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How to Relieve Muscle Soreness

January 20, 2021

Dr. Karen Litzy, PT, DPT

Have you ever experienced muscle soreness a day or two after a challenging workout? You may have been experiencing DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This type of muscle soreness is different than the acute muscle soreness you might feel during your workouts. DOMS typically occurs anywhere from 12-24 hours after your workout.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, DOMS may develop as a result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers involved in the exercise. This type of damage likely results from novel stresses that were experienced during the exercise.1

Some signs and symptoms of DOMS may include:

  • Muscle pain or soreness
  • Muscles that are tender to the touch
  • Decreased range of motion of the joints due to pain and stiffness of the muscles
  • Inflammation in the affected muscles
  • Muscle fatigue or tiredness
  • A feeling of lack of power in the affected muscles

The big question is: What can you do to reduce this muscle soreness? How can you find shoulder, knee, or lower back relief after your workouts?

Reducing Muscle Soreness – Recovery Techniques

In a 2018 systematic review by Dupuy et.al. in the journal Frontiers in Physiology, the authors examined recovery techniques to reduce markers of muscle damage, soreness, fatigue, and inflammation after exercise.2 In this review, they studied the following post-exercise modalities (in healthy adults) and their effect on DOMs, perceived fatigue, muscle damage, and inflammatory markers after physical exercise:

  • Active recovery
  • Stretching
  • Massage
  • Massage combined with stretching
  • Compression garments
  • Electrostimulation
  • Immersion baths
  • Contrast water therapy (moving from hot to cold baths)
  • Cryotherapy/cryostimulation
  • Hyperbaric therapy/stimulation

The study results showed that massage had the most significant benefit on DOMS and perceived fatigue in subjects, both in athletic and sedentary populations. Getting a 20-30 minute massage immediately or up to two hours after exercise has been shown to reduce DOMS's effects for 24-72 hours. Aside from massage, the study showed that both compression garments and cold immersion had a positive impact on the reduction of DOMS, but to a lesser degree.

What Does This Mean In The Real World?

Is it practical to walk around with compression garments on all day? Do you want to take an ice bath after all your workouts? Can you afford to get a massage after every heavy bout of exercise? I would venture to guess the answer is most likely no to all of these questions. So, what can you do daily to help decrease the onset or severity of DOMS after exercise?

Enter the WATERPIK PowerPulse Therapeutic Strength Massage Shower Head. Is it exactly the same as having a hands-on massage? Not quite, but the therapeutic massaging spray is clinically shown to help soothe muscle tension, increase flexibility, and promote restful sleep. The PowerPulse Shower Head is also readily available, can be focused on a specific muscle group (with the handheld feature), and is a fraction of the cost of regular massages.

Bio: Dr. Litzy, PT, DPT

Dr. Litzy, PT, DPT is a licensed physical therapist, international speaker and owner of Karen Litzy Physical Therapy, PLLC in New York City. Through her work as a physical therapist, she has helped thousands of people including Fortune 500 CEOs, royalty and celebrities overcome painful conditions, recover from surgery, and feel stronger than ever before.

You can read Dr. Litzy's related blog post here: How to Help Manage Muscle Tension & Soreness.

Water for Wellness Council

Dr. Litzy is a member of our Water for Wellness Council, a group of health and wellness experts with varying expertise ranging from fitness to physical and massage therapy.


  1. Acsm.org. 2011. [online] Available at: https://www.acsm.org/docs/default-source/files-for-resource-library/delayed-onset-muscle-soreness-(doms).pdf?sfvrsn=8f430e18_2 [Accessed 18 December 2020].
  2. Dupuy, O., Douzi, W., Theurot, D., Bosquet, L. and Dugué, B., 2018. An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Frontiers in Physiology, 9.