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Managing Sore Muscles and Joint Pain

WebMD Feature
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

You work hard all week, so when the weekend finally rolls around you want to play just as hard. There's nothing like a few rounds of golf, a hike in the mountains, or an intense workout at the gym to reinvigorate you.

But all of that activity can result in soreness and stiffness that shows up a day or two later. Don’t be sidelined by muscle pain. Find out the causes and proper treatments so you can stay on your game.

woman rubbing shoulder

What's Causing My Sore Muscles?

It's normal to have sore muscles after you work out, play sports, or even do housework, especially if:

  • You did an activity you're not used to (like running a marathon when you normally jog just a few miles).
  • You suddenly kicked up your exercise intensity level or increased the length of your workout.
  • You did eccentric exercises, in which you lengthened instead of shortened your muscle (like walking downhill or extending your arm during a bicep curl).

These changes to your exercise routine can lead to tiny injuries called microdamage in the muscle fibers and connective tissue. About a day later, you'll start to feel sore.

"We call that delayed onset muscle soreness," says Ethel Frese, PT, DPT, CCS, associate professor of Physical Therapy at St. Louis University. "It peaks within about 48 hours, and then it will gradually get better."

The good news is that when you do the same activity again, your muscles will start to get used to it. Allan H. Goldfarb, PhD, FACSM, professor and exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro, says,  "You will actually have no soreness or less soreness because now you've strengthened the muscle or connective tissue."

What's Causing My Joint Pain?

When your joints feel sore and achy, that's usually a sign of osteoarthritis. This inflammatory condition becomes more common as you get older. The cartilage that normally cushions the joints wears away, leaving the joints inflamed and painful.

Joint pain can also be caused by overuse or injury -- for example, tennis elbow or a knee injury caused by a ligament or meniscal problem.

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