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7 Ways to Relieve Post-Workout Pain

Post-Workout Pain

Photo: Pond5

Think twice before dashing out of a group fitness class without doing the stretch and cool down. Exercising, more specifically strength training, causes micro tears in your muscle fibers, which is what eventually causes them to grow. It’s also what causes you to feel sore the next morning though, and you may need to stretch and give the muscles some time to rest. “Increasing any exercise progression too quickly, whether it be intensity, frequency or duration, without giving your body time to recoup, leaves the muscles overworked and strained, which can lead to issues such as tendinitis,” says Jessica Malpelli, D.P.T., therapist at Florida Orthopedic Institute. Wondering if your muscles could benefit from some post-workout love and affection? Here are some expert-approved tactics for you to try.

1. Self massage with a ball or foam roller.
Some research suggests that just 10 minutes of deep tissue massage post-workout enhances the effectiveness of energy creators (mitochondria) in the cell walls, while also creating a natural pain-relieving effect. And, it helped diminish inflammation. Rolling out on a ball or foam roller has the same effect with adhesions and knots. “These locked up tissues can lead to imbalances throughout the body,” says Jill Miller, eRYT, and creator of RxSeries for Equinox, a class that focuses on recharging your muscles with massage. Massaging also helps bring fluid balance back into the muscles, and, over time, can increase mobility and flexibility.

2. Heat it up or ice it down.
There’s much debate over heating and icing. “I use heat most often on patients with joint stiffness or muscle spasms, but rarely when dealing with post-workout soreness,” says Malpelli. “Newer muscle strains go through an inflammation stage, and heat can increase that inflammation.” Instead, try packing on the ice. Ice is an anti-inflammatory and can help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). However, if ice doesn’t help after a couple days, consider checking in with a medical professional to see if there is a bigger issue at hand.

3. Keep moving!
General exercise, including low-resistance cardio like walking or a light jog, is safe to do the day after a workout. “In fact, it helps flush out the lactic acid buildup that may be causing muscle soreness,” says Malpelli. It can also help loosen and stretch your muscles more than if you were to avoid activity all together. But don’t overdue it. Listen to your body — if you are in pain, take a break.

4. Eat anti-inflammatory foods.
There’s no reason to add more inflammation to your body via the foods you consume. “Protein is the building block of lean muscle,” says Malpelli. Focus on eating protein and health fats to help build your strength and avoid inflammatory foods and drinks such as coffee, popcorn, candy and white bread.

5. Get some shut-eye.
Doctors recommend getting close to eight hours of sleep a night, and for good reason. Sleep is necessary for your body’s recovery. Because you are (for the most part) immobile while you sleep, oxygen flows more readily to your muscles helping them heal. “The ideal scenario is to have a consistent bedtime and wake time to maintain balanced body rhythms,” says Miller. So even if you generally tend to only get six hours of sleep a night, try making it a routine to shut down at the same time.

6. Drink up.
Not only is it important to stay hydrated during workouts, it’s also important to drink water consistently throughout the day. “Every system in your body relies on water to function,” says Miller. “It’s a health necessity to keep your fluid intake high to avoid illness and issues with blood clotting, saliva and sweat production, and even sperm count.” Fill up a water bottle every morning and try to drink 13 cups daily for men, or 9 cups for women.

7. Stick it.
If you’ve watched the Olympics and seen athletes with tape stuck on their arms or legs in strange patterns, you’ve seen Kinesio tape. This remedy is used specifically to inhibit certain muscles that are overworked so they can rest, and force underused muscles to work. Malpelli reinforces that there are many applications of the tape that are completely dependent on personal muscle imbalances, and suggests using it only after being properly evaluated by a professional.

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