Does a case of the DOMS have you temporarily incapacitated?
DOMS, aka Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, is an acronym for being sore after a workout.
DOMS happens to the best of us, especially when beginning a new routine or working muscle groups we have not visited in a while. The pain can set in anywhere from 24 to 48 hours post workout and ranges from mildly annoying to debilitating pain.
Why do my muscles get sore, anyway?
As you contract a muscle while you are lifting it gets shorter, but on the way back (aka eccentric contraction), as you are lowering the weight, the muscle gets longer again. As the muscle gets longer, it gets torn, yes, little microscopic tears form in the muscle. These micro tears are what promote muscle growth.
Watch how Muscle Soreness is Explained in the video below. For an excellent technical explanation of what muscle soreness is and how it relates to muscle GROWTH and SIZE watch this video of Jeff with Athlean X.
So why do I feel sore?
The soreness is not caused by lactic acid, surprisingly. It is caused by increased nerve sensitivity which occurs as part of the healing process of all those microtears caused by lifting.
Don’t believe me? I was skeptical too. Watch the video below and judge for yourself.
OK, Do you know how to relieve sore muscles after workouts?
Here are 5 tips to help soothe those achy sore muscles.
Follow these tips to make it easier for you to get thru after-workout muscle soreness and get back to training hard sooner.
Tip #1 Sauna
Have you ever experienced runners high or just felt really good after a HARD workout. I know I have.
The high is caused by endorphins and other chemicals produced by our body.
How does this relate to muscle soreness and saunas?
OK, I will be honest, this tip surprised me, but as it turns out, a sauna produces the same feel-good chemicals as a hard workout.
Wow, it produces more endorphins than the workout itself? If the endorphins won’t kill the pain of sore muscles, I don’t know what will.
Disclaimer: This info is for informational purposes. Caution and common sense must be employed while using a hot sauna to avoid heat stroke or worse. As always, consult with your physician before initiating a hot sauna routine.
Tip #2 Heat Wrap
This tip makes sense given what we learned in tip number 1 about heat producing pain-relieving endorphins.
Heat wraps have been shown to be superior to cold wraps in scientific studies. Specifically, it is superior for DOMS, or post workout muscle soreness.
The study evaluating heat wraps and cold wraps on sore muscles concluded:
“the heat wrap provided superior pain relief at 24 hours post-exercise compared with the cold pack treatment of low back DOMS and appears to be contrary to the traditional practice of relieving acute muscular pain with cold pack therapy”
Will a cold pack help?
The study says that cold packs are good for acute injury (sprained ankle, bonk on the head), but not necessarily sore muscles so don’t throw out the cold pack.
However, the next time you find yourself unable to get out of bed due to sore muscles, fire up the heating pad, or get a hot wrap over the muscles to relieve the pain.
Tip #3 Deep Tissue Massage
Massage is commonly recommended for relieving sore muscles, and massage is backed by science. While it is not as effective as heat therapies, it has been demonstrated to partially reduce stretch pain.
Both deep tissue and superficial touch treatment have been shown to decrease pain sensitivity and perception in sore muscles.
Go ahead, splurge on that massage. Science says it helps, and you worked hard, you deserve it.
Tip #4 Compression Therapy
Compression garments have been shown to work to reduce muscle soreness. One study of trained athletes, who performed a rigorous weight lifting routine shows those who wore compression garments for 24 hours post workout had less soreness.
Can Compression gear reduce swelling?
One theory is that compression garments reduce swelling. In this study swelling of muscle tissue was examined via ultrasound and those in the compression garment group showed less swelling.
See our Guide to Compression pants here.
Tip #5 Foam Roller
Using a foam roller on sore muscles helps relieve soreness because it helps facilitate myofascial release.
Myofascial Release Defined: A manual tissue manipulation therapy designed to relax contracted muscles and increase lymphatic fluid and blood circulation around sore muscles.
The idea is that by increasing circulation fluid is removed from the sore muscles, expediting recovery. While there I not much science on foam rolling yet, it has many adherents, and the antidotal evidence is plentiful, so while including “foam rolling” on my list was a stretch, I wanted to roll it up onto my list.
FOAM ROLLING: How to Reduce Muscle and Joint Pain Tony humorously describes foam rolling and goes through a short routine in this video below.
If you are currently suffering from sore muscles I hope you found something here that helps.
Do you have a unique method on how to relieve sore muscles after workouts?
Let me know I the comments what your remedy is for sore post-workout muscles. I look forward to hearing from you!