By Lauren Denos: 3/11/2015 (Fitness)

Lessen the Pain of Getting in Shape!

You have made the commitment to get into better shape so you start to hit the gym and do as intensive of a workout as possible, but then either later that day or two days after you wind up not being able to walk normal. Muscle soreness is a part of working out, and we all accept it because it is part of getting in better shape. But how can you lessen the soreness?

Why We Have Muscle Soreness and What it Means?

Muscle soreness, also known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), is a normal occurrence due to muscle strain. This strain creates microscopic tears in your muscle, which also causes inflammation. It is theorized that the inflammation is why your muscles get sore. These microscopic tears and the inflammation it causes are normal. After the muscle gets these microscopic tears, it will then repair itself. This is what makes them stronger, and makes it so your muscles can change and grow. Understand that these are microscopic tears, not major tears. The soreness that you feel should go away after a day or two. If you have a soreness that is not going away, you may want to talk to your doctor to make sure you did not create some tears that are a bit more significant. If you are new to exercise, do not be too worried if you feel sore. Sometimes the next day or the day after moving around can be more difficult. Heck, if you are doing something new, you could be sore for a week after your workout. If the soreness is so intense that you cannot do your normal daily work and chores, then you may have pushed yourself a little too far. In this situation, you may have to scale it back and then work up to the intensity you started with. A little bit of soreness is fine, but too much soreness can dissuade people from continuing their workouts. You do not necessarily need to be sore in order to be growing muscle, but it is pretty darn common.

Muscle soreness will happen to most people when they are pushing their current limits. Even pros and novices alike will deal with this. The difference is when you are a seasoned pro, you have learned how to deal with this soreness so that it is not a very big deal. In fact, many people who are regulars at exercise look forward to this muscle soreness since it can be a good indicator that they worked out intense enough to cause some change.

Muscle soreness also reduces when you do the same workouts. The body adapts to the strain that is being put onto it. Our bodies adjust extremely well, which is why cross training is so popular. It keeps your body doing different activities so that your body does not adapt near as much and you continue to have the most gains possible.

The soreness from your workouts is known now to be from eccentric movements. Eccentric or negative movements is when you are lowering a weight during a bicep curl, or when you are running down hill (the part that most people think is the easy part). The kicker is that it’s not very feasible to remove the eccentric phase from your workout. Besides, the eccentric phase of any movement is what is said to be the most effective part of the exercise that makes us stronger.

How to Prevent Muscle Soreness and Help it Along Once it’s Already Present

Scientifically, there is not an absolute way to actually get rid of DOMS. Despite that there are no studies ultimately proving that something specific works, there are some studies telling us there are some available techniques that might help. Some of these include relaxation or bringing blood to the muscles to speed up the healing process.

#1 Warming Up

Warming up helps prepare the muscle for the work that you are about to do. When the muscle is warm, the muscles’ elasticity is also increased. As a result, they are better prepared for the workout ahead. This is especially important when you are going to be doing weight training.

Many people claim that cooling down and stretching after exercise helps with DOMS, but most of the research does not support this claim. That being said, cool downs and stretching is good for many other reasons so it is not a bad idea to incorporate them anyway.

#2 Icing

Icing has been shown to help with inflammation. This is why so many athletes tend to embrace this practice. Some studies show that ice baths can help with DOMS, but coaches warn to use the ice bath sparingly since the inflammation is part of the training process. If you are going to use ice, do it with ice packs verses an ice bath. You can also do a cool shower. It does not need to be freezing cold to get the cooling effects. Keep in mind when athletes are using ice baths, they are doing so with guidance of people who know what they are doing and how long they should use it for.

#3 Warm Up the Muscles

Warm up the muscles with a light walk or some other light exercise. Getting the blood moving through your body will help ease soreness. You may want to do a few short bouts of light exercise throughout the day when dealing with DOMS. This way you will keep yourself a little more mobile.

#4 Anti-Inflammatory

The good old standby. An anti-inflammatory does exactly what their name implies. Some studies are showing that using too much of any anti-inflammatory drug such as aspirin, ibuprofen, Naproxen, etc. may inhibit the healing process of soft tissues. In other words, rebuilding of your muscles. If you are using them once in a while then they tend to not be a big deal. However, if you are consistently working out to the point of extreme soreness and then taking an anti-inflammatory every time, you may want to rethink your methods.

#5 Massage

Not all studies are convinced that massages actually take care of DOMS, but enough people are having such good reactions to it that we cannot deny it is doing something for the recuperative process. We also really can't deny that it feels good, can help loosen the muscles and relax us. That is benefit enough for most people!

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