How to Relieve Sore Muscles and Muscle Pain After Exercise

Prolonged muscle pain after a workout can be a sign of muscle injury. The Department of Physiotherapy and LIFE Centre at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) share some tips to relieve muscle pain.
 MUSCLE aches and pain or delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is common when starting a new sport or workout regimen.​​

Coping with delayed onset muscle soreness after a workout

Getting sore muscles a day or two after an intensive workout or rigorous exercise is normal, especially if you are increasing your exercise intensity or starting on a new sport or exercise. The delayed muscle aches and muscle pain are caused by tiny injuries in the muscle fibre and connective tissue.

This condition, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), is common, says Ms Cindy Ng Li Whye, Principal Physiotherapist at the Department of Physiotherapy and LIFE CentreSingapore General Hospital (SGH), a member of the SingHealth group.

“If you haven’t exercised for a while or if you are starting a new physical activity, you are likely to experience sore muscles after the workout. Your body is simply saying your muscles need time to recover,” says Cindy.

The good news is that once your body gets accustomed to the new sport or exercise, you will experience little or no muscle soreness.

How long is muscle pain supposed to last?

The sore muscles that occur after a rigorous workout will usually subside after 24 to 48 hours of rest. But if the muscle aches do not go away after a few days of rest or even become more intense, it could be a sign that you have sustained a serious muscle injury.

Experiencing severe muscle pain during a workout could also be a sign that you have a muscle strain or muscle injury. If muscle pain is accompanied by breathing difficulty, high fever, muscle weakness and stiff neck, see a doctor.

Tips to relieve muscle pain and soreness

  1. Use an ice pack
  2. Go for a massage
  3. Stretch, stretch, stretch
  4. Do light exercises (such as walking, swimming)
  5. Build up eccentric exercises slowly
  6. Take a warm bath

What about topical creams? “There is little evidence that liniments, oils and other typical over-the-counter sports creams have any effect beyond the massaging action,” says Cindy. However, by making the skin feel cold or hot, they may distract your mind from the soreness.

Need help adopting a better lifestyle? The LIFE Centre at Singapore General Hospital (SGH) has a multidisciplinary team of experts who can provide you with guidance on weight management, exercise and diet.

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