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Sore leg muscles after a workout can be prevented and treated.
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Sore leg muscles after a workout generally result from delayed onset muscle soreness. Also known as DOMS, stiff, tired muscles that feel sore when you use your legs can put a damper on your exercise motivation. Taking certain measures can help you prevent and treat sore leg muscles so you can maintain your regular workout schedule.
Sore leg muscles often occur following an unusually strenuous workout or after engaging in a type of exercise that's new to you. During exercise, your muscles sustain slight damage, the University of New Mexico reveals. This causes the muscles to become inflamed and metabolic waste to form in your body. Your nerve endings are stimulated, causing you to feel pain. Leg soreness from DOMS generally occurs 24 to 48 hours after a workout.
Preventing Sore Leg Muscles Post-Workout
A five- to 10-minute warm-up before your workout can help you avoid soreness in your legs and other areas by loosening and warming up the muscles. Walk or jog at a slower-than-normal pace to get your muscles warmed up and loose. When you introduce new exercises into your workout routine, do so gradually. Add a few sprints to your normal 30-minute jog instead of trying to sprint the entire time. At the end of each workout, cool down in the same manner as you warmed up, and stretch your leg muscles for three to five minutes. Sit on the floor with your back straight and reach for your toes; lean into the stretch to feel your muscles lengthen without hurting. Always hold a stretch for 10 to 30 seconds without bouncing.
Treating Sore Leg Muscles
You've climbed out of bed and your legs are stiff as boards and sore to boot. Don't worry, you can treat your leg muscle soreness and be back at the gym later in the day. Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory as directed on the package and ice your sore leg muscles for 10 minutes three times daily for the first 24 to 72 hours. Work out on the first day if soreness subsides or lessens considerably after taking an anti-inflammatory or using ice. If you continue to feel stiff and sore, it might be better to wait a day or two before you resume exercise so your leg muscles can heal. Use heat instead of ice if soreness persists on the fourth day after your workout.
Muscle Soreness Versus Muscle Pain
While sore leg muscles are a common occurrence following a strenuous workout, acute pain is a sign that you need to see a doctor. Refrain from exercising if the pain in your legs is sharp and doesn't respond to your treatment efforts. DOMS pain can make your legs feel uncomfortable for a day or two, but won't leave you wincing in pain. See a doctor if pain exists in your legs but you didn't exercise them, or if the pain is is accompanied by redness, swelling or poor circulation. A doctor can rule out other causes of leg pain, such as infection, fibromyalgia or a change in medication.