Many people experience delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) after doing an intense workout. This is a pain in the muscles that can range from mild to debilitating. It usually sets in a day or two days after working out, and can last between 3 and 5 days.

DOMS is perfectly normal and can actually be a sign that your workout was successful (no pain, no gain!). However DOMS shouldn’t be anything more than a mild ache. If leg day has made your quads hurt so much that you can’t walk, or if you can barely concentrate on work because of your achy muscles, this is clearly unhealthy. 

Fortunately, there are ways in which you can reduce DOMs while still getting the same quality workout. This post explains a few different things that you can do to reduce DOMS after exercise.

Drink plenty of water

You can expect your muscles to be sorer the next day if you haven’t been drinking enough water. Good hydration helps nutrients and oxygen to move around the body, helping muscles to heal more quickly. This can result in DOMS not lasting as long and not being so intense. 

Exercise dehydrates the body via sweat, so it’s important to drink water before, during and after our workout. Try to drink small amounts before and throughout, and larger amounts after.

Try to stay active afterwards (but not too active)

Being active may be the last thing you want to do if your muscles are achy, however a bit of movement can actually be good for your muscles. Physical activity keeps blood flowing to your muscles, which can reduce cramping and inflammation.

Of course, you should avoid doing a full workout with DOMS, as this may result in you injuring your muscles. Gentle physical activity such as getting your steps in and doing stretches is enough to keep blood flowing to your muscles. In other words, don’t spend the next day lying on the couch.

Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep is when our body does its healing. By letting your body complete its sleep cycles, you can stop your muscles from being quite as achy.

You should try to get at least 7 hours of sleep the night after an intense workout. Make sure that this sleep isn’t too interrupted so that your sleep cycles are actually being completed.

Use the right pain relief medication

Over-the-counter pain medication can reduce DOMS, but you’re better off sticking to NSAID painkillers like ibuprofen as opposed to acetaminophen. These painkillers reduce inflammation, which is better for relieving muscle pain.

It could be worth also exploring other forms of pain relief such as muscle and joint pain relief gel. Herbal painkillers may also have an impact.

Treat yourself to a massage

Massages help to increase blood circulation to muscles, helping to reduce muscle aches like DOMS. 

Consider treating yourself to a professional massage the day after a hard workout. Sports massages may be more effective than regular massages.

Know when DOMS is something more serious

While some achiness is expected after a workout, you shouldn’t be experiencing serious pain. If you experience a sharp pain when moving your arm or leg in a certain direction, it could be a sign that you’ve sustained an injury. This could be a pulled muscle, a sprained tendon or even a fracture. 

In this case, you’ll want to rest the injured part of your body and possibly use an ice pack or bag of frozen veggies. This post offers a few tips for treating sports injuries.