Effective Relief for Sore Muscles

Use these techniques to help cope with exercise-induced muscle soreness

Credit: Flickr/ActiveSteve

Having sore muscles after a new workout is to be expected

Being active and experiencing delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) almost go hand in hand

If you’re new to exercise you’ll definitely get to know first-hand what this is. Likewise, if you regularly work out but try a new routine or activity or go harder than usual in a workout you’ll experience this exercise-induced muscle soreness as well.

What Causes DOMS?

Muscle soreness the day or two after exercise is caused by damage to the muscle fibres.

It’s thought that eccentric exercises are primarily responsible for causing DOMS. Eccentric exercises are those in which the muscle is lengthening as it’s being loaded. For example, during a squat the eccentric portion happens when you’re lowering into the squat position.

The good news is that this damage initiates a repair process that makes your muscles stronger and more resistant to future damage. This is one of the adaptations that occurs with exercise.

How to Avoid or Minimize DOMS

Avoiding this type of muscle soreness is pretty hard. Whenever you start working out or try a new routine, chances are you’ll experience it. But here are some techniques that can help you minimize and deal with your sore muscles.

1. When starting a new exercise program or workout, ease into it. If you’re new to exercise, limit the time and intensity. If you’re an experienced exerciser, don’t push as hard in a new routine as you did in a familiar one. Take a couple of workouts to adapt.

2. Gradually build up the intensity and duration of your workouts. This goes for beginners and veterans alike. Follow a program that incrementally increases how much and how hard you work out. Pushing yourself is good; just don’t push yourself too much, too soon.

3. If you do an intense workout have a good post-workout meal or snack that includes protein and carbohydrates. The carbs will replenish your fuel tank and the protein provides amino acids, which are the building blocks to repair damage.

4. Rehydrate by drinking one to two litres of water during the rest of day after an intense workout.

5. Try a cold-water bath or contrast water therapy. For a cold water bath aim for a water temperature of 10ºC for 15 minutes. If this is too tough for you, try contrast water therapy where you alternate hot and cold water over an area. Use water temperatures of 10ºC and 42ºC, alternating 90 second bouts of each for 15 minutes.

6. Structure your workout with a good warm-up and cool-down. 

Techniques like stretching and massage have been shown to be ineffective in relieving DOMS. They may feel good but they won’t actually help your recovery.

Also be wary of using pain-killers and NSAID’s to mask the pain. While they may ease the pain these medications may actually impair the repair process.

You can be sure that I’ll be experiencing some serious DOMS after my A4K 1000 Rep Fitness Challenge this week. But a bit of pain to help the kids is worth it. You can still help out by donating to my personal donation page.