Muscle soreness is a side effect of the stress put on muscles when you exercise. It is commonly called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, and it is completely normal. DOMS usually begins within 6-8 hours after a new activity or a change in activity and can last up to 24-48 hours after the exercise. The muscle pain is due to inflammation within the muscle, which is one of the main triggers for this muscle soreness (www.kidney.org).
High-intensity exercise can cause tiny, microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. Your body responds to this damage by increasing inflammation, which may lead to a delayed onset of soreness in the muscles. Pretty much any high-intensity exercise can cause DOMS, but one kind, in particular, known as eccentric exercise, often triggers it.
Eccentric exercises cause you to tense a muscle at the same time you lengthen it. For example, the controlled, downward motion as you straighten your forearm after a biceps curl is an eccentric movement (europepmc.org).
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, DOMS symptoms typically occur up at least 12 to 24 hours after a workout. The pain tends to peak about one to three days after your workout, and then should ease up after that.
Symptoms of DOMS may include:
- muscles that feel tender to the touch
- reduced range of motion due to pain and stiffness when moving
- swelling in the affected muscles
- muscle fatigue
- short-term loss of muscle strength
You may not be able to avoid DOMS all together, but you can take steps to lessen its intensity. Try these tips:
- Stay hydrated. One Source found that people who exercised in hot, humid temperatures had a big dip in muscle soreness when they drank water before, during, and after exercise, compared to people who didn’t hydrate. You want to be sure to replace the amount of fluid lost during your workout once you have finished. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
- Warmup. Spend 5 to 10 minutes before each workout doing some stretching. Skip the static stretching until after your workout.
- Cool down. In a 2012 study, a 20-minute cool down of low-intensity cycling after a lower-body strength-training session led to decreased soreness in the quadriceps muscle two days later. Always end your cool down with some static stretching. It won’t lessen DOMS, but it can boost flexibility in your joints and muscles (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
- Take it slowly. Take your workouts to the next level of intensity one small step at a time. That can help you safely build your strength and endurance while you minimize the effects of DOMS.
Time is the only treatment for DOMS, but you can also take steps to ease the pain and stiffness while you wait for your muscles to repair themselves. The following treatments and self-care steps may help lessen the discomfort.
Massage: A 2017 review of several studies found that people who received a massage 24, 48, or 72 hours after an intense workout reported significantly less soreness than people who didn’t get a post-workout massage. Getting a massage 48 hours after a workout seemed to work best (www.frontiersin.org). Using a foam roller right after a workout may also help head off a bad case of DOMS.
Movement: Soothe the stiffness by simply getting up and moving around or doing some stretches. Research shows “active recovery” is effective in helping to ease the tension and stiffness and stop the pain sooner (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
Rooibos tea: Rooibos Tea may rapidly improve and increase muscle recovery time. The anti-inflammatory properties repair muscles and help aid in reducing aches, and pains. Mental focus and clarity are also benefits of this red tea (link.springer.com).
Sleep: Muscle soreness and pain are caused by tears in your muscles, and those tears need time to heal. Your body produces higher levels of growth hormone when you sleep, helping to rebuild your muscles.
Heat: Simply applying heat to the affected area can help to reduce swelling, boost healing blood flow, and relax the muscles. This natural remedy for muscle pain is simple, quick, and easy. For muscle soreness or tightness, try a warm shower or bath.
Arnica: Arnica has been used as a natural remedy for muscle soreness for years. It’s derived from the flower Arnica montana, which is found in the mountains of Siberia and Europe. One 2013 study found that topical creams and ointments containing arnica effectively relieved pain and inflammation brought on by intense eccentric exercise (www.tandfonline.com).
Turmeric: Turmeric has been used for centuries for its world-renowned benefits as a natural anti-inflammatory and pain soothing remedy. Researchers have found that curcumin (the active ingredient in turmeric) supplementation caused a decrease in DOMS-related leg-muscle pain symptoms. (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov).
“Acute inflammation: the underlying mechanism in delayed onset muscle soreness?.” Medicine and science in sports and exercise 23.5 (1991): 542-551.
“The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness.” British journal of sports medicine 37.1 (2003): 72-75.
“Delayed onset muscle soreness and training.” Clinics in sports medicine 5.3 (1986): 605-614.
Note: “Western Pharmaceutical” is defined as a system in which medical doctors and other healthcare professionals (such as nurses, pharmacists, and therapists) treat symptoms and diseases using drugs, radiation, or surgery. Quote from National Cancer Institute: http://www.cancer.gov
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