What causes sore muscles and how to prevent and overcome them.
Maybe you’re out of shape and finally started an exercise routine. Perhaps you increased the duration or intensity of your workout. Or maybe you tried a new kind of exercise. If any of these cases are true, it’s likely that you experienced delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
DOMS refers to sore, painful, or stiff muscles following exercise.
But what causes your muscles to feel this way and is there a way to prevent it from happening? And what can you do to relieve the soreness? You’re about to find out.
Why Am I Sore?
First things first. Sore muscles following new or unusual exercise is completely normal. Don’t be alarmed. Instead, expect it.
Soreness is part of the body’s normal process as muscles strengthen and grow. When you use your muscles in a way they’re not used to, microdamage (tiny injuries) in your connective tissues and muscle fibers often result. The amount of soreness you experience depends on what type of new exercise you did, how difficult the exercise was, and how long you performed the exercise.
Eccentric muscle contractions (activities that cause your muscles to forcefully tighten while they lengthen) are the most likely causes of sore muscles.
Eccentric muscle contractions include movements such as running downhill, walking down stairs, lowering weights, or the lowering motion required during squats or push-ups.
I Don’t Want to Be Sore!
If you’re planning to start a new exercise routine or want to step things up a bit, the thought of sore muscles may discourage you. So the question is, “How can you avoid getting DOMS?” In years past, stretching prior to a workout was the recommended way to prevent sore muscles. However, current research has shown that this does little to prevent soreness. It’s now been proven that you’re better off beginning your workout with a good warm-up period before intense exercise. Follow your workout with a cool down, and stretch at the very end.
After exercising, your body will be more flexible and your muscles and joints will be warmed up. By following this order of operations, you’re more likely to prevent feelings of soreness later on.
In the event you want to avoid soreness at all costs, you’ll want to ease into any new exercise or routine. This means not pushing your body to its limits: go slowly, use lighter weights, and gradually build your intensity. Each time you workout, try increasing your exertion by about 10 percent.
Another potential way to ward off muscle soreness is to add more vitamin C to your daily regimen. If you decide to go with vitamin C in a pill form, get the okay from a health professional first.
How Can I Relieve Sore Muscle Pain?
Soreness usually begins about 24 hours after exercise and is most painful 48 hours later. The soreness then gradually subsides over the next couple days.
When those sore muscles begin, you may be tempted to curl on the couch to wait it out. However, this won’t help things at all. One of the best ways to relieve sore muscles is to exercise them at a moderate level. When you perform the same movements again, your muscles will begin to get used to the demands of the exercises and will hurt less.
If your pain is interfering with normal life, apply indirect ice (ice wrapped in a towel) for immediate relief. Heat may feel good, but it won’t lessen or heal the damage. You can also take acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin to relieve your discomfort. Some people find massages helpful.
Any time you have muscle pain come on suddenly; the pain is sharp; the hurting area is swollen, red, or bruised; or the pain lasts longer than a week, seek medical attention. Your muscle could be injured in a way that will require more than down time.