How To Get Rid of Muscle Aches and Pains to Improve Performance, Feel & Function Better

Nobody likes muscle aches and pains. The good news is there’s a safe and effective method to get rid of them rather easily. I’ve been successfully using the method via corrective exercise training for over a decade with over 1,000 clients. In today’s post, I’ll explain it as best I can so that you might be able to benefit from the method too.

Here’s the 5 topics you’ll learn about:

  1. The definition of corrective exercise
  2. One of the major causes of muscle aches and pains
  3. The limitations and downside of stretching
  4. What gets rid of muscle aches and pains
  5. How you can get rid of muscle aches and pains in the convenience of your own residence

1. The Definition of Corrective Exercise

From:  National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training

Corrective exercise is a term used to describe the systematic process of identifying neuromusculoskeletal dysfunction, developing a plan of action and implementing an integrated corrective strategy.

In simple terms, corrective exercise is assessing what’s going on with a person as they move, figuring out what types of movement issues they have and addressing the movement issues so they function and feel better – kind of like physical therapy.

2. What Causes Muscle Aches and Pains?

From:  National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training

Poor posture and repetitive movements can create dysfunction within the connective tissue of the human movement system. This dysfunction is treated by the body as an injury and will initiate a repair process termed the cumulative injury cycle.

In simpler terms this means…

Bad posture, overdoing certain exercises or doing certain movements over and over can cause dysfunction to internal layers of tissue that support the body.  When this happens, a negative cycle happens and pain emerges.

Here’s a picture of the cumulative injury cycle.

From:  National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training


More about the Cumulative Injury Cycle…

From:  National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training

Any trauma to the tissue of the body creates inflammation. Inflammation in turn activates the body’s pain receptors and initiates a protective mechanism, increasing muscle tension and causing muscle spasm. These muscle spasms are not like a calf cramp. Heightened activity of muscle spindles in particular areas of the muscle create, in essence, a microspasm.

As a result of the spasm, adhesions (“knots” or “trigger points”) will begin to form in the soft tissue. These adhesions form a weak, inelastic (unable to stretch) matrix that decreases normal elasticity of the soft tissue. Left unchecked, these adhesions can begin to form permanent structural damage in the soft tissue.

Said in simpler terms…

When the body gets any type of minor injury, inflammation occurs. With inflammation, the body tries to protect itself.  When it protects itself, it develops tension, tightness and knots. These knots, if not addressed, limit the body’s ability to move freely and contribute to aches and pains, and sometimes cramping.

(For more on the real cause of muscle cramping on a nutritional level, click here.)

3. The Limitations and Downside of Stretching

Arguably, static stretching (holding a muscle in a stretched position with low force to allow for a muscle to relax) has been the most common flexibility technique used over the past half century. Static stretching has been thought to prep the body for exercise and prevent injury. But it’s not as effective as many might think.

Research shows that stretching before or after exercise has little or no effect on decreasing muscle soreness half a day or three days later. (2)

Also, stretching was thought to prevent injury and improve athletic performance. Unfortunately, what most people do not know is that isolated static stretching immediately before exercise may impair a person’s strength and power and has no effect on injury prevention. (3)

If static stretching by itself does not provide much of a benefit, how does a person get rid of muscle knots that are associated with aches and pains to improve flexibility?

4. What Gets Rid of Muscle Aches and Pains

From:  National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training

Self-myofascial (SMR) techniques may help in “releasing” the microspasms (knots) that develop in traumatized tissue and “break up” the fascial adhesions that are created through the cumulative injury cycle process, thus potentially improving the tissue’s ability to lengthen.

In simple terms, through SMR, a person can get rid of knots in the body. This helps a person feel and function better.

What’s the Scientific Rationale for Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)?

From:  National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training

1. To alleviate the side effects of active or trigger points (knots)

2. To influence the autonomic nervous system

In simple terms, SMR helps get rid of the aches and pains associated with movement limitations caused by knots (trigger points). Also, SMR positively affects the part of the body’s nervous system that supports muscle relaxation, like a massage.

How Does SMR Work?

From:  National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training

External pressure stimulates receptors located throughout the muscle, fascia, and connective tissues of the human movement system to override the dysfunctional yet protective mechanism caused by the cumulative injury cycle. The Golgi Tendon Organ (GTO) is one proposed receptor that responds to tension. SMR stimulates the GTOs to increase range of motion.

In simple terms, a little manual pressure to the knots in the body activates receptors that helps dissolve the knots. When the knots break up, the body can move more freely again, back to its normal range of motion. Like a self massage. It feels good.

SMR fosters other benefits.…

From:  National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training

1. Helps decrease the overall effects of stress (emotional or physical) on the human movement system.

2. Increasing vasodilation, the tissue can receive adequate amounts of oxygen and nutrients as well as removal of waste byproducts (via blood) to facilitate tissue recovery and repair. Healthy tissue may be less predisposed to alter muscle recruitment patterns that may cause injuries.

3. Changing the viscosity of the tissue allows for better tissue dynamics, which may provide better overall muscle contraction and join motion.

4. Decreasing sympathetic tone reduces the prolonged faulty contraction of muscle tissue that can lead to cumulative injury cycle.

5. Affecting respiration can lead to better oxygen content in blood as well as decrease feelings of anxiety and fatigue.

In simple terms, SMR helps get rid of stress held within the body. SMR increases blood flow to keep tissues functioning better so that the body moves, recovers, repairs and breathes better.

5. How you can get rid of muscle aches and pains in the convenience of your own residence

While static stretching might not be as helpful as people once thought, you can get rid of muscle aches and pains via SMR. And you can do it with two great tools.

Two recommended tools for SMR are a foam roller and a theracane. I’d also recommend The Trigger Point Therapy Workbook.

For beginners, I’d recommend a soft foam roller like this one.

For folks with a little more experience, I’d recommend a high density foam roll (black).

For folks with a lot of experience who also like hydration, check out the in, I’d recommend the MOBOT.

Or, to get a combination  I’d recommend a foam roller kit.

In addition to foam rolling, folks who tend to get tight muscles in the upper back may benefit from the theracane. This candy cane shaped instrument (shown below) can be applied directly to the muscle knots in the upper back to loosen them up to feel better!

Thera Cane Massager

For those who want more info on Trigger Point Therapy to relieve aches and pains, I’d recommend the workbook. You can get a copy here.


  1. Muscle aches and pains are related to knots that form in the soft tissues of body due to repetitive movements, overtraining or poor posture.
  2. Research shows that SMR (Self-Myofascial Release) is a great method to get rid of muscle aches and pains, and may be more effective than static stretching.
  3. Two great tools for doing SMR in the convenience of your own residence include the foam roll and theracane.

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(1) National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) Essentials of Corrective Exercise Training

(2) John Wiley & Sons, Inc.. “Stretching Out Does Not Prevent Soreness After Exercise.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 October 2007.

(3) FIELDS, M.D. et al. (2007) Should Athletes Stretch before Exercise? Sports Science Exchange, 20 (1).

About Dave Barnas, M.S., CES, NASM-CPT

Dave is the true health guy. He is the founder and owner of True Health Unlimited, LLC, a personal health and fitness company in Tolland, CT & Wellness Writers, a subscription wellness newsletter service that incorporates live & virtual wellness workshops for companies across New England. Dave earned both a Bachelor's (1998) and Master's Degree (2000) in Nutritional Science from the University of Connecticut, and also holds certifications as a National Strength and Conditioning Association Certified Personal Trainer, National Academy of Sports Medicine Certified Personal Trainer and Corrective Exercise Specialist, Aerobics and Fitness Association of America Group Instructor, and Nutrition Specialist. He's also the lead author for four published works. Dave has over 20 years of combined experience in nutrition counseling, dietary supplement advising, personal training, corrective exercise training, health coaching and public speaking. In addition, he's spent over 25 years studying spirituality, meditation, and personal growth strategies. Dave's clients are all ages: youth, college championship level athletes, folks in their retired years, and everywhere in between. He's worked with three of the nation's leading physicians as a dietary supplement advisor and been a guest lecturer at Harvard University, Yale University, UConn, St. Joseph College and various church groups, health clubs, and high schools. In 2013, he was invited to Whole Foods Market to share his Real Food Therapy Guide. And in 2015, Dave's funny "Snowga" (yoga in the snow) video caught the attention of The National Weather Channel, who aired it to shake off cabin fever and bring laughter. In 2016, Dave & Hollie (his wife) founded Wellness Writers and deliver evidence-based Wellness E-newsletters to spread a message of health and happiness to various businesses throughout the US. Dave currently serves as a personal trainer in Tolland as well as a wellness coach and writer for several businesses, gyms and wellness facilities throughout the US.

3 replies on “How To Get Rid of Muscle Aches and Pains to Improve Performance, Feel & Function Better”

Great blog. I foam roll as often as I can and usally before and after any intense workouts where I feel tight or sore. This is one of those overlooked aspects of working out that makes a huge differance in how you (I) feel afterwards. It not only warms up your muscles before a workout but also helps to “unlock” then afterwards when they feel sore or stiff.

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