Regardless of your fitness level, muscle soreness is an inevitable part of any exercise routine. Muscle soreness that usually develops a day or two after exercise is known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. When muscles are used in a different way or work harder than usual, tiny microscopic tears occur in the muscle fiber followed by stiffness and soreness. This soreness is the body’s immune response attempting to repair that tissue and signals muscles are adapting and building strength and stamina.
Typically, this soreness will only last about three to five days. While it may be bothersome, muscle soreness is not typically something to be worried about. (You should consult a doctor if you experience any sharp or tearing pain during a workout that might signal a sprain or strain.) Exercise may be uncomfortable during this time, especially when warming up, but is not harmful. Soreness may even diminish immediately following the workout, but will return again once exertion has ceased.
Muscle soreness can be treated in a number of relatively simple ways and usually relief is found with a combination of treatments.
Massage, especially with a foam roller, is an extremely effective way to release tenderness and soreness.
Ice can be used to reduce inflammation and decrease pain associated with muscle soreness.
Applying heat to sore muscles can help improve blood flow to the area which aides in repair and recovery.
Staying hydrated before, during and after a workout can reduce muscle soreness because dehydrated muscle tissue is more likely to tear or become damaged.
Ibuprofen is also an effective way to reduce pain and inflammation associated with muscle soreness.
Finally, one of my favorite muscle recovery strategies is drinking a tall glass of chocolate milk post workout. The protein kickstarts muscle recovery and carbs have been proven to decrease the amount of time the body takes to be ready for the next challenge.
If you are getting the most out of your workout routine, muscle soreness is inevitable. The good news, however, is that soreness is an indication you are increasing your strength and stamina and preparing your body for greater challenges ahead.