Dr. Megan Johnson McCullough- Physical activity of any type can leave your muscles feeling sore. Even people with advanced fitness levels can feel sore. Mild soreness from movements and actions that require strain and exertion of the muscles, in other words, making them work, can require the body to take a couple days to recover back to normal. New exercises, intensity, frequency, and duration, can all cause soreness post activity. Feeling this way doesn’t always happen immediately, in fact, it is most common to feel sore several hours later and sometimes up to two days later. The term “delayed onset muscle soreness”, also known as “DOMS”, describes this phenomenon. Most experts believe that soreness is due to microscopic tears in the muscle fibers that happen during activity. Soreness is felt while the body is healing these tears. It is a common misconception that soreness is caused by the buildup of lactic acid.
There are a number of ways to alleviate muscle soreness. Most of the time it just goes away on its own, but sometimes we need some additional assistance to make feeling uncomfortable leave. Here are some approaches to try if needed:
- Cold therapy: Applying ice, cold packs, or taking a cold shower/bath, can reduce inflammation and swelling.
- Hot therapy: Using heat pads or taking a warm bath can help get blood flowing to the sore muscles.
- Light exercise: Getting the body moving also stimulates blood flow. Good examples are walking and stretching.
- Massage: Having this done by a professional ca also increase blood flow. The areas are also loosed up and not as tense on top of being sore.
- Medication: There are over the counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) can help such as ibuprofen or aspirin.
It is normal to feel mild soreness 12-24 hours after exercising and it can peak 24-72 hours afterwards. You can continue to exercise when sore, and it best to work different body parts than those that are most sore. For example, if your quads are sore from leg work, do arm work until the legs are less sore. The key difference between being sore and being injured would be having sharp pains.
Anytime you mix up workouts, try something new, or take a break and then start back up, you are prone to getting sore. As we age, recovery time can slow down mainly because our tolerance and intensity have changed. Finding an appropriate modality with progressive training is ideal. Variety and cross training are good compliments to both preventing soreness as well as not allowing the body to adapt to specific, repetitive workouts. This also helps transpire results from what you are doing. Doing a proper warm up to get blood flowing is also good to let the body prepare for what is to come. Stretching and cooling down can also offset being sore as your body tunes into the notion that it’s time to recover and repair. You know your body best so always listen to warning signs and pay attention to your body’s needs.
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