After a grueling, intense workout, feeling muscle soreness afterward is to be expected. The pain can be heightened if you increase exercise intensity or start a new sport or exercise. The soreness and pain can increase a day or two after the rigorous exercise.1 These delayed muscle aches and muscle pains are caused by small injuries in the muscle fiber and connective tissue. If you have not exercised in a while, or if you are starting a new kind of physical activity, you are much more likely to experience sore muscles after the workout. This is your body’s way to say your muscles need time to recover. The good news is once your body becomes accustomed to the new sport or exercise, you’ll begin to experience little or no muscle soreness.
What are Sore Muscles?
Before we jump in and talk about how to relieve muscle soreness, it’s helpful to know why exactly you get sore muscles in the first place. No matter what age or background you come from, we all will experience this at some point. When you exercise intensely, it can cause micro-tears in your muscle tissue. These tears can lead to delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. This soreness typically develops 12 to 24 hours after a rigorous, tough work out. It can linger for 2 or 3 days. The most common symptoms of DOMS include light swelling, stiffness and a reduced range of motion in the affected joints. Another common symptom is increased tenderness and reduced strength in the affected muscles.
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During this time period, it is important to let the sore muscles rest. If the muscle aches do not subside or go away after a few days of rest, or become more intense, it could be a sign you have a serious muscle injury. If you experience severe muscle pain during a work out it could also be a sign you have a muscle strain or muscle injury. There are things that can be done to help alleviate the pain and soreness associated with delayed muscle aches.
Ways to Reduce Pain and Soreness
No matter how hard you may try to avoid it, sometimes you’re going to experience pain after a workout because of overexertion of your body. Exercise-induced muscle soreness usually dissipates within a few days. If you would like to speed that process up, you can follow the steps below to help you get back to feeling better.
The first way to reduce muscle pain is to use an ice pack. An ice pack is a bag filled with water, refrigerant gel, or liquid and then frozen in a freezer.2 It is then applied to the body at the location of pain and/or swelling and used to reduce these symptoms. For an acute injury, or if you noticed swelling of the muscle or joint area and it feels warm to the touch, wrap an ice pack in a thin towel and place it on the sore muscles for about 15 minutes. If there isn’t any swelling in the muscles or they are just sore from the exercise, use a heat pack for 15 minutes to boost blood circulation. Doing this will help to relieve the pain you feel.
Another way to help with muscle pain is to stretch. Stretching can help you in a lot of ways. By stretching your muscles for about 10 minutes after you’ve done a rigorous workout, you can help to prevent sore muscles. It is also a good idea to remember to warm up before exercising with simple movements. These could include swinging your arms, marching on the spot or walking slowly and then gradually picking up the pace. Here are some examples of stretches that may help relieve leg pain, one of the most painful forms of delayed onset muscle soreness:
- Stand behind a chair. Hold the back of the chair with both hands for balance.
- Stand on your toes and hold this position for just a few seconds.
- Lower your heels back down to the ground.
- Repeat his motion several times. Be careful not to overstretch your calf muscle
- Stand on one leg and raise the other leg off of the floor. Bend the elevated leg at the knee.
- Gently pull your foot with the opposite hand bringing your foot close to your buttock.
- Hold on to a wall or a chair for balance. Hold the position for 20 to 30 seconds and repeat with the other leg.
- Sit on the ground and bend one leg. Rest this foot on the inside of the opposite, outstretched one.
- Bend at the waist and stretch forward. Try to reach the toes on the outstretched leg.
- Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and then repeat on the other leg. Be sure to move slowly and gently and avoid bouncing.
- Stand facing a bench just about a legs length away. Place your right foot on the bench.
- Slowly lunge forward by bending your right leg to a lunge position. Keep your hands on your hips and chest high while maintaining a straight left leg with your heel on the ground. While leaning forward into the stretch, you should start to feel a slight pull in your left hip flexor which is just below your hip bone. Hold this position for 20 to 30 seconds and then switch legs.
Light exercises are low impact activities that help to get your body warmed up and your heart rate going a little bit. These types of exercises include swimming and walking. It is natural when you feel muscle soreness not to want to move, especially when each movement results in pain. However, when you feel muscle soreness, it is important not to stop your workout routine completely. In fact, soreness after a workout is a sign your muscles have been stretched and are gradually getting stronger. When you use your muscles to do light exercises, you can speed up the elimination of lactic acid in your body. That will help you to heal faster.
It is important to build up the intensity of your exercises slowly to prevent further injury to your muscles. You are more likely to get muscle aches and pains if your muscles are working too hard. This happens when doing eccentric contractions. Eccentric contractions occur when your muscles lengthen under tension, like when you make that “down motion” of a bicep curl. Walking or running downhill are also good examples of eccentric training. You want to keep these types of motions at a minimum and increase their intensity slowly as your muscles heal.
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