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Health and Fitness News

Help for Sore Muscles

Why your muscles are sore after a workout and what can be done to relieve the soreness.

Soreness doesn’t discriminate. From beginners to seasoned athletes, anyone who has exercised knows the feeling of sore muscles. Even slight movements can bring pain after a good workout, and you realize you have muscles you didn’t even know existed. When you hurt after a workout, going up and down the stairs, sitting down, or reaching into a high cabinet are all painful reminders of the exercise you got the day before.

Muscle soreness caused by exercise is known as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Even though sore muscles can be painful, they’re ultimately a good thing and should subside on their own in a few days. What causes DOMS and are there ways to find relief or prevent it from happening again? Keep reading to find out.

Why DOMS?

You’re more likely to get sore muscles when you exercise if you’re out of shape or are trying out new or high-intensity forms of exercise. DOMS is also more common after doing exercises that contract muscles while they lengthen, which are called eccentric exercises. This type of exercise includes long-distance running, running down hills, or plyometric exercises (jump training).

The soreness you experience after exercise is caused by tiny tears in your muscle tissue. This trauma to your muscles results in an inflammatory response that leads to swelling, pain, and impaired function.

Is It DOMS?

You may wonder if your muscle soreness is normal or if you’ve suffered some sort of injury. Normal soreness typically develops one to two days after your workout, peaks at one to three days, and lasts up to five days. When experiencing DOMS, it may hurt to even touch sore muscles and your muscles may feel weaker than usual. Additionally, you may notice a decreased range of motion, increased stiffness, and muscle fatigue in the affected muscles.

It’s important to realize that DOMS does not occur while you’re working out. If you experience sore muscles during or immediately following exercise, it’s likely acute muscle soreness caused by a buildup of lactic acid. This pain should subside when you stop exercising. Sudden or sharp pain during exercise, however, may indicate an injury such as a muscle sprain or strain. If this happens to you, stop your workout to reduce the risk of worsening the injury.

What Brings Relief?

While you may not feel like it, staying on the move will help your muscles feel less sore. This doesn’t mean you have to do another high-intensity workout on the days you feel most sore, but plan to keep moving or do low-intensity exercises. And despite how nice the couch may look, sitting around may worsen the pain.

When your muscles are at their most sore, there are some easy steps to lessen the pain-inducing inflammation. Apply ice or take a cold bath, use a warm compress or sit in a hot bath, or take an over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory medication. Going in for a massage, using foam rollers, or wearing compression clothing may help bring relief or shorten the length of soreness. Apply a topical analgesic cream to muscles that are especially sore.

In the event your soreness lasts longer than a week, contact your physician. You should also seek medical attention if you have abnormal swelling in your arms or legs; your urine is darker than usual; or you experience muscle spasms, sharp pain, numbness, or tingling.

Can DOMS Be Prevented?

While it’s pretty hard to avoid DOMS altogether, you can lessen the likelihood of experiencing severe DOMS. The best way to do this is by gradually increasing the intensity of your workouts. A good guide is to increase the sets, reps, and weights in your workout by no more than 10 percent each week. Also, it’s a good idea to end each workout with a cooldown period that includes static stretching.


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