We’ve all been there before; you’ve had an amazing workout, you hit the pillow for a good night’s sleep, only to awaken with stiff, sore, achy muscles. It hurts to move. This could be delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is the pain you experience in your body anywhere from a few hours or even up to days after your workout; causing you to move around like you’ve just aged 30 years. DOMS occurs when we put our muscles through physical activity that we’re not accustomed too, such as lifting heavier weights at the gym, or any movement that’s not found in our usual routine. The good news is that are techniques we can use to speed up our recovery and even some preventative measures we can take, to lessen the pain.
The Soreness Myth
It’s easy to try and place the blame on something else, and many people have blamed, delayed soreness on lactic acid build up. In fact, post-workout muscle soreness doesn’t have anything to do with lactic acid. DOMS happens when our muscles are being lengthened while force is being applied; this causes small tears in our muscles—hours or days post-workout. Although lactic acid does cause pain—it can only be blamed when you’re pushing it to your max mid-workout.
As you’re reading this you’re probably thinking to yourself “That’s what I have!” Well, let’s see what we can do about it. Although delayed onset muscle soreness is completely natural and pretty much expected when you start a new exercise routine or increase your weights at the gym; here are my top three tips on how to manage the pain and help you heal up:
1. Treat yourself to a massage.
Although deep tissue massages tend to not feel the most pleasant at the time, this will greatly pay off since studies have shown a decrease in pain for athletes that took advantage of their sports massage therapist post exercise. 2
2. Take an ice bath.
Popular with many athletes, this chilly form of recovery is believed to help speed up the recovery process by stimulating oxygen and nutrients to areas of the body that need it the most. As popular as these cold water immersions are, there is a lack of scientific evidence stating that they actually really work. That being said, there are many people that swear by them, you be your own judge for this one!
3. What about heat?
Well we’ve looked at applying cold temperatures to the body to help alleviate some of the symptoms of DOMS, it only seems natural that we take a look at the other end of the temperature scale. Studies have shown that when heat is applied to the muscles immediately post workout, pain is drastically lessened.3 Try using a hot water bottle, heat pad or hop in a hot bath to test out this form of recovery.
Taking preventative measures
Now that we’re aware of the discomfort and pain that goes along with DOMS and the measures we can take to help manage it. Let’s look at how we can try and manage delayed onset muscle soreness right from the very start. The most important preventative measure you can take is taking the time to warm up properly. Allowing yourself enough time before you’re work out to warm up your muscles and stretch them out, this same stretching technique goes for post workout as well. It’s also important to give yourself time to fully wind down and stretch out your muscles post workout will be equally as beneficial.
Last but not least, give yourself enough time to heal between exercises, if you’re not allowing your body to heal properly the next time you train your performance will be greatly compromised and you’ll still experience pain, if not more pain at the end of the day.
Want to overcome other roadblocks from your dedicated training? Check out Fuelyourbetter.com for more information on how to take your workout to the next level.
What’s one of your favorite ways to decrease the pain associated with DOMS?
1. Braun W, Sforzo G. (2011). Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). American College of Sports Medicine. Accessed on 6/9/14 from: (http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/delayed-onset-muscle-soreness-(doms).pdf?sfvrsn=2)
2. Yun-Hee S. (2014). Effects of Therapeutic Massage On Gait and Pain after delayed onset muscle soreness,.Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation. Department of Physical Therapy, College of Natural Sciences.Kyungnam University. 10(2).Accessed on 6/9/14 from http://e-jer.org/journal/view.php?number=2013600114
3. Petrosky J. (2013). Moist Heat or Dry Heat for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Journal of Clinical Medicine Research. 5(6):416-425,Accessed on 6/9/14 from: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3808259/pdf/jocmr-05-416.pdf