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How to Heal Sore Muscles

written by: Cheryl Gabbert • edited by: KJ Fitness,Ink • updated: 12/17/2009

After exercise, it seems your muscles attempt to pay you back with a lot of soreness. This is called delayed onset muscle soreness. It's actually a normal and very common reaction from the muscles that were worked beyond their norm. Here's how to heal sore muscles.

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    Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

    Delayed onset muscle soreness is a normal response to exercise. If you've exercised much at all, you most likely recognize that uncomfortable, stiff feeling that tends to become worse 24-48hrs. after you exercise. Whenever your muscles are worked beyond their comfort level, you can expect to experience some degree of muscle soreness. At the microscopic level, small muscle tears are actually happening, causing discomfort. Inflammation of the muscles as a result of the damage adds to the pain you feel when you overwork your muscles. This is all a very common and normal response to exercise.

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    Alleviate the Pain

    To reduce the pain of delayed onset muscle soreness, be sure you are warming up prior to any strenuous exercise. A proper warm-up prepares your muscles to work, and will help to reduce the soreness later. Cool-downs are very important too. Don't get in a hurry and stop after your workout till you've stretched out every muscle you've been working. This will make a big difference in how you feel a day later. Be sure to rest the muscle group that you have recently worked and is now sore. This is one reason you should alternate what days you work different muscle groups. Ice packs can help heal sore muscles. If the soreness is bothersome try a heating pad over the sore muscles, followed by gentle massage and stretching exercises. Go easy and do only what feels comfortable. Take anti-inflammatory medications for very sore, overworked muscles, such as Ibuprofen.

    If you are in extreme pain or notice bruising and swelling, you may be suffering from a muscle strain, sprain, or more serious muscle injury. See a doctor if you feel you may have a more involved muscle injury than just mild soreness.

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    Don't Let the Soreness Get You Down

    Don't let muscle soreness keep you from getting the exercise your body needs to stay healthy. Instead, be sure to rest after activities that cause a lot of soreness and ease back into exercise as you feel better. Don't push your body's limits. It is easy to just give up when you're in pain every time you exercise. This happens frequently, and is actually one of the main reasons people fail to stick to exercise programs. Manage the soreness, but get back out there and keep on working those muscles. Sore muscles don't have to stick around, you can heal sore muscles quickly, making your workout much easier.

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    1. Web MD: Sore Muscles? Don't Stop Exercising: