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Pain after working out? 10 ways to cope

pain after working out

Did you push your body a little bit harder than usual? If so, you may feel pain after working out, either immediately or the next day. The reality is that at some point in your life you’ll likely feel achy – Right now it’s my thighs and abs that are sore after yesterday’s gym session. So, if you’re feeling like I am today, what can you do to help relieve the body pain? There’s Theragun and other massage tools, as well as the tips below.

First, though, let’s start by looking at what you’re doing for exercise and why you’re getting active.

What your workout looks like

Your workout is full of energy, whether you’re trying to lose weight, tone up, or maintain your lean body. As you move, you’re testing both capacity and endurance, especially with those extra-tough workout sessions.

Along with helping your physical fitness, the exercises can improve mood and overall well-being. The time you’re taking for fitness is well-spent as you work toward better overall health and maintaining optimal functioning of the body.

Of course, not every exercise is right for everyone. Factors that affect what’s best for you can include medical history, any current health issues, physical fitness level, age, and workout goals.

Also, consider what you like doing. While I enjoy the gym, others don’t, and there’s nothing wrong with that; just choose what you prefer doing as then you’re more likely to get moving!

Exercise and hormones

A big reason many people exercise is to feel good about themselves and their bodies. Exercise induces the production of feel-good hormones. The chemicals released are called endorphins; they encourage a happy feeling in the body.

Furthermore, the body perceives exercise as a stressful time, especially when doing intense sessions like HIIT workouts. Often the body gets fitter as it gets better at coping with physical stress. Thus, less cortisol releases during workouts and also when facing emotional stressors.

If you endure long periods of stress, however, over time that is trying on your adrenal glands and result in depleted cortisol levels. That can leave you feeling constantly tired.

Also tiring can be the pressure around you to conform to certain body standards. Body shaming has unfortunately led many people to turn to gyms for reasons aside from achieving fitness goals.

Body shaming

While some gyms send out body-shaming emails like this one to try to motivate people to get into the gym, it’s not okay to do so. Inciting shame over one’s own body is terrible.

It messes with the mind and plays on one’s lack of self-confidence. Instead, I hope more gyms and loved ones send positive messages to help you reach your goals. Don’t work out because you feel unworthy or disgusting – that’s just terrible for your mind.

Society has set an ideal for the perfect body, unfortunately, and many people feel pressure to conform to these ideals and standards. But I assure you that there’s a lot of glossing over photos in magazines and online; it’s not reality and don’t let it deceive you that even models have cellulite like “regular” people.

Before we talk pain after working out… Let’s look at types of workouts

What are aerobic exercises and anaerobic exercises?


Aerobic exercise includes exercises to enhance cardiovascular endurance. It’s often called “cardio” and could be what leads to pain after working out.

This category of exercises involves using large muscles, thereby causing the body to consume more oxygen than it would be normally when at rest. Examples of aerobic activities are:

  • Running
  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Brisk walking
  • Skipping rope
  • Hiking
  • Dancing
  • Playing tennis

Anaerobic exercise

Anaerobic exercise is usually done to increase muscle mass. It also helps improve and enhance bone density, balance, coordination and stamina.

Some examples are:

  • Pull-ups
  • Pushups
  • Bench press
  • Lunges

The relationship between exercise and body pain

Exercise can lead to body pain. Workouts change the body in so many ways – Your body stretches, muscles grow, and muscles can break too. Veins dilate and shrink. Your tissues are torn and damaged because when you lift weight to make new muscles, the old ones have to go for new ones to grow.

Weight lifting and other mass gain exercises lead to body pain as they target tissues and can damage them. Not only anaerobic but also aerobic exercise potentially leads to an achy body feeling, either overall or in a specific part. That pain can stay for days and only go when tissues recover.

Of the many reasons for body pain, the most important ones are changing or moving to a new exercise program because your body gets used to the program or routine you were using, and now when you switch to the new program, your body has to adapt.

When your muscles are made to work harder than they used to, it causes microscopic damage to the muscle fibers. Thus, muscle stiffness and muscle soreness can result. Another important factor that results in body pain is while lifting weight, people who don’t have much knowledge about the mass gaining and which muscle to target, often end up straining or injuring their muscles.

About body pain

There are various types of body pain not to ignore. No pain, no gain is not completely true when it comes to exercise because people often push their bodies beyond the limit.

It is common to have sore muscles after a workout but not every pain is just as normal as muscle soreness. Some pains are worth not ignoring because they can be alarming signs of serious tissue damage. Listening to your body is always important.

If instead severe pain is ignored or taken lightly just because it’s normal to feel achy after exercise, muscle damage can get chronic and lead to irrevocable damage. Then it’s harder to cope with the issue and the chances of recovery can even lessen.

Types of body pain after working out

There are various types of body pain that you ought not to ignore. They are:

  1. Sharp pain
  2. Pain with swelling
  3. Localized pain
  4. Pain that gets worse during your workout
  5. Painful pops

Sharp pain

Sharp pain isn’t considered a normal body response to a workout. Instead, sharp pain usually points towards the dysfunction of something.

For example, stabbing pain can be symptomatic of a tendon injury. A sharp pain that is not consistent is less worrisome, usually than when the pain stays consistently. The latter case is alarming when it points toward a serious underlying problem.

Pain with swelling

This type of pain indicates a more serious issue. Swelling is the body response to injury.

When swelling happens, it is the body’s way of protecting itself against further damage. It occurs when there is an increased movement of white blood cells and fluid in an area of the body.

For example, if there is an injury in the upper part of the index finger, the entire finger swells up to create a response that ideally gets your immediate attention. Swelling is usually a serious thing; it’s your body’s way of asking you to seek treatment.

Localized pain

This type of pain after working out is area-specific; it occurs in one specific part of the body. The pain usually lingers in one place, and if it seems to be sharp, localized, and consistent, you would be wise to see a doctor immediately. There are convenient online prescribing services, such as Online Doctor UK.

Also, be attentive when a specific exercise triggers localized pain in an area. For example, using the shoulder press at the gym results in shooting pain in my shoulder; it’s a reminder that I still have an issue with that part of my body.

Or, it might be hip pain in women. See your doctor if this issue doesn’t resolve itself soon so that you get to the root of the issue.

Pain that worsens during a workout

While working out, you strain muscles, but that pain stays the same amount typically throughout the session. If pain escalates while working out, though, that change indicates that the already-injured joint is getting more damage.

When this happens, stop that activity immediately. That actually happened to me during a session with my former personal trainer.

Painful pops

A pop is a sharp sound accompanied by pain. A pop often points towards tear or partial dislocation; it could be that you’ve damaged the tendon.

Then there are also the small clinking or grinding sounds in knees and shoulders. I know I have that! These sounds aren’t dangerous unless they are accompanied by pain.

Tips to relieve pain after working out

So, coming back to the main point on pain relief. There are many tips that people use to reduce and relieve muscle pain and soreness after a workout. The main suggestions are:

1. Use an ice pack

The swelling of muscles after intense an workout is very common and typically nothing to worry about. Place an ice pack wrapped in a towel on the sore muscle for 20-25 minutes.

This is a common method athletes use because it yields quick results. Sometimes, though, heat is better than ice.

If you use a heat pack to help relax sore muscles and joints, wrap it in a thin towel and place it on the muscle or joint for about 15 minutes.

2. Stretch to ease pain after working out

To prevent sore muscles, stretch muscles before and after fitness sessions for at least 5 minutes. Warming up before a workout is very important; use simple movements, such as arm swings, marching, and walking, gradually picking up the pace.

3. Take a warm bath

Soaking in a hot bath can increase the circulation of blood to the sore and tighten muscle areas to give temporary relief. It is soothing too, especially when you combine the soak with self-massage.

For example, take a tennis ball and trap it against the upper back and the side of the tub or the lower back and the bottom of the tub. Roll it gently across the tight area.

4. Light exercise

Light exercises include swimming and walking. Doing this low-intensity workout can stretch muscles and is gentle on them to allow the body to repair any soreness.

You’ll still get in some movement while being kind to your body. Essentially you’re allowing the sore area time to recover.

More ways to lessen the pain after working out:

5. Go for a massage

Massaging on the trigger points helps a lot to soothe sore and damaged muscles and muscular aches. Massage relaxes the muscles and increases blood circulation.

Increased blood circulation creates a warming effect that helps to give warmth to muscles and relieve any soreness.

6. Drink coffee

Coffee is a natural soother because it contains caffeine which is a muscle relaxant and in general mind relaxant. A Cup of Joe before a workout can give you the jumpstart you need to get moving.

It can keep your muscles active and hydrated, and gives them strength, even momentarily, to help you power through a training session.

7. Foam rolling

Like massage, foam rolling has a soothing effect on muscle soreness. This exercise is great to help soften and increase soft muscle connectivity.

As this study found, the use of a foam roller after exercise can ease sore muscles and help maintain strength performance too.

8. Hydration

To help prevent muscular cramps, it’s important to drink water throughout the session, as well as prior to and after the activity. If you are not drinking enough water, you can also feel dizzy and even pass out. That makes sense given how much fluid you lose while doing physical activity.

9. Eat fruit

Fruits contain anti-inflammatory properties, especially blueberries and tart cherries. Certain foods like these ones can reduce swelling and muscle soreness.

10. Take supplements

People who go to the gym daily might consider consuming antioxidants that prevent muscle soreness and brings relaxation to damaged muscles and tissues. For example, turmeric is rich in curcumin, which has powerful anti-inflammatory effects to help reduce pain after working out.

Not only that but turmeric also provides speedy recovery of damaged, tired, weary, and torn tissues after robust exercise.

Conclusions on coping with pain after working out

It’s obvious that regular exercise helps you stay healthy and fit, but there is no gain without pain. Or, is there?

The reality is that you don’t have to put up with sore muscles when you can use one or more of the above 10 methods for coping with the aches. That’s true whether you’ve incurred the soreness through aerobic or anaerobic movements.

By managing the achiness, you can continue to build muscular strength, lose weight, or reach another fitness goal. You can increase your confidence, rather than succumbing to body shaming.

Whether you choose massage, light exercising, supplements, hot baths, or another of the above suggestions after your next training outing, I hope you find relief soon.

6 thoughts on “Pain after working out? 10 ways to cope”

  1. Thank you for the tips, Christy! I have never heard of some of these, such as eating fruit and drinking coffee for muscle pain relief.
    I don’t work out as often as I should, but I spend long hours on my feet at work and definitely have the aches at times to show for it.

  2. While I do not ‘Work Out’ as such.. I do work out in my garden and after long spells of not doing any digging etc.. I know only too well the muscles aches and pains as our body gets used to some exercises in muscles that haven’t been used in a while.. :-D

    Lovely to read Christy.. I hope you had a wonderful Christmas my friend.. And I wish you all the very best for 2020 in all you do..

    Thank you for sharing all that you do, I am not in WP as often as I used to be so forgive me not getting around here as often..
    But I so thank you for your posts and your friendship…

    Happy New Year Christy.. 💛🧡💛
    Love Sue

    1. Gardening is a great exercise, Sue! And the best forms of fitness are the ones that bring us joy, which I know being amongst your crops does for you. Please don’t apologize for not being on here very much ~ I wish I had more time to read other blogs too! Hugs always and Happy New Year to you too xo

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