A tough workout often induces sore muscles. Also known as “delayed onset muscle soreness” or DOMS, sore muscles after a workout are believed to be caused by microscopic damage to muscle fibres during exercise…
Exercise-induced muscle soreness is a normal physiological response that occurs despite an individual’s fitness level. The greatest disruption or injury to muscle takes place during the eccentric or “decline” portion of an exercise, such as walking downhill or the lowering of weight during a bicep curl.
Eccentric exercises cause a proportionally more muscle soreness because they concentrate tension over a smaller cross-sectional area of muscle compared to concentric exercises – such as the raising of weight during a bicep curl. Increased tension causes disruption to the muscle fibres and, consequently, sore muscles about 24 to 48 hours after training.
Adequate rest is an integral part of any exercise regime because it allows for higher training volumes and intensities without the detrimental effects of overtraining. However, ceasing all exercise may actually prolong exercise-induced muscle soreness, so performing light exercise on the days you feel sore can be beneficial.
Lifestyle and diet interventions
Although the precise time and extent of muscle soreness is highly variable, symptoms tend to diminish after 72 hours. Luckily, there are several lifestyle and diet interventions you can undertake to help mitigate the muscular pain from walking up that flight of stairs the next day after your workout.
- Nutrition. Adequate nutrition is the single most important factor for minimizing muscle soreness and promoting muscle recovery and growth. Fueling the body with nutritious foods before and after exercise has been found effective in reducing muscle soreness by affecting inflammatory responses and oxidative stress. Specifically, foods high in omega-3 fatty acids, taurine, and polyphenols have been found most beneficial.
- Caffeine. The perks of drinking that morning coffee extend beyond a boost in mental awareness. Caffeine not only helps decrease pain perception during exercise, but it is also an effective nutritional agent for reducing muscle soreness post exercise.
- Turmeric is a staple in south Asian cuisines and is well known for its medicinal active component – curcumin – which has anti-inflammatory and analgesic properties that may help reduce muscle soreness.
- Get symptomatic relief. Applying a topical lotion such as Absolüt Arnica Gel to sore muscles can help soothe muscle inflammation and pain.
- Hydrotherapy is one of the most popular interventions used post exercise. Specifically, cold-water immersion (less than 15°C) has been found to significantly reduce ratings of fatigue and muscle soreness onset at 24, 48, 72, and 96 hours after exercise compared to passive interventions involving rest.
- Work with primary healthcare provider. Injury is a risk with any type of exercise. If you experience adverse events that seem different from muscle soreness such as immediate pain that becomes debilitating, heavy swelling in your limbs, or dark coloured urine, you should consult a medical professional.