Oh My Aching Everything - Preventing and Treating Muscle Pain and Soreness After Exercise

Have you ever felt done your work out feeling pretty good -proud of yourself for going that extra couple of miles or minutes on the treadmill or bike, maybe that extra set in tennis where you gave it your all; only to hurt so bad the day or tow that you could barely get our of bed? Welcome to Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

DOMS describes the muscle pain, muscle soreness or muscle stiffness that is felt 12-48 hours after exercise. This usually occurs usually at the beginning of a new an exercise program, or after a jump in the intensity or duration exercise. Sometimes seasoned athletes can experience DOMS after they change in sports activities. Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness is quite common and quite annoying, particularly for those beginning an exercise program or adding new activities. For instance: you know your out of shape when you get on the bike, but you manage to crank out 5, maybe 10 miles. You are determined to get the body back or your youth, so you through in a set of push-ups and sit-ups. You are now likely to experience muscle pain and soreness in the next day or two. Commonly people experience DOMS after things like helping a friend move on the weekend, the big spring cleaning adventure, or getting suckered into a pick-up game of, you name the sport, and giving their all.



Delayed-Onset Muscles Soreness can hit anyone at any skill level, it they exercise activity ifs sufficiently intense and other factors are present.
Delayed-Onset Muscles Soreness can hit anyone at any skill level, it they exercise activity ifs sufficiently intense and other factors are present.

Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness - Causes

This muscle pain is a normal response to unusual exertion and is part of an adaptation process. This is the body’s method of increasing  stamina and strength as the muscles recover and build.  Before the body can build up, it must tear down old tissue (microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers) and then build upon it. The harder you work, they more tissue is torn down, and the greater increases later. In addition to small muscle tears there can be associated swelling (generally minor) in a muscle which may contribute to soreness. Recognizing DOMS, treating it when it occurs, and trying to prevent it later will help you to prevent other injuries later.
 
DOMS is not the same thing as the muscle pain or fatigue you experience during exercise, and it very  different than the acute, sudden pain of injuries such as muscle strains and sprains. Injuries are signified by the abrupt, specific and sudden pain that occurs during activity and often causes swelling or bruising. If you have a strain/sprain injury you will know it when it happens. For any pain that has an acute onset, or if you feel or hear tearing tissue, STOP what you are doing and seek help immediately.

With DOMS you generally feel pretty good after the exercise, experiencing a nice warm glow of achievement.  You may be very tired, but not like you will tomorrow!  The delayed soreness of DOMS is generally onset in about 12 hours and can actually increase until it peaks in anywhere from 24-48 hours. Good news, it will subside over the next few days.


Treatment

Truth is, there is no one simple way to treat the DOMS, and,  there has been an ongoing debate about both the cause and treatment of DOMS in the sports physiology world. We all know we should warm and cool down, but is that enough?  Maybe, maybe not. Everyone’s body is different and everyone’s needs change from time to time. At one time it was thought that gentle stretching was one of the best  ways to reduce exercise related muscle soreness, but a study by Australian researchers published in 2007 found that stretching is not that effective in avoiding delayed-onset muscle soreness.  Stretching warmed muscles in a slow consistent fashion is however, one of your pest ways to prevent sprain/strain injuries.

So, is there anything that can be done to avoid or perhaps reduce the “Oh my aching everything” that can follow physical exertion? Nothing is proven completely effective, but some people have found the following advice helpful, but it's best for an individual to try a few things to see what works for them. Ultimately, best advice for treating DOMS is to prevent it in the first place.


Tips for dealing with soreness after exercise:

  • Wait. Soreness will go away in couple of days with no special treatment.
  • Try sitting in a cold bath (iced is best) or use contrast baths of hot and cold, alternating for 15- 20 minutes each. Ice Baths are common practice for many professional athletes.
  • When you hurt, slow down, but don’t stop completely. This is called “Active Recovery”. This is a techniques used by many in highly competitive sports. Instead of the same workout that got you into the soreness and pain in the first place, try some easy low-impact aerobic exercise to increase blood flow. Waling at a slow to moderate pace is great the first couple of days.  Try a beginning Pilates mat workout, or yoga.
  • Avoid thinking that you can just work through this with the same intensity of workout.  You won’t, it just Males the DOMS last longer.  Stay away form any vigorous activity that increases pain. Allow the soreness to subside thoroughly before performing any vigorous exercise.
  • Get a massage.  Okay, you can never really go wrong on this one.  Do it yourself, or go to an experience therapist and explain you pain.  The professional will know what to do. A gentle massage on the affected muscles helps to increase your endorphins, so you feel better, and it flushes fluid build up from the tissues, decreasing your healing time. Research has found that massage was effective in alleviating DOMS by approximately 30% and reducing swelling.
  • Try using a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (aspirin or ibuprofen) to reduce the soreness. This does not actually speed healing, but the relief my be just enough to  get you through the next day or two.



KEY INFORMATION: If your pain persists longer than about 7 days or increases see your physician for a complete evaluation.

Prevention

hile DOMS is common and annoying, it is not a necessary part of exercise. You can do a few things to prevent, avoid and shorten the duration of DOMS:

  • ALWAYS, ALWAYS, do a warm up, it helps prevent serious muscle injuries.
  • ALWAYS, ALWAYS, do a cool down to allow your body to begin its natural recovery process, include stretching AFTER the work out for best result.
  • NEVER,NEVER stretch a cold muscle.
  • Follow the Ten Percent Rule. When beginning a new activity start gradually and build up your time and intensity no more than ten percent per week.
  • Stay hydrated. The average adult needs a minimum of 64 ounces of water for good health each day. That’s half a gallon! Sodas (even diet ones) don’t count, neither does coffee - caffeine rich drinks cause your body to dehydrate and can increase the onset, frequency and intensity of DOMS and muscle cramping. Energy drinks don’t count either, but caffeine free juices and herbal teas do. Keep in mind this is a minimum. If you have a lot of muscle, are in a dry, hot climate, spend lots of time under central air-conditioning, or have an intense workout regimen; you will need more water. Keep in mind, that by the time you feel thirsty, you body is clinically into dehydration. 
  • Eat enough nutrients for your muscles to heal naturally. Are you getting enough calcium, potassium, and magnesium in your diet? These minerals are required for the body to make the electrolytes it needs to control muscle movements and healing. The Department of Agriculture recommends daily getting at lest 1000 mg of Calcium, 400 mg of Magnesium, and 3500 mg Potassium.





Foods Rich In Calcium

Dairy foods or course - low fat milk, cheese and yogurt are your best bet. But, did you know that dark leafy vegetables like kale, greens, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage are rich sources of calcium? Canned fish (with bones), such as salmon, sardines and mackerel are also good choices. Foods such as almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, various kinds of juices, breads and cereals are often fortified with calcium and can easily be added to your daily diet.

Calcium Rich Foods

You'll need at least 100 mg of calcium for good health, more for if you are a post menopausal woman or healing broken bones.
You'll need at least 100 mg of calcium for good health, more for if you are a post menopausal woman or healing broken bones.

Foods Containing Potassium

Most people think of bananas as a source of potassium, and they are.  But other great sources are oranges, apricots, prunes, dates, cantaloupe, watermelon and strawberries. So are salmon, beans, turkey, fish, peas, greens, spinach and tomatoes. Potatoes are a great source, but only if you eat the skin. You should have at lest three of these items a day.


Potassium Rich Foods

You'll need 3 or more servings of these a day.
You'll need 3 or more servings of these a day.

Foods High In Magnesium

It is more difficult to get the proper daily amounts of magnesium through foods alone because fewer foods have high levels of magnesium. Almonds, cashews, pumpkin seeds and brazil nuts are some good choices. Barley, quinoa and whole wheat flour are others. Swiss chard, spinach, and white and black beans are also good sources of magnesium.


Other Sources Of Magnesium
Since calcium and magnesium need to be in balance, it might be hard to get enough magnesium from diet alone. As you consume more calcium your body needs more magnesium as well. Taking a daily supplement can be wise.  If you take a calcium supplement, make sure it also has magnesium in it. Or, for a more pleasant approach,  you can relax in a hot bath and get your magnesium too. Simply add 1 to 2 cups of Epsom salts to your bath at night and enjoy a restful night's sleep. Proper magnesium is essential to restful and restorative sleep. And, this feels great when you are suffering from Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness.

Magnesium Rich Foods

Eat lots of Whole grains to get your daily needs.
Eat lots of Whole grains to get your daily needs.
Epsom salts in your bath are a relaxing way to get Magnesium.. it is absorbed through your skin!
Epsom salts in your bath are a relaxing way to get Magnesium.. it is absorbed through your skin!

Comments 2 comments

Judith Rizzo profile image

Judith Rizzo 7 years ago from Phoenix ~ The Valley of the Sun Author

Thanks for the comment NGRIA, I too am a big proponent of the Calcium and Magnesium rich foods... excellent for over health as well as controlling weight, promoting good sleep, reducing muscle aches, and building strong bones!

Blessings of Good Health to you!


NGRIA Bassett profile image

NGRIA Bassett 7 years ago from Bermuda

Thanks love the article. I am a believer in Calcium Magnesium for pain and general relaxation and sleep.

Thanks for great advice.

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