Everyone’s had one of those workouts where we push ourselves just a little too hard. The next day, you’re sore, achy and can barely move. Ouch! Even if you’re in great shape, delayed onset muscle soreness – also known as DOMS – happens. It’s caused by microscopic damage or little tears to your muscle fibers, which leads to inflammation of muscles and joints. DOMS occurs after exercise that’s too intense, too challenging or went on for too long.
During the workout, you probably felt fine. DOMS doesn’t usually set in for a day or two. You’ll likely know it when you feel it, but here are some signs you overdid it at the gym.
Muscle soreness symptoms
- Achy, painful sensation in muscles; areas tender to touch
- Soreness or aching increases when muscles are stretched
- Muscle feels fatigued
- Joint and muscle stiffness
- Reduced range of motion
- Short-term muscle weakness
How to help sore muscles
Once DOMS kicks in, you may be dealing with it for 24 to 48 hours, sometime longer. Luckily, there are some things you can do to ease the pain.
The most crucial step is to really to give your muscles time to rest and repair themselves. But if the discomfort is overwhelming, there are some treatments you can try to ease stiffness and pain in the meantime.
Use a foam roller to gently roll out and stretch your sore muscles. You could also get a professional massage, but go for a “gentle” session – no deep tissue work.
2. Gentle stretching
Although you want to avoid excessive stretching, some mild, easy stretching can help to relieve some of the pain.
3. Take a cold bath
Some people find that a 10 to 15 minute full-body cold water bath helps to lessen DOMS. Add ice to really chill the temperature.
4. Take a warm bath
If a cold ice bath isn’t your thing, try soaking in a warm tub. “Moist heat” from a warm bath may also ease any stiffness you may be experiencing.
5. Apply topical analgesics
These products are typically a menthol-based topical creams that can help relieve muscle and joint pain. Simply apply to sore areas and let them sink in.
6. Try active recovery
Active recovery involves very low intensity and light exercise just to keep your blood flowing and muscles moving to help prevent even more stiffness. Activities such as light and gentle walking, swimming and biking all work well.
How to prevent muscle soreness
Warm up and cool down
Make sure to hydrate before, during and after your workouts.
Watch your intensity
Push your training and workouts to the next level one step at a time. Remember, there’s no rush!
Schedule rest days
Rest days are important for both your mind and body. If you have a hard time doing nothing, schedule an “active” recovery day involving a fun activity like hiking, roller blading or swimming.