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What Causes Muscle Soreness After Exercise

what causes muscle soreness after exercise

Muscle soreness after exercise is a common event for many people, particularly those who are new to exercise or have added exercise intensity. This article explores the science behind muscle soreness, discusses the factors that may contribute to muscle soreness, provides tips on how to prevent and treat it, and tips for recovery. Readers can learn about muscle soreness issues, reduce discomfort, and continue to enjoy the benefits of regular physical activity.

The Science Behind Muscle Soreness

Microtears in muscle fibers, inflammation, and lactic acid buildup induce muscular discomfort after exercise, often known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Exercise-induced muscle stress and tension can cause tiny tears in muscle fibers, triggering an inflammatory response and subsequent edema.

As a result of anaerobic metabolism, hard exercise releases lactic acid, which can accumulate in the muscles and contribute to fatigue and pain. These components combine to start the body’s mending process, which results in stronger and more robust muscles but can also cause temporary discomfort and soreness.


Muscle soreness after exercise can be caused by several factors, including:

  • Exercise intensity and duration: Muscles experience more stress and tension during high-intensity or long-duration exercises, leading to microtears and inflammation.
  • Type of exercise: Certain exercises that involve eccentric contractions, where the muscle lengthens while under tension, can cause more muscle damage and soreness.
  • Inadequate warm-up or cool-down: Skipping the proper warm-up or cool-down before and after exercising can increase the risk of muscle soreness.
  • Dehydration: Failure to maintain proper hydration levels can cause muscle cramps and strain, making the muscles more prone to soreness.
  • Electrolyte imbalance: Electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium are critical for optimal muscle function. Deficiencies in these electrolytes can contribute to muscle soreness.
  • Overtraining: Exercising too frequently without sufficient rest and recovery periods can lead to muscle fatigue and soreness.

By understanding these factors, individuals can adjust their exercise routines and make appropriate lifestyle changes to prevent muscle soreness after exercise.


There are several tips to consider in order to prevent muscle soreness after exercise:

  • Gradually increase the intensity and duration of the exercise: Prevent overworked muscles by increasing the intensity and duration of exercise gradually.
  • Perform a proper warm-up and cool-down: Get your muscles ready for exercise with a proper warm-up before exercising and a cool-down afterward.
  • Maintain hydration and electrolyte balance: Appropriate hydration and electrolyte balance are essential to prevent muscle soreness. Beverage plenty of water before, during, and after exercise, and consider drinking sports drinks with electrolytes.
  • Combine stretching and foam rolling: Release tight muscles and lessen the risk of soreness in your body by integrating stretching and foam rolling into your routine.
  • Allow time for rest and recovery: Give your muscles time for rest and recovery between workouts. Excessive training can result in muscle fatigue and soreness.

You can reduce the likelihood of muscle soreness after exercise and enjoy regular physical activity benefits by implementing these strategies.


Treatment of muscle soreness after exercise generally involves the following steps:

  • Rest: Give your muscles rest and recovery and avoid any strenuous activity that may exacerbate soreness.
  • Ice: Use ice or cold compression on the impacted area to reduce inflammation and numb the pain.
  • Compression: Use a compression garment or package to help reduce swelling and support the affected muscles.
  • Elevation: Elevating the affected limb higher than the heart level to help reduce swelling.
  • Stretching: Mild stretching exercises may help alleviate muscle soreness with increased blood flow and promote healing.
  • Massage: A massage can be effective in relieving muscle soreness by increasing blood flow, decreasing inflammation, and promoting relief. The use of a handheld massage gun is one way to release tension and encourage recovery by applying targeted pressure to specific muscle groups.


Causes of Muscle Soreness – Coursera Science of Exercise

Emily Brook

Emily Brook

Hi, I'm Emily, a Health and Fitness Specialist with FivaliFitness. With years of experience in the fitness industry as a certified personal trainer, I am passionate about helping individuals achieve their health and fitness goals.

Whether you're new to fitness or an experienced athlete, our products and resources are designed to support and enhance your fitness journey. So, if you have any questions, don't hesitate to reach out to me at any time!

The information provided in articles written by Fivali is intended for educational and reference purposes only. The content on this website ( is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease. We do not recommend self-diagnosis or self-treatment based on the information provided in our articles. Always consult a qualified healthcare professional if you have any concerns about your health or well-being.
If you are experiencing any symptoms or discomfort, we strongly encourage you to seek medical attention from a qualified healthcare professional. Only a licensed healthcare practitioner can provide an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment plan tailored to your individual needs.

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