Solutions for Post-Workout Pain

Fitness resolutions have you in agony? How to cut the pain out of your program.

Jan. 11, 2008— -- Damn those New Year's resolutions.

Just like the fitness resolutions of years past, they gave you the best incentive to get moving. You signed up for the gym. Given the choice between aerobics classes, spinning classes and yoga classes, you participated in all three.

And one way or another, you hurt yourself. Perhaps you took one sudden move, and now, you can't move at all. Or, you made it through one demanding class, only to find that you can't sit down.

The result? After one week on the getting-in-shape bandwagon, you are getting off of it again, because of soreness and injuries.

Many will face this disappointment — and after having the best intentions.

When Enthusiasm Hurts

It's no secret that, after the holidays, comes the pressure to lose weight and to start working out again. Thus, many of us are looking for solutions to become active again. So, it's natural for you to be enthusiastic — and possibly start out by enrolling in a class that has been well-attended by regulars all year long.

It was a great intention, but perhaps this class was not a good fit for your level of fitness yet. The next day, you can't move because you are experiencing considerable muscle pain and soreness. Even sitting down may hurt.

Even worse, is if an injury occurs. This may happen because you have not warmed up long enough before your exercise, or maybe have not warmed up at all. Perhaps you have suffered from a failure to stretch short muscle groups and correct imbalances, before starting your workout program.

Another common story is simply not being ready for an exercise, and pushing forward with it, anyway. And now, you've experienced an injury. You took the wrong step and twisted your ankle. Or a push-up was executed incorrectly, and you are now in intense pain.

The net result? You may have experienced a torn ligament, tendon, muscle or a broken bone — when all you wanted to do was get started and capitalize on your eagerness to get your body back into shape.

Post-Workout Pain Solutions

Serious injuries aside, muscle soreness after a workout can have two common causes — stored lactic acid in your muscles, or microscopic tears in your muscle tissue. In both of these cases, allowing yourself time to recover is the best solution. But here are three solutions you can immediately take:


After an intense workout out, go and have a massage. Right after. Aside from the sheer indulgence factor, this is also an opportunity for the massage therapist to push the lactic acid out of your muscle tissues, preventing soreness. This is the main reason why massage therapists are on the staff of any Olympic athletic team.

Work Out

Think of it as a little hair of the dog that bit you. To get more of your lactic acid out from your muscle tissue, follow up with a low intensity workout the following day, and be sure to stretch. Many individuals make the mistake of simply not moving when sore, when these movements can actually activate the muscles, and help recovery.

Baking Soda

Basic chemistry: what happens if you put an alkaline solution into an acid solution? It neutralizes itself, depending on the pH levels of both solutions. Lactic acid, as the name implies, is acidic. Baking soda is alkaline. Your skin is the largest organ that has absorption capabilities. So, try a bath with one-half cup baking soda dissolved in the water, and see how you feel afterward.

In short, the worst thing you can do is not to move for two weeks at all after that initial workout pain. It is the continuation of this fitness plan that will bring you the results.

Pain From Injuries

Acute injuries that cause intense pain need a different kind of treatment. And there is a simple formula to it, which is best remembered using a convenient acronym — RICE.

Rest: A torn muscle, ligament, tendon or bone needs rest to heal. Leave it alone. Unlike with muscle soreness, it is inadvisable that you keep moving your injury the day after it has happened.

Ice: One of my clients swears by it. After a workout, when she experiences pain, she fills up her bath one-quarter full with water and ice cubes, and relaxes for 10 to 15 minutes in it. Do the same after an acute injury when swelling occurs.

Compression: When an injury occurs, white blood cells and fluids rush to the injured site, causing swelling. This is a mechanism, not only to start the healing process, but also to make the injured site immobile. An elastic bandage can help to prevent or reduce excessive swelling.

There is another form of compression that I would like to mention here. Some of you suffer from arthritis and other forms of pains, and your doctor prescribes swimming. Besides improving joint mobility during water exercises, water acts like compression on your body. Hence, being emerged in water might ease your aches and pains.

Elevation: To help reduce swelling, elevate the injured site so it remains 12 inches above the heart. Use common sense when doing this, to avoid further pain.

On a side note, if you are diagnosed with Raynaud's, diabetes, sensitivity to cold, or any medical condition with reduced blood flow to the arms or legs, please go and see your health care provider for both minor and more serious injuries.

Now, you will be thinking: "But how about heat?" Heat is used for chronic conditions. Head pads stimulate blood flow to the injured area. It is interesting to note, as well, that our immune system works most efficiently in a warm climate.

But, of course, the best way to deal with post-workout pain is to minimize the chances of experiencing it in the first place.

The biggest mistake you can do is to be eager to get started on a program that you were used to, maybe 20, 30 or 40 years ago. Have the patience to allow yourself to build up to that level again. Most injuries will happen when you don't follow a thought-out periodization program.

Go online to find advice, or hire a personal trainer to help you get started on your workout routine again. As a client's doctor once said to me, "A personal trainer is the best health insurance your money can buy."

Stefan Aschan is a leading expert on lifestyle, health and fitness, who has helped more then 30,000 people get fit through advice on nutrition, fitness and lifestyle changes. To listen to Stefan's free one-hour seminar, "How to have ten times more success, stay on top of your goals, and accomplish the change of body and appearance," visit

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