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Causes of Sore Muscles & Its Symptoms, Treatment, Recovery Period

Sore Muscles

Muscle aches, or sore muscles, are extremely common. Almost everyone has had to deal with discomfort in their muscles at some point or the other. Considering there is muscle tissue in nearly all parts of the body, this type of pain can be felt almost everywhere, be it injury, strain or simple overwork. Here is the most required information about sore muscles, their causes, symptoms, treatment and recovery period.

Causes of Sore Muscles

Causes of Sore Muscles

People who often experience sore muscles can easily point out what the cause may be. This is because most sore muscles stem from stress, tension, or rigorous physical activity.

Some Of The Common Causes Of Sore Muscles Include:

  • Muscle tension in one or more parts of the body often leads to sore muscles
  • Exerting the muscle during a physical exercise can cause sore muscles
  • Injuring the muscle when engaged in physically demanding exercise or work can also cause sore muscles
  • Imbalance on either side of the body or poor posture and movements.
  • Apart from these, other causes of sore muscles can include certain medical problems too.

Medical Conditions That Can Cause Sore Muscles

Not all muscles aches stem from stress, tension, or physical activity. There are some medical causes for sore muscles. These include:

  • Fibromyalgia is one of the common causes of sore muscles.1
  • Rheumatoid arthritis or other forms of muscle and joint pain conditions are common too.
  • Autoimmune disorders like lupus, polymyositis and dermatomyositis 2
  • Thyroid problems, including hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism
  • Hypokalemia (low potassium) 3
  • Dehydration is also a common cause of sore muscles and muscle cramps
  • Infections like flu, or bacterial infections
  • Nutritional deficiencies, hormonal problems affecting muscles and joints
  • Consumption of medicines or drugs like statins, ACE inhibitors, or even cocaine too are attributed to muscle pain and sore muscles.

Symptoms of Sore Muscles

Some of the common symptoms of sore muscles include:

  • Pain in muscles, usually making you feel weak.
  • Numbness, and tingling in hands, arms, feet, and legs
  • Anxiety and depression are common symptoms associated with sore muscles
  • Headaches are seen as a symptom of sore muscles, especially when the neck, shoulders and upper back are involved.
  • Morning stiffness may be experienced by some, as a symptom of sore muscles.
  • Fatigue and sleeping problems are also common symptoms of sore muscles
  • Women with sore muscles may experience painful menstrual cramps
  • Some may also have urinary symptoms

Is Pain the Main Symptom of Sore Muscles?

Yes, widespread pain is the main symptom for most people suffering from sore muscles. In fact, pain is what usually prompts people to visit a doctor. Unlike the joint pain caused by osteoarthritis, the pain that stems from a sore muscle is felt all over the body. The pain can be sharp, deep and throbbing. The pain is usually felt in the muscles, ligaments and tendons around the joints. For a few individuals, the pain eases and then returns. The pain may also travel throughout the body.

Treatment for Sore Muscles

Treatment for sore muscles mainly depends on the underlying cause. If there is a specific injury or a joint condition, it may be treated with medications and physical therapy. For underlying medical conditions causing sore muscles, appropriate treatment is needed. For nutritional deficiencies, supplementation must be considered. For acute muscle injuries and sore muscles due to injuries, ice application may be needed.

For treatment of sore muscles, the following options are considered.


Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs can alleviate muscle soreness, but it will not speed up the recovery process.4 It can only be used to ease the pain of an intense phase of soreness. For additional symptoms like numbness and tingling, muscle relaxants and other drugs may be considered. Treatments for sore muscles are best taken only as medically advised to avoid any problems.

While there may be no way to speed up the recovery process, but there are a number of ways you can ensure the sore muscles are treated without delay.

Rest and Relaxation

Rest and relaxation helps to ease out sore muscles. Getting enough sleep during the night will help you recuperate faster. Not getting enough sleep will make your muscles sore for an extended period of time. Try not to exert yourself during the day and take frequent breaks from work. Enjoy some down time by reading a book or even getting a massage. A soothing massage could even relax your body enough to get a good night’s rest. Gently massaging the sore area with oil is also common and can improve blood circulation, thus relieving muscle pain.

Recovering the Active Way

Physical therapy for sore muscles can prove beneficial in most cases. Similarly, regular exercises can ease out muscle pain and soreness or prevent from occurring in some cases. While this may seem counter intuitive, but engaging in a light exercise during the recovery period could be one of the most effective methods to not only ease the pain, but reduce soreness quicker.

Active recovery should be one of the best treatment for sore muscles. You can consider engaging in a light jog, walking on an incline on a treadmill, and even swimming. These activities can promote blood circulation to your muscles and keep soreness at bay.

Drinking Adequate Amount of Water

A regular intake of water can help flush out the toxins and is a part of the treatment for sore muscles. The more water you drink, the better it is for you and the injury. When you do not get enough water in your body, it can cause the soreness to worsen, or may even cause muscle cramps.

Balanced Diet

Proper nutrition can also help reduce muscle soreness. If you lack potassium, an electrolyte which is helps in muscle contractions, or are not getting enough protein, muscle soreness may heal as fast you want.

Some of the additional treatment options of sore muscles

  • Magnesium – Magnesium, the primary component of Epsom salts, can make your muscles healthy. It is also a gentle natural muscle relaxant. The salts, when added to warm water and used for bathing, are absorbed by the skin; and can be an effective remedy to sore muscles. It is even better than an oral magnesium supplement. But a nice hot bath in Epsom salts will leave you relaxed and rejuvenated.
  • Coffee – Your morning coffee could actually help ease sore muscles. An intake of caffeine, bout the equivalent of two cups of coffee, can help ease muscle soreness in women after a rather rigorous workout. It helps by blocking adenosine, a chemical your body releases in response to injury. However, ensure that you do not overdo it by consuming copious amounts of caffeine. It could lead to muscle spasms. Just because your favorite thing in the world can ease sore muscles, doesn’t mean you take full advantage of the situation.
  • Foam Rolling – Foam rolling is a hassle-free and effective way of getting rid of muscle soreness. The foam rolling technique is referred to as self-myofascial release, which makes use of pressure and targeted massage to help prevent scarring of connective tissue between the muscles (the fascia). Try not to overdo when you use a foam roller for the first time. While it may seem easy at first, falling off this particular log can cause pain. Once you get used to the pressure you can cope with, then you can go all out and use it. Till then, ask an expert or follow videos online to use the foam roller.

Recovery Period for Sore Muscles

Recovery period of sore muscles depend on the nature of muscle injury, the underlying cause and the severity. If you are suffering from sore muscles, you are advised to take as much rest as possible. An injured muscle will not recover fully until seven to 14 days. However, if you get enough rest for 48 hours, you will be feeling as good as new.


Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Pramod Kerkar, M.D., FFARCSI, DA Pain Assist Inc. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:July 29, 2019

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