How Athletes Control or Treat Muscle Soreness

Wondering how to treat muscle soreness? Here are a few proven tips, from the team at Level Up Sports.

If you’re an athlete, you know that muscle soreness happens. After a big workout, hard training, or an important game, your muscles take a beating. So what’s the best way to help them get back into fighting shape?

In this post, the Level Up Sports pros will discuss what causes muscle soreness, and what you can do to resolve it as quickly as possible.

Let’s dive in. 

What is Muscle Soreness?

When your muscles get sore the day after hard exercise, it’s about a lot more than just fatigue. And it can happen to anyone - regardless of fitness level. 

The reason for muscle pain is known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMs. Here’s why it happens: when your muscles work harder than they’re used to, or simply in a different way than they’re used to, it causes microscopic damage to the fibers of the muscle. As this microscopic damage sets in, it creates stiffness or soreness. 

While many people believe that DOMs comes from a buildup of lactic acid, lactic acid is not involved in the process. Once DOMs sets in, it usually lasts for about 3-5 days. 

Don’t worry, though - there’s good news. Not only will the soreness decrease naturally as your muscles get used to the new demands you’re placing upon them, but there are things you can do to make the soreness go away faster. 

man lying on bed

How to Treat Muscle Soreness

Because DOMs affects everyone differently, and because it starts with microscopic damage to the muscle fibers, there is no 100% effective way to resolve it immediately. The team here at Level Up Sports recommends the following:

    • Rest. When your muscles are sore, rest is your best friend. Experts recommend giving your muscles at least 1-2 days of rest before you stress them again. If you must be active, keep it moderate with a walk or a swim. 
  • Ice and heat. To get some immediate relief from your sore muscles, alternate between ice and hot packs for 20-30 minutes each. Be sure to wrap the heat and cool packs in a washcloth so they don’t injure your skin. 
  • Painkillers. Over-the-counter painkillers can go a long way toward improving muscle soreness. Things like acetaminophen, aspirin, or ibuprofen can help alleviate discomfort. Just be sure to take the medications according to package directions and not to take NSAIDs regularly. 
  • Massage. Deep tissue massage can be incredibly effective for sore muscles. Done correctly, it can help relieve tight muscles, chronic muscle pain, and injuries. 


If your muscle soreness persists, talk to a healthcare professional about what could be causing it and how to improve it.

How to Avoid Muscle Soreness in the Future

One of the best ways to avoid DOMs is to prevent it altogether. There are a few good ways to do this. If you’re going to start any new program or exercise activity, the experts recommend beginning gradually and gently. When your muscles have time to adapt to new movements, they’re less likely to get sore and damaged.

What about warming up? While warming up doesn’t prevent DOMs, it does reduce your risk of injury and help prevent long-term damage to your muscles. 

Ultimately, however, no matter how gradually you introduce a new activity, or how regularly you stretch, DOMs will happen. Since it impacts every athlete- from beginners to professionals, it’s something to learn how to manage instead of preventing altogether. 

Can you Continue Exercising With DOMs?

Yes. You can continue to exercise with DOMs, although you may experience some discomfort. While the soreness should decrease once your muscles are warm, it will likely return once you’re done exercising, and your muscles have cooled down. 

If you find it difficult to exercise through your DOMs, you have a few options. You can rest until you don’t feel sore any longer, or focus on targeting a different muscle group. For example, if your legs are very sore, you can do an upper body workout to give those muscles a break. 

Ultimately, DOMs is something that affects athletes. Fortunately, you can care for yourself and your muscles by employing the tips in this article. 

KWs: Level Up Sports