What Are DOMS and How to Reduce Soreness?
If you’ve ever had a great, challenging workout, then you’re probably familiar with the intense muscle soreness that follows. This soreness is one of the great paradoxes of exercise. Muscles get stronger by breaking down first, and the rebuilding process is where this soreness stems from. When you begin using muscles in new ways or engaging smaller muscles that you don’t usually use in workouts, you put stress upon them that they aren’t traditionally used to. Primarily, extreme soreness can occur anytime you do something your muscles aren’t accustomed to. The technical term for this soreness is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS usually peaks around 48 to 72 hours post-workout; this is when your body begins to repair the torn muscle fibres. There are levels to this pain that depend on how much damage has been done (and other influences such as genetics and hydration), but regularly experiencing an extreme level of soreness isn’t something you should habit. There is also evidence suggesting that muscles can atrophy (break down too much) when they get overworked; this can signify that the muscle can’t adequately repair itself. Therefore, soreness doesn’t always correlate with better results, so you must recover appropriately before injuring yourself more long term.
Unfortunately, if you’re already experiencing this soreness, the only way to reduce this is time. Typically, DOMS last around 2-3 days after the soreness has peaked. However, there are a few ways to relieve this pain and make life slightly more comfortable.
Practice Light Movement
It’s important to know that staying inactive while sore is probably not a good idea. Taking part in light exercise can help stretch the sore muscles and provide some pain relief by keeping your muscles moving. Going fo a brisk walk or using the stairs rather than the lift, will relieve some pain. Activity helps to increase circulation and blood flow around the body. It’s suggested that the increase in blood flow allows more nutrients to the muscles and helps improve the recovery process, reducing the DOMS.
Active recovery can be painful at the beginning, but once the blood starts flowing and the muscles warm-up, it will begin to ease. This can also be found when waking up in a morning; the pain will be at its worst until you start going about your daily tasks, and it reduces. Slow and light stretching of the muscles will also relieve that tight feeling and help decrease the pain.
A great way to reduce getting DOMS is to ensure that you cool down correctly after a workout. End your training sessions with a 10-minute light session of cardio, and then add dynamic stretches like bodyweight lunges and squats.
Ensure You Stay Hydrated
Being dehydrated contributes to muscle soreness due to a lack of electrolytes in the bloodstream, so you must ensure you’re drinking large water consumption. When your muscles work harder, they demand a larger volume of oxygen and therefore need more blood pumped around the body. 82% of your blood volume consists of water, so staying hydrated is more critical than quenching your thirst.
It’s also essential you replace the fluids lost during your workout post-workout. Drinking an electrolyte drink after your workout can help to reduce dehydration. Also, try to avoid sugary drinks and salt, which may increase dehydration.
Sleep is an extremely powerful tool for averting DOMS and for muscle building. Growth Hormone, a muscle-building chemical, is naturally produced by the body during deep stages of sleep. You must aim for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep to help your body recover from exercise.
If you have difficulty reaching the state of deep sleep vital for functional recovery, try following deep and slow breathing techniques. Rest is an essential regenerative process where your body restores and rebuilds. Maintaining a good sleep routine won’t only help with DOMS but can also help gain muscle and reduce fat. (Read our article on how exercise can improve sleep and performance)
Have a Massage
Massage plays a critical role in reducing inflammation in the body. Additionally, a massage helps to stimulate the mitochondria (tiny cells that change glucose into energy). This stimulation is essential for cell repair. A light massage can help you feel good and reduce DOMS and aid muscle recovery. It does this by reducing inflammation, improving blood flow, and easing muscle tightness and swelling. You can also massage many of your muscles during moisturising after a shower or try using a massage device that helps to self-massage.
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By Ella Orrock