During exercise, your muscles and connective tissues get damaged. That sounds alarming, doesn’t it? But that, in fact, is quite normal and necessary for the growth of your muscles. The micro-tears and muscle tissue inflammation are temporary, but they do cause quite a bit of soreness.
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Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS
Whether you’re a seasoned player, a fitness enthusiast, or a complete beginner, you will still experience this muscle soreness at some point. This muscle pain, stiffness, or ‘muscle fever’ typically starts 12-24 hours after the workout or physical activity. It is called delayed-onset muscle soreness or DOMS.
Myth: DOMS occurs because of the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles
Fact: Researchers have not agreed on a definite cause, but DOMS most likely occurs due to microtrauma to the muscles and the inflammatory responses necessary for healing. The lactic acid that builds up during exercise clears out within an hour and much before the muscle soreness starts setting in.
DOMS may temporarily affect the range of motion and the strength of the muscles. Exercises with eccentric contractions may increase the likelihood of DOMS. Other factors that may cause muscle soreness include:
- Working out more frequently
- Exercising for longer periods
- Performing high-intensity exercises
- Adding new forms of exercise to your workout routine
Strategies for Easing Soreness and Staying Active
Sore muscles need not tie you to the bed or couch. Here are a few strategies that can help ease the soreness so that you can still remain active:
Although you may not feel like moving a muscle because of the soreness, light exercises can help reduce the pain. To avoid straining the sore muscles, participate in less intense and low-impact activities such as walking, jogging, and yoga. You can also dial down the intensity of your regular form of exercise and use it as an active recovery workout.
Active recovery aids the flow of blood and thereby helps muscles recover. Alternating strenuous workout days with days of active recovery can prove more beneficial than days of no activity or complete rest. That being said, adequate rest is also important for muscle recovery, so make sure you strike the right balance. Excess activity during recovery can wear your body and increase the risk of severe injuries.
According to experts, you should perform dynamic stretches before a workout and cool down with static stretches after a workout. Even on days when you are too sore to workout, you can stretch at least for a few minutes. You’ll find that stretching provides some relief to your sore muscles. Stretching may also reduce the duration of your muscle soreness.
A sneaky culprit behind DOMS is the tightness of your muscles. Stretching after strenuous workouts will release the muscle tension. In general, stretching will lengthen your muscles, improve your flexibility, increase your range of motion, and enhance your blood circulation. Stretch the major muscle groups in your body, and your body will thank you.
Around the world, therapeutic massage has been used for thousands of years. It alleviates the symptoms of DOMS, promotes blood flow, and aids muscle recovery. Foam rolling offers the combined benefits of massage and exercise. You might find relief from your sore muscles in foam rolling. All you need to do is place the roller between the sore in your body and the floor, then start rolling lightly. This places a light pressure on your muscles. If you’re new to foam rolling, proceed with some caution to avoid putting pressure on your bones and joints. Purchase a low-to-medium density roller, and you can take advantage of the benefits of foam rolling at any time, even while watching your favourite show.
Eating Right and Hydrating Well
Most people pay attention to hydration during a workout and immediately post-workout. Beyond that, hydration does not receive much attention. This is a mistake. Hydration plays a key role in muscle recovery. For muscles to become stronger due to exercise, they have to go through muscle protein synthesis. This process requires muscles to be well-hydrated. Dehydration can slow down protein synthesis and delay recovery. The faster your muscles recover, the less time you’ll spend suffering from soreness. So make sure you hydrate adequately during active recovery and even rest. Include water-rich fruits and vegetables in your diet to replenish fluids and electrolytes. The emphasis is on adequate hydration. Beware of overhydration, as it can mess with the electrolytes in your body and lead to complications.
To rebuild muscle tissue after workouts, your body needs proper nutrition. If your diet lacks those nutrients, you might not see much improvement in your performance and progress in your fitness journey. A balanced diet that meets the needs of your body can accelerate muscle recovery and thereby reduce the period of soreness. Post-workout supplements can also aid muscle recovery and provide insurance against an imperfect diet.
Listening to Your Body
Compression garments and medication might also help with the soreness. If soreness persists even after a few days, you might need to see a specialist, such as a physical therapist. Listen to your body, and it will provide you with the cues.
Muscle soreness usually does not usually require medical attention. Sharp pains that occur immediately after or during exercise could signal a serious injury, and in such cases, it’s best to consult a doctor.
You cannot prevent DOMS entirely, but with some good practices, you can reduce the duration and intensity of soreness. Don’t allow a little bit of soreness to interfere with your fitness goals. Let it not be an excuse for missing the next workout. The soreness will go away in a few days, and you’ll emerge stronger than before.
Before beginning any exercise or nutrition program, consult your physician, doctor or other professional. This is especially important for individuals over the age of 35 or persons with pre-existing health problems. Exercise.co.uk assumes no responsibility for personal injury or property damage sustained using our advice.
If you experience dizziness, nausea, chest pain, or any other abnormal symptoms, stop the workout at once and consult a physician or doctor immediately.