Pain and injuries

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 2-5 days and you won't need any medical attention. You should be able to ease symptoms yourself using ice packs, massage, light stretching or by taking painkillers or anti-inflammatory medication.

You can still exercise with DOMS although it is 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.


If you've injured yourself, you will usually notice pain, tenderness, swelling, bruising, or stiffness 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 by:

  • resting the affected body part for the first 48-72 hours to prevent further damage
  • regularly applying an ice pack to the affected area during the first 48-72 hours to reduce swelling. Each application of ice should last between 5 and 15 minutes and you should avoid direct contact with the skin
  • using over the counter painkillers, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to relieve pain

If your symptoms are severe or don't start to get better within a few days, contact your GP who may refer you for specialist treatment and support, such as physiotherapy.

Last updated:
05 May 2022

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