Physical exercise can be demanding on the body. This does depend on the intensity of the exercise, the muscles that are being used, the time and stress that they experience when they are under tension, and the range of motion that’s being applied to them.
Whilst they are being put under stress in the moment, the sensations from the workout are usually felt in the following days. This is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS; which contributes to physical challenges through the ease of movement and comfort.
When DOMS occurs, people want to stop it immediately.
It would be great to know “How to fix sore muscles?” But the reality requires a need to prevent muscle soreness. This article shares some insights into preventative methods for muscle soreness after workout.
What causes sore muscles?
Experiencing sore muscles in the days following a workout is called “delayed onset muscle soreness,” or DOMS for short. Research is still being done to understand more about this exercise-induced muscle soreness, but scientists believe that it stems from both physical and neurological factors.
When you do a particularly stressful movement that works your muscles hard, the physical stress can cause tiny “microtears” in your muscle’s fibers. Your immune system then responds to this damage and oxidative stress with inflammation to heal this injury. Your blood flow increases to the site of injury, carrying nutrients to help it heal and repair which is part of the natural recovery process.
On the positive side, this inflammatory response leads to the healing of your muscle fibers and helps them become stronger as long as the right nutrients are present. But on the downside, a side-effect of this inflammatory response is swelling, tenderness, and pain. Many forms of exercise can drive this reaction as long as they’re intense enough. For example, you might be prone to feeling sore if you participate in endurance running, competitive sports, or resistance weight training. Adding a new routine to the mix or after getting back at it after a prolonged absence can also contribute to DOMS.
But in addition to the physical damage, your nerves also play a role in the pain. If you work out and your muscles become fatigued, the brain cells that drive movement (also known as motor neurons) can become hyper-excited. This leads to those neurons “blasting” your muscles with repetitive and uncontrollable signals to contract, leading to cramping for some people and contributing to muscle soreness in the following days for almost all of us.
Evidence-based ways to fix sore muscles
To some extent, muscle soreness is fairly unavoidable if you’re working out hard and challenging your muscles. But most solutions available today focus on the muscular drivers of soreness like percussion guns, foam rollers, recovery supplements, or even just ibuprofen. But now there is HOTSHOT for Muscle Soreness which is the perfect complement to any of the muscular solutions already in your tool kit.
HOTSHOT For Muscle Soreness
While the other methods for reducing muscle soreness address physical muscle recovery, HOTSHOT For Muscle Soreness is specifically designed to address the neurological factors. This sports shot works by calming those hyperactive motor neurons that can pound into your fatigued muscles during your intense workouts and contribute to that subsequent soreness you feel a day or two after that workout. in the following days. Taking HOTSHOT either before or right after your workout lets you be proactive about your muscle recovery and reduces the pain you will feel the next day!
With that said, there are some things that you can do beyond dealing with the neurological triggers to temporarily relieve the pain and make the recovery process a bit easier.
“Putting some ice on it” is one of the most tried-and-true methods for muscle-related pain relief. Cryotherapy, literally translated to “cold therapy,” is thought to help minimize DOMS because it causes your blood vessels to constrict, which then reduces blood flow to the area and minimizes inflammation, swelling, and pain. The most popular method of cryotherapy is simply wrapping an ice pack and placing it on the sore area, but some athletes also like jumping into an ice bath or cryotherapy chamber to get relief in muscles throughout their entire body.
Similarly, topical cooling treatments also seem to be effective at reducing pain in DOMS. A study found that topical menthol-based pain relief creams were even more effective than ice for relieving pain from DOMS!
There’s also evidence that heat can also help with some instances of exercise-induced soreness. Applying heat to your sore muscles causes your blood vessels to widen, which can speed up the process of clearing out metabolic byproducts like lactic acid that are produced while exercising. This may be a contributor to the acute pain you might feel during or immediately following a workout.
Heating your muscles can also help reduce pain by blocking pain signals in your nerve endings that are associated with soreness.
Gentle exercise can help alleviate some of the discomfort from DOMS. A review published in the research journal Sports Medicine even concluded that gentle exercise was the most effective way to reduce the symptoms of DOMS in the days immediately following a workout when compared to other soreness-relieving methods!
Consider taking a brisk walk, doing yoga, or swimming for low-impact workouts that won’t stress out your recovering muscles even more.
Delayed onset muscle soreness can also come with a temporarily reduced range of motion in your joints, and this can cause injuries if you’re not careful. If your DOMS is intense and limits your movement and range of motion, you should focus instead on resting to recover the muscles.
Massages can help relieve muscle soreness and tightness. Massages can decrease inflammation, promote muscle relaxation, and reduce swelling. If you don’t have the time or resources to get a professional massage, you can also self-massage using self-myofascial releasing tools like foam rollers.
Over-the-counter pain medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen, can also temporarily alleviate some of the pain from DOMS. However, there are some interesting implications of using NSAIDs, or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, when it comes to muscle growth.
Remember, inflammation is part of the natural healing process that ultimately helps your muscles recover and grow after a workout. Because NSAIDs like ibuprofen and aspirin work by limiting inflammation, it’s a common belief that taking them can interfere with the natural healing process and therefore, limit the muscle growth that comes from workouts (incidentally, similar things are said about other inflammation-limiting DOMS treatments like cryotherapy.)
One small study concluded that, while high levels of ibuprofen can interfere with protein muscle synthesis, occasional use won’t. But another interesting conclusion from this study was that NSAIDS also may not be that effective for reducing soreness, either! Ultimately, more research needs to be done, but the occasional NSAID use for especially sore days doesn’t seem to be an issue.
The foods that you choose to eat are an important part of your muscle recovery. For example, getting enough protein facilitates the healing process that your muscles go through after they’ve been subjected to the damage from your workouts.
There isn’t good evidence that protein supplements like protein shakes can help with DOMS specifically, but getting adequate protein is still unquestionably an important nutrient for your overall muscle recovery.
There’s also evidence that consuming foods rich in antioxidants can also be effective for reducing muscle soreness. Antioxidants are plant-based nutrients that are thought to help minimize oxidative stress in your body, which can be linked to reducing inflammation.
Popular examples of antioxidant-rich foods that many athletes use include tart cherry juice, pomegranate juice, and beetroot juice. But it’s important to note here that the research supports long-term and habitual consumption of these antioxidant-rich foods, not one-offs.
What should you do if at-home soreness remedies aren’t working?
Delayed onset muscle soreness tends to start roughly 12-24 hours after your workout is over and tends to peak at around 72 hours post-workout. So it’s normal to feel sore and stiff for up to five days after your workout has concluded.
But if you’re still feeling unusually sore after 5-7 days, it may be time to talk to your doctor to rule out other issues like acute injuries and sprains.
Working your muscles hard often leads to delayed onset muscle soreness, but implementing the right healing strategies can help ease the soreness to some extent. Targeting both the physical and neurological causes of DOMS can optimize your muscle recovery after a big workout, minimize soreness, and let you get back to your workouts in no time.
Featured Image Credit: Photo by Scott Webb on Unsplash