How to Reduce Post-Workout Pain

From pulled muscles to knee and ankle injuries, workouts can sometimes cause pain. If you've turned your ankle during a run or hurt your elbow while lifting weights, try these tips at home to help yourself feel better.


Potassium helps the body regulate muscle contraction, and adequate levels can help counteract the temporary cramping that may result from lactic acid accumulation during exercise. Salt Stick explains, “potassium assists in nerve function, glycogen and fluid management, blood pressure, and more! Not only that, but large amounts of potassium is lost in sweat, so if you are working out for a long period of time (more than 3 hours), maintaining potassium levels is essential.” Experts recommend that people eat high-potassium foods before and after workouts to help ensure they have enough of this mineral. Potassium-rich food sources include bananas, avocados, sweet potatoes, yogurt, spinach, and white or kidney beans.


Fresh Therapy explains, “the benefits of having a massage after an intense workout are huge. It can assist with pain relief, improve the speed of recovery, release tension, improve flexibility, eliminate toxins, and most all of all helps you relax.” Getting a post-workout massage from a licensed massage therapist can relieve pain and optimize your recovery after a workout. Massage increases blood flow throughout the body, and this helps repair the microscopic muscle tears that can occur during exercise. It can also reduce inflammation and increase flexibility. Many individuals find that having a massage helps them sleep better and that their muscles feel looser after a massage. Having a massage helps release toxins and excess lactic acid from the body, allowing you to feel your best for your next workout session.


Having a recovery period is crucial to the overall success of any workout regimen. On average, the body needs between 24 to 48 hours between vigorous exercise sessions. On non-workout days, individuals can still engage in light stretching or walking, just nothing too intense. To help the muscles recover, it is also important to get at least seven to eight hours of sleep each night. On exercise days, watch for signs of overexertion such as an elevated resting heart rate, fatigue, dizziness, chest pain, or lightheadedness. If any of these signs occur, stop and take a break immediately. To avoid overexertion, consider joining a group exercise class or working with a personal trainer so that you have some supervision and guidance in planning workouts that are appropriate for your health and abilities. DailyBurn explains, “muscle soreness is normal for moderate exercise, but if you overwork yourself you can start to develop deep and uncomfortable pain. Major delayed onset soreness can reduce mobility, cause extreme stiffness, and greatly reduce your muscle strength. If you feel these symptoms you need to let your body rest.”


Ibuprofen is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication that is often used to relieve muscle pain and cramping. Individuals who experience post-workout pain that lasts for several hours may wish to consider taking ibuprofen to reduce this pain. For adults, the drug can be taken at a maximum dosage of 800 mg per dose, and no more than 3200 mg of ibuprofen should be taken per day. The lowest effective dose should be used, and individuals who continue to experience pain after two or three days should see their physician to rule out more serious issues.

What Not to Do

It is important to find natural, drug-free ways of relieving pain when possible. Patients who are considering the use of painkillers for workout pain should discuss this with their physician, particularly if they have underlying health conditions or are already taking prescription medication. Many prescription pain relievers are very strong, and they can often become habit-forming and lead to addiction. In fact, as The Recovery Village explains, “prescription painkillers have become the gateway drug to heroin, so anyone who has been prescribed narcotic medications can be susceptible to heroin use and heroin addiction.” In addition, the use of prescription painkillers has fueled the opioid epidemic. If you are in severe pain after a workout, see your doctor to evaluate your options. Before reaching for painkillers, consider using physical therapy, massage, and heat or ice packs as pain reducers. See your doctor for a clinical examination prior to beginning a new exercise routine, and make sure to choose activities that are appropriate for your physical condition.

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