Managing Muscle Soreness

Any individual who’s ever begun a new workout plan knows what follows within a few days of initiating the routine. Sore muscles and stiffness may be par for the course, but the uncomfortable sensations can make sticking with a new workout routine difficult. Learning how to power through delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) can help people stay on track with exercise goals.


Causes of DOMS

For most individuals, signs that DOMS has occurred will begin to appear within 12-24 hours after exercise. However, the greatest discomfort might last anywhere from 24-72 hours after a workout. In many cases, high-intensity activities are to blame, as the behavior can cause microscopic tears to occur in the muscles. In response to the tears, increased inflammation and even delayed muscle soreness are possible. Delayed onset muscle soreness can occur in any individual who exercises, including elite athletes and novices.

Can DOMS be avoided?

Completely avoiding DOMS is a tall order. Some soreness is expected whenever a person begins a new workout routine, even if that individual is an experienced athlete. However, the following tips can minimize the chance of DOMS and shorten recovery times.

Stay hydrated

Exercise and proper hydration go hand in hand. Most people are aware that lost liquids from sweat can lead to dehydration. Evidence suggests that individuals who exercise in more humid conditions are more likely to experience DOMS when failing to hydrate properly beforehand.

Don’t skip the stretches

Individuals who engage in proper warm-up and cool-down exercises can better manage DOMS than people who don’t. For the best results, engage in dynamic stretching before beginning any exercise routine. Static stretches aid best in the cool-down process.

Take supplements

Supplements for alleviating delayed onset muscle soreness often focus on reducing inflammation and promoting muscle recovery. Branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) are popular for protein synthesis and muscle repair. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish oil supplements, are known for anti-inflammatory properties, which can help reduce muscle soreness. Creatine is another supplement that aids in muscle recovery by replenishing energy stores in muscles, thus potentially reducing the intensity of DOMS. Additionally, antioxidants like vitamin C and E may help combat oxidative stress associated with intense exercise. Supplements can aid in recovery, but should be used in conjunction with proper nutrition and hydration for optimal results.

Slow down during DOMS

When delayed onset muscle soreness does occur, consider adjusting workout routines to give the muscles time to adjust. For example, switch to gentle exercises like swimming or walking to alleviate the strain. When a person is still engaged in low-impact exercise, the body continues to make gains without the added strain on the muscles.

Focus on incremental gains

Experiencing DOMS can be frustrating and, in some cases, can sideline beginning exercisers. Understanding how to adjust expectations and give the body time to recover is the best solution to avoid giving up or falling back into a sedentary lifestyle. When in doubt, consider speaking with a licensed trainer or physical therapist to determine best practices for muscle recovery.


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