Pain and injuries after exercise

Sore muscles after exercise

Feeling your muscles ache or stiffen for a few days after exercise is normal and is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It can affect people of all fitness levels, particularly after trying a new activity or pushing yourself a bit harder than usual.

Usually your muscles will stop aching in 2 to 5 days and you won’t need any medical attention. You should be able to ease symptoms yourself.

Do

  • apply ice packs
  • try massage
  • practice light stretching
  • take painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication if necessary

You can still exercise with DOMS although it’s usually best to wait a few days until the pain eases.

If pain persists for more than 5 days or gets worse, contact your GP.

Injuries

If you’ve injured yourself, you’ll usually notice:

  • pain
  • tenderness
  • swelling
  • bruising
  • stiffness

You’ll usually notice this in the affected area straight away. Sometimes, you may only notice these symptoms several hours after exercising or playing sports.

If the injury is minor, you don’t usually need to see a doctor and can look after yourself at home.

Do

  • rest the affected body part for the first 48 to 72 hours to prevent further damage
  • apply an ice pack to the affected area regularly during the first 48 to 72 hours to reduce swelling – each application of ice should last between 5 and 15 minutes and you should avoid direct contact with the skin
  • use over the counter painkillers, like paracetamol or ibuprofen, to relieve pain

Speak to your GP if your symptoms:

  • are severe
  • don’t start to get better within a few days

Your GP may refer you for specialist treatment and support like physiotherapy.

Last updated:
01 December 2022

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