How to relieve sore leg muscles

Updated April 17, 2017

Sore leg muscles can be caused by a number of things, including lifting heavy objects or partaking in sports without proper preparation. A sore muscle is caused by tears in the muscle fibre, causing swelling and leading to pain. Some muscle pain is felt at the moment the tear in the muscle happens, while other pain occurs hours or days after the muscle-tearing injury.

Take an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug to help decrease swelling in the area of the sore muscle. Follow the directions on the label to ensure you take the correct amount. Avoid these products if you have any type of medical allergies. As with any medication, check with your doctor before taking a new medication.

Make an ice pack to put on the sore leg muscle. You can use a medical gel pack that you keep in the freezer, a freezer bag full of crushed ice, or a bag of frozen vegetables. Make sure the pack is large enough to cover the entire sore area and that it is in a leakproof container.

Elevate the affected leg, and using a compression-wrap bandage, wrap the ice pack to the sore leg muscle. Don't press the cold pack to the leg too tightly. Be sure to wrap the cold pack in a thin sheet or towel (pillowcases work well for this) so the ice pack is not directly against your skin. Leave the ice pack on your leg for 20 minutes.

Remove the ice pack from your leg after 20 minutes. Keep the leg slightly elevated to allow the swelling to go down.

Stretch the muscle. Do not stretch too quickly, as this could cause additional pain and damage to the muscle. Stretch the muscle slowly and gently. This will help the muscle maintain good blood flow and will help repair the torn muscle fibres.

Apply muscle-rub cream to the injured area. Gently massage the cream into the skin, following the direction of the muscle. Massage the muscle as deeply as needed to work out any knots, as long as the massage does not become painful. Massage the area until the muscle cream has fully soaked into the skin.


Ice helps reduce swelling by constricting blood flow to the injured area. It also helps remove lactic acid, which can cause pain in the legs. Taking over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drugs before working out or directly after working out will also help reduce sore leg muscles.


Avoid vigorous activity that may increase the pain in the leg muscle until the muscle has had time to heal. Don't forget to stretch and perform warm-up and cool-down exercises both before and after your workout. This will help reduce the likelihood of sore leg muscles.

Things You'll Need

  • Anti-inflammatory medication
  • Ice pack
  • Compression-wrap bandage
  • Muscle-rub cream
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About the Author

Based in Dayton, Ohio, Sari Hardyal has been writing fitness, sports, entertainment and health-related articles for more than five years. Hardyal holds a Bachelor of Science in mass communication from Miami University and is pursuing her master's degree in occupational therapy and her doctorate in physical therapy. She is a certified personal trainer with the National Federation of Professional Trainers.