Have you ever woken up the day after a workout, only to find your legs are so sore you can barely get out of bed?!
You’re not alone.
Muscle soreness is incredibly common after exercise, particularly if you’re new to it, returning to the gym after time away, or trying out a new activity or routine.
Here are some of the questions our fitness experts are most frequently asked about muscle soreness:
Why are my muscles sore after working out?
Muscle soreness is totally normal after working out – it doesn’t mean there’s a problem or that you’ve done anything wrong.
When you exercise damage or micro-tearing can occur in the muscles. When this happens, the body tries to start the healing process by triggering inflammation at the site of the injury. Fluid then accumulates in the muscles, increasing the pressure on the damaged areas and causing the feeling of tightness and soreness.
You are most likely to experience muscle soreness after:
- Starting an exercise programme for the first time
- Introducing a new type of exercise to your routine
- Increasing the intensity of an exercise in your routine
- Repeating the same activity many times, without enough rest
What is acute muscle soreness?
Muscle soreness that you feel immediately after working out is known as acute muscle soreness. Often experienced as burning pain, it is caused by a build-up of metabolites within the muscle. Acute muscle soreness tends to pass quickly.
What is delayed onset muscle soreness?
Also known as DOMS, delayed onset muscle soreness is the muscle soreness you feel in the days after exercise. This type of muscle soreness is caused by tiny tears in your muscle fibres and the surrounding connective tissues.
Delayed onset muscle soreness often occurs if you exercise in a new way or have a more intense workout than usual. The pain and discomfort usually start within 6-8 hours of exercise and can last for between 24-48 hours.
How long does muscle soreness last?
Muscle soreness usually subsides within a couple of days. If your muscle soreness lasts for more than 72 hours, it’s a sign that you pushed yourself too hard during your workout and should take it easier next time.
If you’re still in pain after 7 days or more, then you should seek medical attention to check there isn’t any damage.
Should I work out with sore muscles?
Sore muscles shouldn’t stop you from exercising. In fact, exercising can actually help to reduce muscle soreness. However, the muscles do need time to heal. So, if you’re suffering from really sore muscles in one area, try focusing on another workout
for a couple of days to give them time to rest and recover.
Focusing on your legs one day and your upper body the next, for example, will allow you to keep exercising without pushing your muscles too far.
Does muscle soreness mean I’m unfit?
Absolutely not! Muscle soreness can affect anyone, even professional athletes. While many people worry it’s a sign of weakness, it’s actually a sign that your muscles are getting stronger.
How to get rid of muscle soreness
There are a number of ways to help get rid of muscle soreness after working out.
Applying heat to the muscles immediately after exercising can help reduce delayed onset muscle soreness, particularly moist heat. Try adding applying a warm, damp towel or wet heat pack, or take a warm bath.
Epsom salt bath
A warm soak in Epsom salts can also help reduce muscle pain and inflammation.
Using a foam roller can help relieve delayed onset muscle soreness, as well as help with muscle fatigue and support flexibility. Simply place the foam roller on the floor underneath the muscle that’s causing you pain, and slowly roll your body over it.
While it might be tempting to rest up while your muscles are sore, you really need to keep moving. Yoga, stretching, or light cardio are particularly effective.
What to eat for muscle soreness?
Eating within half an hour of your workout can help muscle soreness, giving your muscles the nutrients they need to repair and grow back stronger.
Protein is important for the amino acids needed to rebuild your muscles, while carbs also help replenish the fuel your muscles used during the workout.
Some research has shown that eating anti-oxidant rich foods can provide relief from muscle soreness, so try to eat foods such as watermelon, pineapple, and ginger if you’re feeling sore after a workout.
Taking supplements such as curcumin, fish oil, or omega-3 can also be beneficial.
How to prevent muscle soreness
Follow these tips to help prevent muscle soreness after exercise:
Staying hydrated during and after your workout is essential if you want to avoid muscle soreness. When you’re properly hydrated, fluids keep moving through your body, easing inflammation and delivering nutrients to your muscles.
After your workout, cool down with a light walk or jog, or some gentle stretching. This will help to return your heart rate and breathing to normal while keeping blood flowing to your muscles.
While it can be tempting to jump straight into a new routine, this increases the risk of muscle soreness. Instead, ease yourself into any new routine gently, over the course of several days or weeks.
A thorough warm-up will help protect your muscles and ensure they’re ready to work.
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