DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) is a common issue with everyone involved in fitness. So you might be wondering why you get it and what you can do to reduce or relieve it.
There is nothing worse than waking up the morning after an intense workout, getting out of bed and realising that stairs are going to be an issue today (I find walking down sideways helps!) Sometimes you might think you’ve gotten away with it, only for it to turn up the day after instead. This is because it can take any time between 24-72 hours for muscle soreness to kick in.
How you know you’ve got DOMS:
Your muscles will feel tender to the touch
You may temporary loss of strength and fatigue in the muscle
Your range of motion will be reduce and muscles will be stiff
What is it?
Tiny microscopic tears in your muscle fibres resulting in an inflammatory response.
What causes it?
It was your first workout in a while
You were performing new exercises
You were performing eccentric exercises (controlled lengthening of a muscle under load)
So what can you do to reduce the soreness and recover properly? Here are my 5 Top Tips:
Probably the most boring and obvious tip but a lack of electrolytes contributes to the soreness so it is important to keep hydrated during a workout as well as afterwards. You want to make sure you are replacing the amount of fluid you may have lost in the workout when you’ve finished. Also making sure that your protein intake is sufficient as protein aids with repairing. If you need help with understanding how much protein (and carbs/fats) you should roughly be eating a day there are plenty of online macro calculators you can use or feel free to message me for help.
2) Light Exercise/Stretching
You might want to cry at the thought or moving again right now but actually active recovery will aid with circulation as well as gently stretching the muscles in pain. It will feel horrible at first but once the blood starts flowing and your muscles start to get warmed up you’ll start to feel better. This can be anything from a walk, gentle jog or cycle or some dynamic stretching/body weight exercises.
3) Massage/Self Massage techniques
Massage can be a massive benefit to recovering from muscle soreness and injury prevention. The benefits include: reducing the stiffness in the muscle, raising the blood circulation, improving the tissue elasticity and improving your range of motion. Also you might find it hard to put the pressure needed on yourself if you are feeling a little tender. However, if you can’t fit a massage in there are self-release techniques you can perform on yourself using a tennis or lacrosse ball and foam roller combined with stretching. Check out my Instagram @ajfitness__ where I will be posting more of these techniques you can do at home.
4) Cryotherapy (Cold Therapy)
Cold is good for the initial alleviation of pain and the reduction of inflammation. What you could use:
- Ice pack
- Cold compress
- Cooling creams and gels
- Silica gel packs
- Wet towel/sponge
- Immersion (if you’re brave enough!)
Application times depends on tolerance or area but generally between 5-20 mins every couple of hours. However make sure you use a barrier between ice and skin, e.g. towel and monitor for any circulation loss. You might want to avoid if you suffer from Vasospasm i.e. Raynaud’s disease, cold urticaria or some autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis.
5) Heat Therapy
Heat is a good option for increasing blood flow to the area, increasing soft tissue extensibility and increasing nutrient delivery to the damaged tissue. Heat is also good for general and local relaxation. Some options you could use:
A warm bath (my personal favourite)
Hot water bottle
Infrared lamp (if you have one of those handy)
However, it isn’t a good idea to use heat in the acute phase (early stage) of any injury when there is inflammation present.
So next time you wake up feeling a little sore, try out some of these and see how you recover faster!