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8 Ways To Deal With Muscle Soreness From Exercise
Published on October 13, 2021 and last updated for accuracy on December 8, 2021
“You get this extremely high degree of force generation in the muscles, so you have a false impression of how much training you can keep doing because you haven’t exhausted that much,” says exercise physiologist Joel Seedman, PhD, owner of Advanced Human Performance in Atlanta.
As a result, knowing when you’ve gone too far might be a challenge.
Doing exercises that challenge your body in ways it’s not used to or using muscles that you normally don’t work out might also cause you to feel post-workout muscular soreness (DOMS). Virtual boot camp classes with many lateral lunges, biceps curls (particularly eccentric-focused), or just many volume (more repetitions and reps) may be what you’re looking for to get your muscles working harder.
Exercise physiologist and personal trainer Pete McCall, M.S., C.S.C.S., the presenter of the All About Fitness podcast, tells SELF that “sometimes, you might get carried away, you might go to a new class, or you might have a substitute instructor.” If you perform anything your muscles aren’t used to, even if it’s a competitive boot camp session, you can expect to be quite sore.
Muscle discomfort can come in a variety of forms.
In addition to DOMS, acute muscle soreness, or a real injury, there are a few more possibilities for muscular discomfort.
Says Miranda, acute muscular soreness is the burning sensation you get while you’re working out. Acute muscle soreness during your workout is a sign of DOMS but it won’t last for days or even hours. There is a distinct feeling of exhaustion in the muscles that you’re working—for example, your shoulders and triceps if you’re doing overhead press exercises. This tells you when to quit and how much more time you have left.
For example, your entire leg or gluteal region can be in pain from DOMS or acute muscular soreness. With an injury, on the other hand, the pain or discomfort tends to be much more specific. If you’re experiencing an aberrant sensation, it’s likely to be accompanied with a specific movement, and it’s likely to be a distinct type of pain—sharper and more precise.” Another possibility is that “one particular range of motion, so it might not be every time you rotate your arm, but with one unique method.”
Another possible method of determining the type of experience you’re having? It’s more likely to be DOMS than an injury if you feel pain on both quads after an exercise, rather than just one leg, adds Miranda. In addition, DOMS should begin to subside around the three-day mark, whereas an injury may be to blame if the pain persists for more than a week. If that’s the case, it’s probably best to see a doctor or therapist.
Is it OK to work out if you’re still sore? After a workout, how sore can you become before it becomes unbearable?
Generally speaking, it is OK to work out with painful muscles to some extent. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) advises people with acute muscle soreness—the kind that makes it difficult to do daily tasks like walking down the stairs or raising their arm—should avoid conducting vigorous activity until they feel better1.
Phillip J. Adler, PhD, A.T.C., operations manager of athletic training outreach at Spectrum Health Medical Group, tells SELF that “they are warning indications that you maybe did a bit too much and should not be pushing it.”
For this reason, light exercise is OK (and recommended) as long as it does not cause pain. As a Northwestern Medicine Athletic Training and Sports Performance Clinic manager, Kevin M. Pennington, A.T.C. tell SELF, the idea here is to conduct a different activity (and engage a different set of muscles) than the one that first got your muscles sore. You don’t want to overwork or strain the muscles that are already sore, he advises. Because if they don’t, they’ll be in pain, fatigued or injured, and their performance will suffer as a result.
After a hard workout, what helps alleviate muscle soreness?
Even if you’re amid epic muscle discomfort, the only definite solution is time. However, there are a few things you may do while you wait for the pain to subside and the DOMS to go away.
Enjoy a little bit of exercise.
That’s right. “But the worst thing you can do is if you’re extremely sore and decide not to get off the couch,” says McCall. As a result of increased circulation, the body’s blood flow is improved.
By boosting blood supply and nutrients to the muscles, it’s believed that the repair process can be accelerated, resulting in less post-workout soreness. There is still work to be done, but he says, “we do know that blood transfers nutrients and oxygen to muscle tissue. There is a theory that quicker blood flow means that these nutrients can get to work more quickly, which means that you’ll feel better more quickly.
To be clear, this does not imply that you should resume your usual exercise regimen; rather, we are talking about low-impact activities like taking a stroll or riding a recumbent bike. Seedman also recommends some modest strength exercises if you can manage them. Strength training is particularly effective because it increases blood flow, according to one expert. To get blood flow into those muscles, “it’s one of the best approaches”
Since we don’t want to do any additional harm to the muscle fibres, light means superlight. Use 25 to 50 per cent of your normal weight or stick to bodyweight workouts, says Seedman.
1. Drink plenty of water.
Step two is to keep hydrated. Researchers have found a link between dehydration and an increase in muscle soreness and DOMS, according to Seedman’s review of the evidence. “Researchers and practitioners have theorized that if dehydration promotes soreness, then increasing amounts of hydration can lessen it,” he says. However, additional research is required.
Dehydration is one of your worst enemies when it comes to muscle rehabilitation. Fluid is required to cleanse injured muscles. Every 15 to 30 minutes of exercise, gulp down 8 ounces of water. If you skip this step, your pain will be more severe and stay longer. Here’s an idea to get you started: Before and after your workout, have a look at your body mass index (BMI). So, did you lose any weight? For every pound, you lose, drink 8 ounces of water.
Seedman argues that water aids in the removal of waste products from the system. Soreness is a result of the body’s attempt to remove waste products and poisons released during muscle breakdown, as explained by the author.
2. Lightly stretch your muscles.
The term “light” comes up again and again. When you’re in pain, stretching can help you loosen up and increase your range of motion, which can make you feel better even if it doesn’t help heal or speed up the repair of muscle tears. As reported recently by SELF, you can employ static stretching after your workout in place of the more common dynamic stretching done before your workout. Since your muscles are already warmed up, it may be simpler to get into a nice stretch this way.)
Stretch your muscles for 10 to 15 minutes before working out, and then do an easy cardiovascular activity for the remainder of your workout (a slow jog or a brisk walk). Make sure the muscles you’re doing out that day are getting an adequate quantity of blood flow. If you’re running outside in the cold, your muscles should be warm to the touch. This approach not only keeps you safe but also gets your muscles ready to repair themselves after a workout.
But it’s not always the case that more is better. Seedman warns, “You have to be careful. A little stretching is healthy, but if your muscles are already tight, stretching them further can make them tighter since your body is resisting the stretch.
So, how do you know when something is going too far for you to handle? After a few seconds of holding a tight position, Seedman recommends letting go and then repeating the process until the pain is bearable. Stretching isn’t necessary if you’re in too much pain to even consider it; the goal here is to receive some relief as quickly as possible.
3. Keep your meals focused on protein.
Your muscles need protein to repair themselves after a strenuous workout, so it’s important to get enough of it in your diet. Protein, carbs, and healthy fats are all necessary for muscle recovery, as well as for fueling your next activity and lubricating your joints.
Before and after an exercise, it’s essential to refuel your body. If you’re in the mood for something sweet, try some peanut butter toast with an apple or some quinoa mixed with steamed vegetables and chicken. The most important thing is not to starve yourself to death!
Seedman recommends that you eat enough protein every day to avoid recurrence or long-term pain from your workouts, but it might still be good to double-check that you’re getting enough protein after the damage is done. To heal, “you can almost make the argument that that’s going to be as necessary as light exercise,” he says.
This doesn’t necessarily mean consuming many protein. The International Society of Sports Nutrition2 recommends that athletes consume 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, however individual requirements may differ. At 95 to 136 grams a day for a 150-pound active person, that’s about three to four servings.
4. If you’re in pain, try applying heat or ice.
For the most part, the effects of both heat and cold therapy are short-lived, so it’s simply a matter of personal preference. However, when you’re in excruciating pain, you’ll take any temporary relief you can get (as long as it’s safe).
Seedman notes that ice can help minimize the swelling that might accompany severe discomfort. Soreness-causing stress can be reduced by reducing edema. This can also be helped by elevating your legs if that is where you are sore.
Seedman, though, argues that heat can also reduce tension and pain signals. So if taking a hot bath may help you relax, do so. In addition, McCall mentions that this could improve circulation as a benefit.
5. Get a relaxing massage for yourself.
The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends massage painful areas to relieve DOMS symptoms. Understandably, you wouldn’t want to visit a masseuse every time you hit the gym.
So self-massage can come in handy here—using rehabilitation tools such as foam rollers or massage guns or even your own hands. Certain people can go overboard and inflict even more muscle injury by being too hard, says Rutgers University-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School sports medicine chief Jason Womack.
It’s important to stop or reduce pressure if you’re self-massaging and begin to feel greater discomfort or pain (beyond the sensation of gently working out a knot or sore spot). The tightness can be relieved by massaging the affected muscle. The muscle relaxes as you work out the kinks. Speeding up recovery is also helped by increased blood flow and the removal of accumulated fluids from the body. In addition, it feels great!
6. Take into account solutions that are currently in demand.
Topical ointments like BenGay, Traumeel, Tiger Balm, and others don’t penetrate the muscle, but they do include chemicals that provide cooling, numbing, and tingling relief when applied topically. If you’re in many pain, the cooling effect may help to mask it, but it won’t hasten the process of muscle healing.
7. Focus on carrying lighter objects and things.
A post-workout muscle discomfort may be familiar to anyone who has walked to the top of a mountain or carried a youngster through the Detroit Zoo. Overworking your body might leave you with many aching muscles.
When muscles are subjected to stresses that induce small tears in muscle fibers, they develop and become stronger. Many fluid rushes into the affected area to remove damaged cells and regenerate new, stronger muscle cells, although this can be painful.
8. Take a breather.
You’ll have a great cool down if you reverse the order of your warm-up. Preventing fluid buildup in the muscles and joints by slowing down your workout rather than stopping abruptly can be beneficial. In addition, a 10- to 15-minute cool-down might help your breathing return to normal if your pulse rate is particularly high.
It’s called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, and it’s nothing to be concerned about. Even if this feels painful for 12 to 48 hours after a workout, your muscles are adapting to your exercise regimen. The drawback? Your range of motion can be affected by excessive muscle soreness.
When it comes to avoiding muscular discomfort, the following eight strategies may be helpful:
In truth, we all crave the feeling of aching muscles. It’s evidence that you’ve been working hard in the gym and that your body is responding to that effort. You may feel a little sore after a workout because of lactic acid buildup, but this isn’t always the case.
As a sports medicine and emergency medicine specialist, Christopher Hogrefe, MD, FACEP tells MensHealth.com, “the considerable muscle soreness that often arises hours after exertion, usually within the first 24 to 48 hours following activity, referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).” “Lactic acidosis has nothing to do with this disorder. As a result, it appears that the pain is caused by minute tears in the muscle fibres, which are accompanied by an inflammatory process.”
For the most part, you’ll notice this form of discomfort after more difficult or unfamiliar workouts Examples of these workouts include squats and running downhill. “Activities that require muscle and tendon stretching while a person concurrently tries to tense the muscle,” adds Hogrefe.
As far as DOMS is concerned, what are the signs and symptoms? Katie Lawton, an exercise physiologist in Rehabilitation and Sports Therapy at the Cleveland Clinic states that “muscle pain, lack of strength, decrease in the speed of muscular contractibility, and muscle stiffness are all indications of DOMS,” she continues. According to DOMS, “muscle contractibility can be slowed by 8% to 12% and joint mobility altered.”
Try one of these methods to alleviate aching muscles if your body needs a little extra aid recuperating.
9. Activate the product.
Through the use of pressure, the foam roller improves blood flow to your muscles. You can think of it as a low-cost way to have a deep-tissue massage at home. The healing and recuperation process can be accelerated by slowly rolling over regions of stress. Spend 10 to 15 minutes foam rolling after your workout before beginning stretching exercises. You can stretch the muscle further when it is less constricted because it is more relaxed.
10. Continue to move forward.
There’s a misconception that exercise is detrimental for sore muscles, but research shows that even a short walk can help keep the circulation flowing and speed up the body’s ability to eliminate waste and chemicals that are connected to sore muscles.
Expect some muscle stiffness if you’re used to sitting on the sidelines rather than completing a marathon. However, do not be alarmed by your sore muscles. When you first begin a new exercise regimen, it’s normal to feel some discomfort in your muscles. You’ll indeed experience less muscle pain as your body adapts and grows stronger.
The distinction between normal muscle pain and an overuse injury must be well understood. After a few days, if you’re still experiencing pain when flexing and extending your limbs, you should see a doctor to rule out an injury.
Other ways to deal with muscle soreness from exercise:
Activate a cooldown period
Getting your muscles ready for recovery means taking some time to cool down. Runners who took a half-hour break at the end of their workout instead of entirely resting were able to go three times further the second time they ran, according to a study published in 2018. Blood lactate levels were lowered as a result of enhanced blood flow, according to the study (the metabolic byproduct that makes your muscles sore).
In addition, a 2012 study indicated that those who cycled for 20 minutes immediately following a weight training session felt less muscular soreness.
Consume more mushrooms
According to Hogrefe’s research, mushrooms offer anti-inflammatory qualities that may help with muscle discomfort. Polysaccharides, mushrooms’ anti-inflammatory ingredients, serve to suppress the cytokine molecules that cause inflammation.
A glass of tart cherry juice is a good way to start the day
Antioxidants and anti-inflammatory substances are found in tart cherry juice. After drinking tart cherry juice for eight days, long-distance runners saw a significant decrease in muscle discomfort.
“Cherry’s anti-inflammatory effects, similar to those of mushrooms, may help reduce muscle discomfort. However, it is important to be cautious of the high sugar level in tart cherry extract, especially “Hogrefe believes that.
Use a heating pad and an ice pack to relieve pain
By increasing blood flow through a vasodilator (opening your blood vessels), heating pads are supposed to help drain some of the metabolites of inflammation connected to muscular discomfort, out of the muscles,” Lawton explains.
Ice packs may be the perfect complement to this mixture!
For post-workout muscular discomfort, Hogrefe recommends alternating between cold and heat.
Using heat and ice at the same time avoided elastic tissue damage, according to a 2015 study. “After a workout, switching from ice to heating lowers post-workout soreness in muscles. When it comes to dealing with post-workout discomfort, using ice for twenty minutes followed by heat for twenty minutes maybe a beneficial strategy “Hogrefe states this.
Make use of a foam roller
When you have a sore muscle, foam rolling can make you cry, but it’s worth it. foam rolling may reduce edema (muscle swelling) and promote tissue repair, according to Hogrefe.
20 minutes of foam rolling on a high-density foam roller immediately following exercise and 24 hours later may help lessen muscular discomfort and the influence on one’s dynamic motions, according to a 2015 study. What’s the matter? Take a look at our top foam roller recommendations!
Take a cold shower
A 2010 study indicated that ice baths restrict blood arteries, reducing swelling and tissue breakdown, which induces DOMS. After 5 to 10 minutes, participants emerged from the cold bath. When asked to stretch, ice bath participants reported the lowest degrees of pain and muscle tightness, according to a 2014 study.
According to Hogrefe, “overall, some have suggested that ice baths can lessen muscular pain by 20%.”
Put on some compression clothing
Not just to brag about how much effort you’ve put in, though. Using compression gear after a workout can lessen muscle discomfort and speed up recovery by restricting your muscles and minimizing fluid buildup while improving blood flow. Your muscles were able to rid themselves of an enzyme known as creatine kinase, which can cause pain.
9 p.m. is the time to go to sleep
Getting some shut-eye can be precisely what your aching muscles need to recover. Even if the scientific link between sleep and post-exercise recovery remains somewhat hazy, it might be strongly argued since sleep encompasses a wide range of physiological processes that aren’t always simple to properly describe and separate.
Inflammation might be exacerbated by a lack of sleep, according to research. It is possible that inflammation is not a factor in DOMs, but it does contribute to certain muscular soreness, which can be alleviated by many rest.
Antioxidants and protein should be consumed often throughout the next 24 hours
Your post-workout protein drink is more than just a way to replenish your muscles after a workout. In the 24 hours following an eccentric exercise session, a 2017 study indicated that protein-enhanced muscle function recovery (which generally happen in most strength-based workouts).
Antioxidants were also included in this breakfast, which aided in workout recovery even more. In the hours following a gruelling workout, eat protein-rich foods like chicken or fish, as well as antioxidant-rich foods like pomegranates and kale.
Those who prefer to sit on the sidelines rather than run a marathon should expect some muscle soreness when starting a new workout routine. But don’t be afraid of the aches and pains you may feel in your muscles. Muscle soreness is perfectly normal when you’re just getting started. Even though you’ll get sore less frequently over time as your body adapts and builds stronger muscles, you’ll still get sore.
Although muscle soreness can be a sign of overuse, it’s important to know the difference. After a few days, if you can’t flex or extend your limbs without pain, you may have an injury and should see a physician.