Have you ever had an intense workout and about a day later, you woke up feeling like someone beat you throughout the night with a wooden bat? Or about 12 hours after a leg workout you felt like stealing a walker from a senior citizen? Sounds like a case of delayed onset muscle soreness, or “DOMS” in short. Now don’t panic; you didn’t do anything “dum” if you’re experiencing DOMS. It comes with the wonderful world of exercise, so you don’t have to hire a hit man for your trainer or make plans to detonate the local gym.
Why does it happen?
This soreness is a result from pushing your muscles beyond what’s its used to. Novices or beginners can attest to that. It’s not the burn that you would feel during a set; that would be lactic acid. Neither is it the acute or sharp pain one gets with a muscle strain or sprain. It’s the “day after the workout” pain, that’s caused by micro tears in the muscle from exercising. (Hence the word “delayed”) This muscle discomfort is temporary, which eventually leads to stronger muscles and the ability to perform the same task better the next time around. For you nuts out there like me who want to increase the level of soreness after a workout, you can concentrate on eccentric contractions or negative repetitions. This is the phase of the exercise when you can slowly lower the weight or slowly lengthen the muscle. This causes more micro trauma to the muscle fibers than lifting the weight. Doesn’t everyone want more micro trauma? Micro trauma for everyone! (Never mind me) This is no reason to be sadistic and punish yourself while working out in leather. Results from exercising come from rest. Give your muscles 48-72 hours to recover before hitting that body part again. If you’re still sore from the previous workout, take some more time off that body part. If the soreness is very minor, go ahead and exercise, as the soreness will soon dissipate as blood gets to that area. Certain muscle pain or soreness can be a sign of serious injury. If your muscle soreness does not get better within a week consult your physician.
Relieving muscle soreness
To best way to avoid muscle soreness is to stop working out right? NO! Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs like ibuprofen can reduce soreness but it will not speed up the healing. Many athletes take an ice bath for soreness, so that’s an option. Gentle stretching after exercise helps blood flow and can alleviate blood pooling (the pump) in the muscle. (No wonder guys don’t stretch after working out!) Getting a massage from a licensed massage therapist can do wonders to relax tense muscles. While there is no scientific evidence that any of these remedies work, for many people (including me), it helps.
Is it necessary?
While DOMS is a great indication of an intense workout, it’s certainly not the only one. You don’t have to be sore after a workout to experience results. Admittedly, I know some people who hunger for muscle soreness after a workout and think they didn’t have a good workout if they’re not cripple a couple of days after. Can someone say masochism? Look, there are other benefits of exercise like neuromuscular adaptation, or increased range of motion, which improves your mind-muscle connection. As you get older you can appreciate that. There is also stress relief that comes from exercising. These goals will not get you sore like the process of muscle building, but the results can be just as important or desirable.
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All the best and God Bless,