What is Muscle Soreness?
Every one of us has probably felt a soreness in our muscles after an intense workout and this could come hours or even days after the workout. So, what exactly is muscle soreness and why does it come about? Well, muscle soreness is actually known as delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS and occurs after our muscles have been exposed to a relatively intense session. This could either be because the workout experience was unaccustomed or excessive in nature. In general, DOMS are felt more intensively when the exercises we perform involves eccentric contractions (an active muscle while lengthening under stress).
What Causes the Soreness?
So why exactly do your muscles feel sore after a workout? Well DOMS happens when your muscles are strained, and small micro tears occur within the muscle fibers. These microtraumas cause an inflammatory response in your body which results in the ache and pain that many of us feel. Now, this doesn’t mean that micro tears in your muscles will always result in DOMS. Although that is generally true, consistent working out does not yield that much of a post-workout soreness as opposed to one who performs an unaccustomed exercise.
Some of the symptoms of DOMS involve a dull ache that develops in the affected muscle group and can result in a loss of range of motion, tenderness in the muscles as well as stiffness. One may observe a slight decrease in strength, as well as loss in stability of the muscle group as you go about your daily routine. Thankfully, warming up the specific muscle group and stretching it can reduce the soreness and even help you to regain some strength but abstinence from intense activities is still recommended.
Although complete prevention of DOMS is quite impossible, steps can be taken to reduce the intensity of the pain felt once the muscle soreness kicks in. This is especially important when you plan to try a new routine, or plan to ramp up the intensity of your fitness lifestyle. The first and foremost step is to always warm up and cooldown, followed by performing some stretching to ensure that your body gets accustomed to the new activity. Besides that, ramping up the intensity of your activity over a period of time is encouraged as opposed to back to back sessions. You risk injuring yourself as well as encountering muscle soreness when starting a sudden intense workout.
Treatment of DOMS
Thankfully, muscle soreness is not a serious injury or problem, and will only set you back for up to a week of temporary pain and weakness. Most cases of muscle soreness resolve themselves within a day or two and you are safe to return to your usual physical activities. Faster relief of muscle soreness, however, can be induced through proper treatments such as myofascial release and ice baths. If in doubt, or if the pain in your muscles persists for more than a week, consult your doctor or local therapist as it may point to a more sinister cause.