Nothing beats the rush of an intense workout. On top of promising actual progress, it makes you feel unstoppable.
That is until the next morning, where you can’t even stand up right. Has all the vigor turned to helplessness? That’s Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness.
In this article, you’ll understand more about what makes DOMS such a dreaded pain. What about it makes people reach for anything from NSAIDs to a percussion massager once it sets in? Stick around and find out how you can stop it, too.
Along with acute muscle soreness, this type of pain comes exclusively from physical activity. And that happens in more ways than you might expect.
Strength training first comes to mind, as it mainly targets skeletal muscles. But cardio-heavy workouts, like biking and uphill running, can also cause DOMS.
In fact, you don’t even need a conventional workout to make this happen. If you’ve ever taken one too many flights of stairs; or an entire Sunday doing chores – you probably know. After any level of activity that’s unfamiliar to your muscles, DOMS will follow.
That’s why athletes and fitness buffs have a love-hate relationship with this type of pain.
Under the right conditions, it’s an obvious sign of progress. But it can also hold you back once it sidelines you from your next workout.
During those intense bouts of physical activity, microscopic tears accumulate in the affected muscles. This triggers inflammation in such areas, which causes the pain. And contrary to the long-standing misconception, lactic acid buildup does not actually cause DOMS.
If you suspect your current affliction to be DOMS, here are some signs to look out for:
- You physically overexerted 12 to 24 hours ago
- Your muscles feel tired, weak, or tender to the touch
- Pain and stiffness in affected areas compromise range of motion.
- You observe swelling in the affected areas.
The bad news is that DOMS can keep worsening up to 3 days later. And that’s simply too long on the sidelines for most people.
The good news? You can easily deal with this problem at home – or anywhere, for that matter. It’s even possible to nip it in the bud before you leave the gym. Here are a few things to help you get it out of your way.
The massage gun is designed to let you reach every sore spot for a full body massage. And it’s powerful enough to interact with your muscle tissues’ inner layers. On top of that, it has a straightforward operation that lets you focus on relaxation and recovery.
All it takes is a quick hover around the problem area – no more than 2 minutes per muscle group. The goal here is to stimulate blood flow while letting your muscles relax, still. So don’t lean into it too much and move it around – unless you’re experiencing muscle tightness.
Your percussion massager sessions often work best when paired with gentle recovery workouts. The goal of making light movements and stretches is to help ease away the soreness and stiffness. This can also boost your blood flow and reduce inflammation.
Treating pain with something cold is the age-old trick that even athletes swear by. It might seem daunting, but it’s a tried and true method of instantly numbing the pain. And beyond that, it also promotes blood flow and fluid regulation by constricting and releasing your blood vessels.
Some gyms have ice bath facilities, but a bathtub loaded with ice works just as well. Conversely, you can also go for cold showers, or an ice pack over your sore areas.
While DOMS is inevitable for any workout that’s worth your while, it’s possible to avoid its worst. By taking a few extra steps on your workout days, you can make the ensuing soreness much more manageable.
- Drink water. Research shows that staying hydrated can reduce the effects of post-workout muscle soreness.
- Don’t skip your warm up and cool down routines. Warm ups ease your muscles into a workout, allowing you to put in more effort with less struggle. Cool downs, on the other hand, help with your muscle recovery and post-workout mobility.
- Follow a proper workout structure that’s reasonable for you. Allow yourself to gradually build muscle endurance as you grow into it. You might also risk injury by pushing yourself too much, too soon.
Experiencing soreness is an important part in the process of building muscle strength and endurance. In a way, it can also help you develop a more positive mindset.
While it’s completely valid to feel the need to push through the pain, it’s easy to lose sight of what’s still good for you. It could be the adrenaline. Or it could be that soreness has a handful of causes to consider, anyways. Either way, there are always signs that enough is enough.
- Sharp pains and muscle spasms
- Pain that comes with bad swelling and redness.
- Vomiting, dizziness and breathlessness
- Urine turning abnormally dark in color
Moreover, DOMS naturally resolves itself in less than a week. So if the pain persists and none of the aforementioned remedies work, don’t hesitate to check with your doctor.
While it takes physical and mental fortitude to reach your goals, powering through the pain becomes counterproductive at some point.
But listening to your body isn’t meant to hold you back. And neither should DOMS. By taking small but thoughtful measures, you can always be in the best possible shape for the next challenge.