulations on completing your workout! It’s an exhilarating feeling to push your body and challenge your limits. However, if you’ve ever experienced soreness after exercise, you’re not alone. This post-exercise soreness, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is a common phenomenon among athletes and fitness enthusiasts. In this article, we will explore the reasons behind post-exercise soreness and provide practical tips to alleviate discomfort and promote recovery.

The Science Behind Post-Exercise Soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness occurs as a result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers. When you engage in strenuous or unfamiliar physical activities, such as weightlifting, running, or intense sports, your muscles are subjected to stress beyond their accustomed level. This causes tiny tears in muscle fibers and results in inflammation, leading to soreness.

Factors Influencing Post-Exercise Soreness

a. Eccentric Movements: Activities that involve eccentric muscle contractions, such as lowering a weight or downhill running, tend to induce more significant soreness than concentric movements.

b. Intensity and Duration: The greater the intensity and duration of exercise, the more likely you are to experience muscle soreness. Gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your workouts can help minimize the severity of soreness.

c. New Activities: Trying new exercises or techniques that your body is not accustomed to can lead to increased soreness. Your muscles need time to adapt to these novel movements.

d. Fitness Level: Individuals who are less fit or have had a break from exercise may experience more pronounced soreness initially. As you become more conditioned, your body adapts better to physical stress, reducing the likelihood of severe soreness.

Coping with Post-Exercise Soreness:

a. Rest and Recovery: Adequate rest is crucial for the body to repair and rebuild muscle tissue. Incorporate rest days into your exercise routine and prioritize sleep to optimize recovery.

b. Gradual Progression: Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts, allowing your muscles to adapt and minimize the risk of excessive soreness.

c. Warm-up and Cool-down: Always begin your workout with a proper warm-up routine to prepare your muscles for exercise. Afterward, cool down with light stretching to enhance blood flow and remove metabolic waste products.

d. Massage and Foam Rolling: Massage therapy and foam rolling can aid in alleviating muscle soreness by improving circulation and promoting tissue healing. Target the sore areas gently and gradually, using techniques that feel comfortable for you.

e. Contrast Therapy: Alternating between hot and cold treatments, such as hot showers followed by ice packs, can help reduce inflammation and relieve soreness.

f. Hydration and Nutrition: Stay adequately hydrated before, during, and after exercise to support optimal muscle function and recovery. Consume a balanced diet rich in protein, antioxidants, and anti-inflammatory foods to provide essential nutrients for muscle repair.

g. Over-the-Counter Pain Relief: If necessary, over-the-counter pain relievers such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help alleviate discomfort. However, consult with a healthcare professional before using any medication.

Post-exercise soreness is a natural response to challenging your muscles, and it indicates that your body is adapting and becoming stronger. By understanding the causes and implementing appropriate strategies, you can effectively manage and minimize soreness. Remember, everyone’s experience with soreness varies, so listen to your body, be patient, and gradually progress in your fitness journey. Stay consistent, and the soreness will lessen over time, allowing you to enjoy the countless benefits of regular exercise.


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Winsen Citra
Principal Physiotherapist

Winsen graduated from University of Melbourne in 2012. He worked in organisations of various sizes such as Singapore General Hospital, Pain Relief Practice, and Physioclinic before working at Elevate Physiotherapy. He specialises in sports and musculoskeletal injuries and has worked with athletes of various sports such as fencing, dancing, dragon boating, and cycling.

In his spare time he enjoys singing and playing chess.