Everyone has experienced that unpleasant feeling of sore muscles after exercise. They are not just uncomfortable, but also can disrupt your day-to-day activities. If you’ve ever experienced this before, you know how frustrating muscle soreness can be. Not only do you feel like you have been hit by a train, but it also feels like your body is betraying you.
In addition to being uncomfortable, muscle soreness can be a sign that you should ease off on the workouts for a while and give your body time to recover. Whether you're new to strength training or have been at it for some time now, it’s normal to occasionally get those unpleasant twinges from training too hard or not challenging yourself enough. Fortunately, there are some things you can do to help prevent the onset of muscle soreness and keep coming back for more.
What Is Muscle Soreness?
Muscle soreness is typically a result of microscopic tears that happen to the muscle fibers during exercise. When you work out, your muscles are put under stress. They are forced to contract to push and pull your bones, over and over again. This results in microscopic tears called damage to the muscle fibers. This damage is what causes the muscle soreness you feel after a strenuous workout session.
Your body reacts to this damage by sending blood to the site to aid in the recovery process. As blood flows through your muscle fibers, they swell. The combination of broken-down muscle fibers and swelling results in that sore feeling we all know too well.
Muscle soreness is a condition that causes some degree of pain in the muscles. It can happen during or after a workout. When you overwork your muscles, they may get sore. It’s very common. Sore muscles are also common in beginners who are trying a new type of workout for the first time.
You can experience muscle soreness when lifting weights, playing sports, or doing any type of exercise that causes your muscles to be stressed to a point where they are challenged to grow and adapt. It’s common to experience some muscle soreness after a new type of workout or if you haven’t exercised in a while. However, if you’re on a regular workout schedule and you experience sore muscles every time, you may be overdoing it.
What Is the Main Cause of Muscle Soreness After Exercise?
One of the main causes of muscle soreness is a lack of blood flow to your muscles. When you exercise, your muscles need more oxygen to produce energy for an optimal workout. When your muscle fibers are deprived of oxygen, lactic acid builds up. This causes muscle fatigue, which results in muscle soreness after exercise.
Muscle strain and the buildup of lactic acid during exercise are the main culprits behind the muscle soreness you feel the day after a vigorous workout. If you feel extreme muscle soreness, particularly 24 hours after a workout, it might be a sign that you’ve overworked your muscles and need to ease off for a few weeks.
Soreness after exercise is not caused by a specific type of exercise, but by overdoing it both in intensity and duration. That is why it often occurs after a new workout or after a period of inactivity (such as during a long vacation).
After exercise, your body experiences micro-tears in the muscle fibers. This is the mechanism through which the muscles grow and adapt to new challenges. While the process of muscle damage is normal and necessary, an excessive amount of damage is not.
The main cause of muscle soreness after exercise is muscle damage. When you exercise, your muscles contract. At the same time, they experience a small amount of damage. This damage is repaired when you rest. When you exercise too much, more damage is done than your body can repair during the rest period. An excess of accumulated damage isn’t fully repaired and manifests itself in soreness.Fitness exercise photo created by Freepik - www.freepik.com
Why Do We Feel Muscle Soreness After Exercise?
Exercising causes microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. This is normal, and it’s actually a sign that you’re challenging your muscles. The muscle soreness you feel after a strenuous workout is a result of the body’s natural response to heal and repair the damaged muscle fibers.
During a workout, your muscles are put under stress. When you lift heavy weights, your muscles contract. They are forced to push and pull your bones, over and over again. This results in microscopic tears called damage to the muscle fibers. This damage is what causes the muscle soreness you feel after a strenuous workout session.
Muscle soreness is the result of lactic acid building up in your muscles. When you exercise, the demand for oxygen is higher than your body can supply, which means that your body breaks down some of its stored carbons to be used as fuel. This is the process that produces lactic acid, and it’s the main reason behind muscle soreness. Lactic acid causes muscle soreness by restricting the normal blood flow and flow of nutrients to the muscles and temporarily hindering the removal of waste products in your body.
Lactic acid is also thought to be responsible for the burning sensation that many of us experience during intense exercise. It is also involved in the cramps that occasionally occur during exercise, especially when you’re new to exercise or working out too intensely. Muscle soreness is not just a sensation felt in your muscles, but in other parts of your body as well, including your tendons and ligaments. That’s why some people experience soreness in their shoulders, wrists, and hands after a rigorous workout.
How to Get Rid of Muscle Soreness?
There are a few things you can do to help relieve muscle soreness. The first step is to avoid exercises that affect your lower body, such as squats and lunges, for a couple of days. You can also apply ice packs to the affected areas for 15-20 minutes each every two hours. Closing your legs and rolling a tennis ball, lacrosse ball, or golf ball along the muscle fibers can help ease the pain. You can also take a hot shower or bath to loosen your muscles and reduce swelling. Stretching is also a great way to relax your muscles and speed up the recovery process.
There are no proven ways to prevent muscle soreness entirely, but there are a few things you can do to help ease the pain and get back to your regular activities more quickly.
1. Stretch - The best way to counteract the effects of lactic acid and reduce muscle soreness is to stretch regularly. You can also stretch as soon as you finish your workout to help reduce any muscle soreness.
2. Try a warm bath - Spending some time in a warm bath filled with Epsom salts can help reduce muscle soreness by relaxing your muscles and increasing blood flow.
3. Get enough sleep - Getting enough sleep is important for your health and fitness, but it can also help relieve the pain associated with muscle soreness.
4. Eat a balanced diet - Eating plenty of nutritious foods can help you recover faster from muscle soreness.
5. Drink plenty of water - Drinking enough water can help reduce muscle soreness by keeping your muscles hydrated and your electrolyte levels balanced.
Strategies to Prevent Muscle Soreness
Luckily, there are a few things you can do to prevent muscle soreness and keep working out.
1. Be aware of overtraining. If you notice that you’re working out too often, for too long, or with too much intensity, it might be a sign that you’re overtraining.
2. Choose the right exercises. Make sure you’re performing exercises that challenge and strengthen your muscles without putting them under too much stress.
3. Warm up and cool down. Make sure to warm up with a light exercise before doing an intense workout or lifting weights. This helps prevent injury and promotes blood flow to the muscles, which reduces muscle soreness.
4. Take rest days. Your muscles need time to repair and rebuild after a strenuous workout. That’s why it’s important to take rest days and allow your body to recover.
5. Eat enough calories. Eating enough calories is important for your overall health, but it can also help prevent muscle soreness.
6. Use the right equipment. Using the right equipment (e.g., proper footwear and appropriate weights) can help prevent injury and reduce the extent of muscle soreness.
What Are Some Ways to Treat Muscle Soreness After Exercise?
You can reduce muscle soreness in the short term by following the above tips or taking some supplements, such as fish oil, a multivitamin, and magnesium. Muscle soreness is a normal part of exercise, especially if you’re doing something that challenges your body in new ways. Soreness is your body’s way of letting you know that you’ve pushed it too far and that it needs time to heal and adapt.
Ways to Ease Muscle Soreness in the Short Term
1. Take a hot bath with Epsom salts. Epsom salts are a natural muscle relaxer. They also help reduce muscle spasms and swelling.
2. Massage your sore muscles. A gentle massage can help reduce swelling and promote blood flow to your muscles.
3. Eat a balanced diet. Make sure to consume plenty of nutrients, such as protein, vitamin B, iron, and magnesium. They will help speed up the recovery process and reduce muscle soreness.
4. Sleep well. Lack of sleep can slow down the recovery process.
5. Take an ice bath. Applying an ice pack to your muscles can help reduce muscle soreness. You can also try soaking in an ice bath to alleviate the pain.
6. Drink plenty of water. Drinking water can help reduce muscle soreness by keeping your muscles hydrated.
7. Use heat. Applying heat to your sore muscles can help them relax and recover faster.
8. Stretch. Stretching can help restore your muscles to their normal state and reduce the extent of muscle soreness.
Some soreness is unavoidable, but there are things you can do to ease the discomfort, such as drinking enough water to stay hydrated and eating foods that are rich in omega-3 fatty acids. Some research suggests that ginger may ease muscle soreness, especially for people who spend a lot of time on their feet, such as runners and soccer players. From relieving pain to improving circulation, find out how rubbing sore muscles can help them heal and feel better.Man holding kettlebell photo created by Freepik - www.freepik.com
Should You Workout With Sore Muscles?
No, you should not. You should never try to push through the pain of muscle soreness. It isn't normal, and it's a sign that you need to back off. You don’t have to let muscle soreness stop you from working out. However, it’s important to ease into your routine and take it slow when you first return to the gym. Start with lower intensity or lighter weights, or take some rest days. If you experience extreme muscle soreness, particularly 24 hours after a workout, you might have overworked your muscles.
In that case, it’s best to scale back on your workouts for a few weeks until your muscles have fully recovered. It’s important to remember that the goal of exercising is not to feel pain. Your muscles don’t need to be sore to be challenged. While it’s normal to experience some muscle soreness, if it’s too much, it’s a sign that you need to take a break from your routine and let your muscles recover.
Muscles Need Time to Repair and Rebuild
Muscle soreness typically lasts between 24-72 hours after a workout, but it’s different for everyone. It all depends on the intensity and the exercises you did during your workout. If you experience extreme muscle soreness, particularly 24 hours after a workout, it’s a sign that your muscles are overloaded and need time to repair and rebuild.
If you notice that your muscle soreness lasts longer than a week, you might be overtraining. When that happens, your muscles need more time to recover, as they are being challenged too frequently. If you experience muscle soreness once in a while, don’t worry. It’s completely normal. All you have to do is follow the tips above to help relieve the pain and speed up the recovery process.
Exercising at a high intensity for long periods of time increases the amount of lactic acid produced. When you finish exercising, your muscles are sore because they're broken down and need time to repair and rebuild. This means you should allow your muscles ample time to rest and recover. Your muscles are most able to repair themselves when they're not being used. This is when they're rebuilding themselves stronger and bigger than before.
Tips to Relieve the Pain of Muscle Soreness
You can reduce muscle soreness by following the above tips or using some over-the-counter painkillers, such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin.
- Drink plenty of water - Water can help flush your body of lactic acid and reduce muscle soreness.
- Apply heat - Applying heat to your sore muscles can help reduce swelling and promote blood flow. - Stretch - Make sure to stretch your muscles slowly and gently. This will help improve your flexibility and reduce your risk of injury.
- Ease up on your workout - This may be difficult, but it is essential if you want to avoid muscle soreness.
- Rest - Rest days are important if you want to stay healthy and fit. Your body needs rest to recover and repair itself.
- Sleep - Getting enough sleep at least 7-8 hours a night is essential. It helps with the muscle repair process, while also keeping your immune system strong.
- Eat right - Eat the right amount of protein, which is about 0.8 grams per pound of body
There are times when you can’t avoid feeling sore after a workout. And while it might temporarily disrupt your day-to-day activities, it’s a good sign that you challenged your muscles and pushed yourself to the next level. The key is to listen to your body and know when to back off and let your body rest and recover.