5 Ways to reduce muscle soreness
Have you ever had that pain in your muscles the day after an intense workout? Well that is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and is completely normal after getting a good workout. The pain usually kicks in around 6-8 hours after completing the exercise and can last up to a few days after your workout. Everyone experiences this pain even the professionals and its often a sign that you have really worked your muscles and are getting stronger. However sometimes this pain can be a nuisance and can leave us feeling like we should spend the next 24 hours in bed. Well if you feel like you need a wheelchair after leg day, look no further as we are going to be sharing five tips with you to relieve this muscle soreness.
Firstly, we need to find out what causes this soreness after a workout. The cause of this soreness is caused by microscopic tears that form in muscle fibres when they are worked harder when they are used to. The amount of pain we experience can be down to how we have caused it, if you are a regular gym goer then doing things like changing your training style or training at a higher intensity will cause the pain to be more intense compared to usual. These tears can also result in muscle stiffness. It is a common misconception that this pain is caused by a build up of lactic acid in your muscles, but the truth is there is no lactic acid involved in this process. Overall being sore after a workout is nothing to be worried about and is a good sign that you have worked your muscles well and they are getting bigger and stronger.
Warm up and cool down
Warming up is preparing your body for a workout and increases the blood flow to your muscles. Warming up can also loosen up your joints and reduce your risk of injury. Although it can be an inconvenience a quick warm up followed by stretching is definitely worth it in the long run, its important not to fatigue your muscles too much as this could affect your performance for your workout. A cool down is also very important as it gives your muscles time to return to there relaxed state and increases the blood flow to the fatigued muscles, reducing soreness. As well as helping with DOMS , there are many other benefits to cooling down like giving your cardiovascular system time to ease out of an exercise and reducing the risk of injury.
Another way to reduce muscle soreness is by using a foam roll. You have probably seen this dusty piece of equipment in your gym hidden in the corner waiting for someone to know what its for. If you are unfamiliar with this piece of equipment, then it is a long cylinder made from foam and is usually quite firm. Foam rolling is also known as self-myofascial release and is becoming more common in the fitness industry. Foam rolling works a lot like a massage as the roller exerts pressure onto your muscles and onto pressure points that relieve pain. Rolling can also decrease “knots” that form in your muscles and can be uncomfortable.
A small study was done comparing the affects of foam rolling after a workout. The participants foam rolled for 20 minutes after immediately after exercising. The results showed that the men saw a decrease in DOMS when compared to exercising without foam rolling. As well as reducing muscle soreness there are also many other benefits to foam rolling like increase flexibility, relieve back pain, and help you relax.
Well maybe this one is not for everyone but to really reduce muscle soreness and inflammation you could take an ice bath. This is a common practice among many athletes and is known as cold water immersion or cryotherapy. Ice baths are known to flush out waste products from your muscles like lactic acid, reduce swelling and tissue breakdown and decrease metabolic activity. As you warm up after the bath your blood flow will increase which is believed to speed up circulation and therefore decrease the time for the healing process.
Although there is no recommended temperature for an ice bath, coaches and trainers say the water should be around 12 degrees Celsius and you should stay in there for at least 10 minutes. Although ice baths are great for pain relief, the feeling of a quick recovery may be more in your head then actually real. Although this is the go-to for many athletes to recover there is very little evidence suggesting that it drastically reduces recovery time. However, there are many other benefits to ice baths like benefits to your nervous system, limiting inflammatory response and decrease the effect of heat and humidity on the body.
As well as cold baths, hot soaks are also known to improve recovery time and reduce DOMS. The heat causes your blood vessels to expand, increasing the blood flow to your muscles. Although both hot and cold baths are good for recovery the most effective way to recover would be by doing a mix of both hot and cold baths, this is called contrast hydrotherapy. This form of recovery flushes out waste from your muscles quicker as your blood vessels are expanding and contracting as the temperature rapidly changes.
Eat the right foods
As with many things in fitness, diet plays a great part in recovery. There are certain foods that can speed up recover or at least make DOMS a bit more bearable. Your diet is the key to building and maintaining muscle and what you eat will affect how much mass you gain and how quick you are able to recover. To reduce DOMS you want to be looking at foods that are high in protein, anti-inflammatory, antioxidants, fatty acids and magnesium rich foods. Examples could include green leafy vegetables (anti- inflammatory and rich in magnesium), kidney beans (antioxidant), salmon (fatty acid) and cottage cheese (protein).
As well as foods to look out for there are many foods to avoid when trying to recover. These include sugary foods as they increase inflammation, and alcohol as this dehydrated your cells which causes soreness, cramps, and strains. Alcohol can also interfere with blood flow so the blood going to your muscles may be restricted.
Wear compression clothing
Although this is a valid theory to reduce DOMS, it is yet unproven. When your muscles are worked hard, they become inflamed as a result of extra fluid rushing to your muscles. This causes your muscles to get sore and tight. However, wearing tighter clothing can reduce inflammation compared to wearing looser fitting clothes.
A small study was conducted on 16 male university students. Half where made to wear compression clothing (arm sleeves etc) and the other half where wearing looser clothing. The results showed that after an eccentric exercise the compression clothing actually did reduce inflammatory and DOMS. Although this is proof of compression clothing happening this was only a small study and more results will have to be obtained before drawing a conclusion.
Although these steps will help you reduce soreness and inflammation you should not let DOMS affect your day to day life. Although these are very effective you reducing soreness you should overcome the pain and use it as a sort of motivation as this is a sign you have really trained your muscles hard and are on the road to make some gains. If you find yourself not able to train due to soreness it will probably be a good idea to implement a rest day into your week as the issue could lie with not giving your muscles enough time to recover.