One of the hallmarks of a good workout is muscle pain and soreness afterward. It may sound odd, but the right kind of soreness can indicate you’re on the right track to building the muscle groups you’ve always wanted.
But what can be done to relieve some of the achiness you’re feeling in your muscles? While sore muscles are entirely normal, it can sometimes be debilitating. Luckily, you can take steps to relieve your sore muscles and quickly get on the road to recovery. Below, we’ll outline everything you need to know about sore muscles and what you can do to feel better faster.
Why Do You Get Sore Muscles?
The scientific term for sore muscles following a workout is delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it occurs after intense sessions of extreme activity. Muscle soreness doesn’t discriminate between novice exercisers and those who work out regularly; although, it can lessen over time.
Soreness results from the connective tissues in your muscles contracting and tearing during intense workouts, and then repairing themselves during the period of rest following. This process is necessary for your muscles to enhance in strength and size. Technically, the repair portion of the process causes the soreness to occur; this is because inflammation and electrolyte buildup happens.
What Can Be Done to Soothe Sore Muscles?
While muscle soreness is an indicator that your muscles are repairing themselves from a workout, that doesn’t mean you want the feeling to stick around for long. Take a look at these tried-and-true methods to soothe sore muscles following your next workout:
The last thing you may want to do when experiencing muscle soreness is to continue moving. However, it’s been shown that by continuing some light movement or exercise with your muscles, soreness can potentially be reduced. Consider taking a leisurely stroll, going for a light jog, or swimming to keep your muscles moving.
Applying heat to your affected muscles has been shown to help ease muscle pain by stimulating blood flow. Increased blood flow to your muscles can boost repair efforts and help ease tension. While you need to exercise caution with using heat on sore muscles, you can try using a heating pad or a hot compress. Be careful not to overheat your muscles, as this can lead to muscle inflammation or skin burns.
Resting in between workouts is crucial to promoting healthy muscle recovery and pain relief. Make a point to rest between each set for a few minutes and then a day here and there throughout your weekly rotations. When you relax, it allows time for your muscles to repair and grow.
NSAIDs, such as ibuprofen and naproxen, can help ease pain and swelling caused by extreme workouts. Be sure to always use NSAIDs with caution and at the direction of your physician.
Massages Can Help
Massages can be excellent for promoting muscle soreness relief and repair. Through massage, the blood flow circulation to your muscles and joints can be increased, which will help to ease tension in your muscles.
While the methods above are used regularly and can help most people, some other techniques have shown promise in helping relieve sore and achy muscles. Take a look:
While further research is needed, it’s thought that eating foods rich in antioxidants can help increase anti-inflammatory efforts in your muscles. Try consuming things like watermelon, raisins, blueberries, kale, spinach, and dark chocolate.
Milk Protein Supplements
Milk protein supplements have been shown in some studies to reduce muscle soreness and increase strength. You can purchase milk protein supplements in concentrated or powder form.
Epsom salts are widely used to reduce inflammation and muscle pain caused by exercise. While it could be the warm water’s effects in an Epsom salt bath, there are thoughts in the medical community that the salts themselves contribute to pain relief.
Hot and Cold Therapy
Some swear by the effects of hot and cold therapy on sore muscles. While heat is known to assist with muscle aches and recovery, cold temperatures are thought to help reduce swelling. You may consider using hot and cold compresses interchangeably on the muscle groups that are causing you pain. Always be careful not to apply too much heat to the area or ice directly to your skin in order to avoid injury.
Items like compression socks and leggings may help with muscle pain. Wearing pressure garments for the 24 hours following a hard workout is thought to help by restricting muscle movement and increasing blood flow to that area.
Arnica is a compound derived from the Arnica montana flower. This ingredient has been shown in some studies to be helpful for sore muscle relief when applied through topical ointments.
How Can Sore Muscles Be Prevented?
Taking the right precautions to prevent extremely sore muscles can be just as helpful as the measures you take to relieve soreness afterward. Here are a few steps you can take for muscle soreness prevention:
- Stretch Before – By stretching your muscles before a workout, you can help improve their flexibility and range of motion (ROM) throughout your workout.
- Stay Hydrated – Proper hydration plays an integral role in how your body responds to working out. By keeping your body properly hydrated, you can increase your chances of reducing potential muscle soreness.
- Warm-Up – Warming up before an intense workout essentially gets your body in the right zone and can help prepare your muscles for what’s to come. You can also reduce your chances of injury by taking the time to warm up and loosen your joints.
- Practice Your Form – By learning the right way to conduct specific exercises, you can reduce your chances of unnecessary muscle soreness and potential injury occurring. Practice your exercise form and gradually increase the intensity to build muscle strength.
When Is Muscle Soreness a Problem?
Not all muscle soreness is created equal. While it’s normal for DOMS to last for several days, if your muscles are still sore after a week, you should consult with a physician to make sure something else isn’t going on. Also, keep an eye out for related dizziness, trouble breathing, or weakness, as these can be signs of trouble.