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After an intense workout you might have encountered muscle soreness often. This post-exercise muscle soreness is commonly known as delayed onset muscle soreness i.e. DOMS. DOMS lasts approx. 24 to 72 hours after a powerful workout. When you work out hard, your muscles tear apart and get stiff but this is the way they get stronger and repair rapidly by building more mass or fiber. This rebuilding process is called hypertrophy i.e. the increase in muscle size which leaves your muscles achy and painful. If your muscles are aching normally then it is okay but you must be conscious if they pain a lot of pain and the pain lasts more than 2 to 3 days.
“DOMS is most prevalent at the beginning of the sporting season when athletes are returning to training following a period of reduced activity. DOMS is also common when athletes are first introduced to certain types of activities regardless of the time of year. Eccentric activities induce micro-injury at a greater frequency and severity than other types of muscle actions.” – NCBI
DOMS is also known as Post-Workout Muscle Soreness or Stress. It happens when the sports person is not ready for the full body workout. In most cases, it subsides by itself. But when the pain escalates, you should get in touch with a doctor.
“There’s some research showing that the muscles can actually atrophy [or break down too much] when they get that sore—it’s almost like the muscle was overworked, and it can’t repair itself adequately,” exercise physiologist Joel Seedman, Ph.D., owner of Advanced Human Performance in Atlanta, Georgia.
Why Muscle Soreness (DOMS) Occurs?
DOMS is not the ordinary muscle pain or injury i.e. muscles strain or sprain that is usually caused to the muscles during the course of normal exercise. It is actually caused when your muscles break due to an intense workout. When you put extreme pressure on your muscles, they encounter microscopic tears which may also be caused when you do a new exercise or any activity that your muscles are not habitual of. For example, it may occur when you do push-ups, doing squats, descending stairs, due to a heavyweight exercise or any such exercise that exerts too much pressure on the muscle fiber.
The process these muscles undergo after a powerful exercise is called Eccentric muscle contraction often called braking contraction. In this process, the muscles lengthen after contraction. This is when too much force is exerted on the muscles; they oppose the force and return back to their original position.
How to Treat DOMS?
Delayed onset muscle soreness is a natural condition that may occur after exercise. Any bodybuilder or fitness freak may encounter this. The most important way to get rid of it is to take a break and give some time to you before returning it to your regular gym routine.
People have different experiences while treating this muscle soreness because some remedies do not work every time. However; there are few ways to treat it appropriately and to get rid of it as soon as possible. Some of them are listed below.
- The most appropriate treatment is to switch to the low-intensity aerobic exercises after a strong workout. This technique increases the blood flow to the affected muscles. The increase in blood flow helps to reduce swelling of the muscles.
- The most convenient and famous treatment many athletes follow is immediate icing and a hot water bath.
- Another effective treatment is the sports massage that works wonders. It also increases blood flow and reduces muscle inflammation and stiffness.
- RICE is an acronym for Rest/ice/compression and elevation. This technique is widely used by athletes all over the world for the treatment of muscle soreness. If you feel that you have overdone the exercise and encounter critical injury, you can use this technique to get rid of the muscle soreness as soon as possible.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs significantly relieve the inflammation and also speed up the healing process.
- Give it more time. DOMS is muscle soreness that will very much heal itself just like any other soreness. But you need to be conscious and limit workout until you recover completely.
WebMD says that, “try some light exercise such as walking or swimming, she suggests. Keeping the muscle in motion can also provide some relief.
“Probably the most important thing is to have a cool-down phase after your workout,” says Draper. Right before finishing, include 10 or so minutes of “easy aerobic work such as jogging or walking followed by stretching.”
How to Avoid DOMS?
You might have heard that prevention is better than cure. So it is always important to try to avoid the circumstances that may lead to any severe muscle injury.
The following are a few ways to avoid such injuries.
- You need to warm your muscles up before starting the actual exercise. If the muscles are tight during the exercise they will stretch and tear easily thus warming up really works.
- Do not start with the heavy exercise. Slow and steady wins the race.
- Increase your exercise time, speed and intensity by 10% weekly. Do not get overworked.
- Cooling down the muscles is important for the production of lactic acid in your blood which helps to relieve the muscles.
- Try to jog or do little movements as a cooling process for your workouts. It is better to head to a track after lifting heavy weights so that you can cool down easily. Don’t take a bath directly after workout as that will lead to muscle stiffness.