Muscle Soreness Among Runners

What is muscle soreness and why do our muscles get sore? 

Everyone has experienced muscle soreness at one point in their lives. For runners, it usually happens one or two days after a longer-than-usual run and can be described as achiness, pain, or muscle tenderness felt within a muscle group. But why do we even get muscle soreness? Understanding why it happens in the first place can help us to figure out how to control the outcome. The intensity of the run (cell disruption) sets off an inflammatory response in the body, creating several opportunities for cells to respond, increase blood flow to the area, clean up waste, and protect the body (via swelling), much of which includes aggravation of pain receptors from histamine activation, i.e., soreness. Your body is breaking down muscle tissue, cleaning it up, and laying down the foundation for building it up bigger and better.

So how can we control this now that we (somewhat) understand it?

It’s hard to control something that the body is made to do. However stretching on a consistent basis may help to reduce overall pain response following more intense workouts. The most commonly reported muscle groups among runners that create the most issues are the hip flexors, piriformis, gastrocnemius, and great toe. We’ve incorporated the stretches for these muscle groups to further assist you after hard workouts!

Exercise-induced muscle damage – PubMed (

Inflammatory Cascade: Pathogenesis and Clinical Findings | Calgary Guide (

Stretching Before and After Exercise: Effect on Muscle Soreness and Injury Risk (

The effects of static and ballistic stretching on delayed onset muscle soreness and creatine kinase – PubMed (


The hip flexor muscles are commonly tight among runners:

Hip flexor: The hip flexor is located in the front of the hip and can be overworked and become sore and painful.  Stretching this muscle can help maintain good flexibility and prevent injury.   Here are two ways you can stretch this muscle: 

Piriformis: The piriformis is part of the gluteal muscles that help stabilize the pelvis. Here is a way to stretch this muscle:

Gastrocnemius: The gastrocnemius muscle (or your calf muscle) attaches from the back of your knee to your heel. Here is a way to stretch this muscle group:

Great toe: The bottom of the foot incorporates several muscles and tendons responsible for stabilization of the foot and ankle. The flexor hallucis longus and brevis muscles attach to the big toe and can become tight with the push off part of your running cycle. Here is a way to stretch these muscles:

Dry needling:

Dry needling can be an effective treatment to reduce chronic muscle tension and pain. With this treatment, an acupuncture needle is inserted into the affected muscle. The practitioner may leave the needle in for a period of time, or use different techniques called pistoning or winding to treat a greater surface area of muscle tissue. This can also be very effective for runners with significant post-run soreness. Ask your DPT physical therapist for details if you’re interested!

Effectiveness of Dry Needling for Myofascial Trigger Points Associated with Neck Pain Symptoms: An Updated Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis (

Dry Needling in the Management of Musculoskeletal Pain | American Board of Family Medicine (