The Betterment Project

Why Do My Legs Ache: The Causes and 7 Solutions to Cope

Have you ever finished a workout and felt great only to wake up the next day hardly able to walk?


Well if you have, you’re just like thousands of others who experience Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. DOMS is exactly what it sounds like: muscle soreness that doesn’t appear for hours or even days until after your workout is complete, and it lingers day after day for what feels like forever.


DOMS can be extremely frustrating because it isn’t always predictable. Sometimes an easy training run will leave you just as sore as a 5k race. Other times, the same workout won’t have any impact whatsoever.


So what exactly is going on when we experience DOS, what is it, what isn’t it, and what are some steps we can take to recover from it quicker?

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?


According to Healthline, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is muscle pain that begins after you’ve worked out, normally starting 1-2 days later. DOMS isn’t muscle soreness experienced during your workout, which is categorized as Acute Muscle Soreness. 


This delayed muscle soreness is caused by small tears in muscle fibers that typically occur during particularly strenuous or even just new workouts. Though it typically occurs after especially difficult training sessions, it can occur after any workout. 


Symptoms of DOMS include:


  • Muscles that feel tender to the touch
  • Reduced range of motion due to pain and stiffness when moving
  • Swelling in the affected muscles
  • Muscle fatigue
  • Short-term loss of muscle strength


DOMS can be experienced by anyone regardless of athletic ability, from Olympians to those just starting to explore working out. The key thing to remember is that anytime we ramp up the intensity or change our routine, we can experience DOMS. 


The good news is there are things we can do to relieve the symptoms quicker and get back on the road.

DOMS vs. Acute Muscle Soreness


As we briefly talked about above, there are two primary types of non-injury related muscle soreness that we associate with working out. Acute Muscle Soreness and Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness exhibit many of the same symptoms but there are key differences:


  • DOMS is caused by tears in muscle fibers that are felt days later
  • AMS is caused by a buildup of lactic acid in our muscles. The lactic acid builds up at a rate quicker than our body can flush it causing the soreness.


  • DOMS occurs sometimes days after a workout is complete
  • AMS happens during or immediately following the training sessions


  • DOMS typically takes a number of days to a week to resolve
  • AMS usually resolves in hours

So now you’re the expert when it comes to DOMS and AMS. but what do we do when the delayed muscle soreness hits and how can we recover?

Recovery Tips


As your body becomes more accustomed to a particular intensity or workout, you typically will experience less DOMS symptoms. However, most workout plans are designed to push our bodies and constantly test our limits. 


Many workout plans call for periodically changing the routine so that your body does not get too comfortable with any particular workout. This is great for getting in great shape and improving performance, but as we’ve said, opens the door for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.


So, we must learn to cope with it and recover as quickly as possible when it comes on. Here’s some tips and tricks!

Avoid the NSAIDs


NSAIDs, or nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, are commonplace for any nagging pain we may have. Unfortunately, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness isn’t caused by inflammation but instead tiny tears in your muscle from intense strain. Ibuprofen cannot help with that, so when DOMS comes on, OTC painkillers usually won’t be much help. 

Eat More Antioxidant-Rich Foods


If you love watermelon, cherries, pineapple, and ginger, you’re in luck. These nutrient-rich foods have been shown to reduce muscle soreness and quicken recovery. The key is that the amino acid found in these foods, L-citrulline, reduces recovery heart rate and inflammation, better allowing the body to heal itself! Pretty cool right?

More Amino Acids!


The particular amino acids we ingest through diet actually play a very important role in our overall health and recovery. Protein-rich foods contain BCAAs, or branched chain amino acids, and are paramount to muscle development and recovery. These BCAAs promote regeneration of torn muscle fibers and have been proven to reduce muscle soreness.


The great news is these can be obtained through regular diet or post-workout shakes depending on preference. So why not add a shake to your post-workout routine and speed up recovery while reducing symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness.


Insider Tip: Milk-based protein has shown to be the most effective way to take in protein when it comes to post-workout nutrition. 

Heat Therapy


Heat therapy has been found to be helpful in many post workout situations and DOMS is no different. Studies have found that applying heat to your muscles directly following a workout can substantially reduce muscle soreness, acute or delayed. 


That means a heat pad, rice bag, a hot tub or anything else you can think of! It’s worth noting, though, that the same study did find that moist heat proved more beneficial than dry when trying to relieve muscle pain.

Epsom Salts


If you’ve never taken an Epsom salt bath, we highly recommend getting on board with this. The use of Epsom salts for therapeutic benefits has been around for centuries, and continues to this day. While the benefits have been argued, many claim significant relief of muscle pain after soaking in a warm Epsom salt bath. 


So how does it work? The claim is that the salt breaks down into magnesium and sulfate which then get into your body through your skin. Low magnesium in your body leads to lactic acid buildup (acute muscle soreness) and muscle tightness, which causes more muscle fibers to tear during workouts. The heat from the bath itself can also play a role in soothing your whole body. 

Naturally Soothing Ingredients


Tumeric and menthol have both been shown to reduce muscle inflammation and reduce muscle soreness. Turmeric can be consumed as a powdered spice, in tea bags, and in supplement pills. You can also find a highly bioavailable derivative of turmeric, Turmacin, in ASYSTEM’s Radical Relief Anti-Inflammatory Pills.


CBD is another promising soother, and has benefits truly covering the holistic wellness spectrum. Studies have shown that CBD has significant soothing properties. Further, when consumed immediately after strenuous exercise, CBD has a strong impact in soothing muscle soreness associated with DOMS.


The great thing about CBD is that there are numerous application methods for individual preference. CBD has been shown to be similarly effective whether consumed in pill form, oil, or applied as a cream or gel (and ASYSTEM has them all!).


So whatever your flavor, CBD has game changing effects when it comes to muscle soreness.



Leg pain and general muscle soreness can be a painful and frustrating part of training but it’s something we must learn to cope with. 


Whether acute or delayed, there are thankfully a variety of ways we can help soothe the soreness. From heat to diet to CBD, helping our body to heal as it should has never been easier. 


Now that we know a little bit more about what’s causing our muscle soreness and how to identify the different types, we hope you’re better prepared to deal with it and this guide to dealing with leg and muscle soreness keeps you training harder and more often in the future!


For more helpful guides and articles about how to perform your best, check out ASYSTEM’s blog for new articles every week. 


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