Have you ever finished a great workout and thought to yourself, "I am going to feel that later!" This goes through my mind after almost every leg day. Muscle stiffness and pain are common side-effects of higher exertion activities. When muscles are pushed to an intensity they are not accustomed to, soreness can last up to five days. We will examine the causes of muscle soreness and tips to combat it.
What causes muscle soreness?
Muscle soreness occurs due to microscopic tears within muscle fibers and is considered a type 1 muscle strain. If you are like me, I am usually the sorest 48 hours after a workout. Muscle tenderness 24-72 hours after a workout is called DOMS or Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. Below are four tips on how to decrease the effect of muscle soreness.
Ease muscle soreness with these 4 tips
1. Foam Roll
I am not going to lie, I hate foam rolling, but it is one of those things you must do. When I need to roll out my IT bands I want to throw a fit like a kid having to eat vegetables. According to a recent controlled laboratory study by the Journal of Athletic Training, results found when foam rolling was performed immediately post-exercise for twenty minutes and the same amount of time for two additional days the amount of soreness and recovery time drastically decreased (Journal of Athletic Training, 2015).
2. Increase Muscle Temperature
Get the blood flowing! About twenty minutes of increasing your muscle temperature are needed to start reaping the benefits. When there is an increase in blood flow to a part of the body, oxygen, and other nutrients can move faster to those areas that need a little assistance. Try a soak in a warm tub or a heating pad for a little comfort.
You do not need to wait to exercise even if you are sore, but you need to be strategic on what muscle group you will be focusing on in your next strength workout. Muscles become stronger from rebuilding after the microscopic tears occur. Rest days are just as important as the exercises that caused them to be sore in the first place. If you are continuing to train the same muscles day after day, you will not see the increase in muscle strength you are hoping for and will increase the possibility of overtraining. One to two days of rest between working the same muscle groups will allow those muscles to recover. Exercise will help to circulate the blood to transport nutrients and oxygen as we discussed previously.
4. Gentle Massage
Time to ask your significant other or a massage therapist for a gentle massage. A massage can be beneficial for easing muscle pain and tension due to different responses from the body. The relaxation response is a physical response that occurs through massage (Burgan, n.d.). During this response the body slows down its production of stress hormones, blood pressure decreases and heart and breathing rate diminish (Burgan, n.d.). The second response is the body's mechanical response which includes an increase in blood flow, soft-tissues relaxing, and a decrease in nerve compression (Burgan, n.d.).
Remember the high-school or college athletic trainer that always had the little frozen dixie cups? These were clutch after a game or practice. Take your recovery to the next level with a twenty-minute ice massage. Using ice can also decrease inflammation.
Muscle soreness doesn't need to derail your future workouts, increasing your blood flow through exercise or heat can speed your recovery, and although foam rolling can be uncomfortable, it is one of the best ways to get you back to your regular workout routine. Keep working hard!
Burgan. (n.d.). How does massage work? Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/explore-healing-practices/massage-therapy/how-does-massage-work
Journal of Athletic Training. (2015, January). Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures. Retrieved May 27, 2020, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4299735/