Written by: Marlee B
Sometimes a little muscle soreness can be pleasant. For some individuals, sore muscles are a “reward” after a workout, indicating that you’ve worked hard and reached a new level of athleticism or strength.
But when the soreness gets severe, it can become a pain in the gluteus maximus!
All of us have likely experienced muscle soreness at one time or another, but what is muscle soreness, exactly? Can you continue your workouts even when your muscles feel stiff? Should you want to be sore after every workout? And, what does it mean if you’re not sore?
These are common questions, and I’ll answer them all today!
What Is Muscle Soreness?
Muscle soreness is simply one of the consequences of vigorous exercise. It can happen after heavy weight lifting, a day on the speed track, or the stair climber at the gym. It’s a distinctive pain of micro-tears in your muscles after a new or unfamiliar exercise that often peaks a day or two after your workout.
Because of this delay, it is best known as DOMS (delayed-onset muscle soreness).
Medical science can’t fully explain the cause, but it is usually described as the consequence of mechanical tension, which simply means good old-fashioned lifting. Mechanical tension is the pulling force by means of a cable, band, chain, and so forth, and you might think that the heavier you lift, the more mechanical tension.
That’s true up to a certain extent, but it’s best to generate your maximum muscle force possible through a full range of motion during an exercise.
Though generally harmless, mild to moderate muscle soreness is more style-cramping and annoying than threatening. It can make everything from walking down the stairs to putting on your shirt or blow drying your hair feel unbearable. It is also completely normal and nothing to be alarmed about.
How to Get Rid of Sore Muscles
All people are at risk for DOMS, even extremely well-trained athletes and bodybuilders. The good news is that as muscles get familiar with a specific stress, they quickly adapt.
DOMS can also be relieved, and here are 5 effective ways to relieve and even prevent post-workout pain:
1. Perform Gentle Exercises
It sounds counter-intuitive but contrary to popular belief, the more you move, the faster the discomfort will go away! I suggest a leisurely walk instead of a hike up a mountain, gentle yoga instead of plyometrics, or bodyweight squats instead of loading up a barbell.
Consider it a form of “active rest” and whatever that form may be, don’t be tempted to skip out on it because once you get used to the exercise, you will beat the soreness.
2. Foam Rolling
As a form of massage, foam rolling can give you that “hurts so good” feeling. In fancy terms, it’s a self-myofascial release or self-massage to help release muscle tightness or trigger points, also known as “knots”. A method used by professional athletes, coaches, therapists and people at all levels of fitness, applying pressure to specific joints on your body aids in the recovery of muscles and assists in returning them back to normal function.
Normal function means your muscles are elastic, healthy, and have pain-free movement. Releasing trigger points will also help re-establish proper movement patterns to enhance performance. Foam rolling can be performed using a foam roller, a lacrosse ball, or even your own hands but as you roll and work on tight/sore muscles, you will experience discomfort or pain. It should be uncomfortable, but not unbearable.
When you finish, you should feel better because deep compression helps break up muscle knots, resuming normal blood flow and function. It is always recommended, however, to consult with your physical therapist or physician before starting self-myofascial release. Most people are cleared immediately and the practice is encouraged, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
3. Epsom Salt Baths
Epsom salt is a popular over-the-counter remedy for muscle soreness and other bodily aches and pains. Whether you use an Epsom salt compress, or a bath soak, the magnesium (a primary component of Epsom salt) is a mineral that helps relax skeletal muscles by flushing out lactic acid buildup in the muscles after a vigorous workout.
Magnesium also helps the body absorb vitamins to regulate nerve function. Not only that, Epsom salt has been shown to reduce swelling, relieve stress, improve circulation, soften skin, and improve mood. Just one Epsom salt bath a week can have an incredible impact on your health and emotional wellness and it’s super easy, too!
Just break out your favorite rubber ducky, fill your bathtub with warm water, add two to four cups of Epsom salt, and allow your mind and muscles to relax.
4. Drink Extra H20
Despite what beverage companies lead you to believe, water is the best choice for exercisers.
Water flushes out toxins from your body and prevents dehydration, which can make muscle soreness even more painful. While hydration is important both before and throughout your workout, drinking somewhere around 16 ounces of water for every pound lost after exercise is a good starting point.
Doing so will help prevent cramping and decrease muscle soreness.
5. Eat Right and Eat Enough
After you are properly hydrated, you can begin your stretching routine while also ingesting your post-workout snack (and for recipes, click here!).
A lot of people may dismiss recovery because it’s something too complicated or something they don’t have time for, but an effective way to accelerate muscle recovery is with food. There are two big reasons for this.
First, protein-rich foods provide amino acids which are the building blocks of your muscles and other body tissues. If you have sore muscles, you must get an adequate amount of protein in your daily diet to help your body repair its cells and build new ones. Some quick and easy protein snack ideas are an egg, a few ounces of lean cooked meat or fish, an ounce of cheese, or a meal replacement shake. IdealShape has the ultimate meal replacement, which has whey protein to help you feel full and support healthy muscles, bones, and skin.
Second, carbohydrates are important for energy as well as keeping your muscles healthy before and after being active. As your body’s main source of fuel, carbs help produce insulin, drive muscle building, and reduce post-workout soreness. Whole grain and low-fat carbohydrates like whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, nuts, and raw veggies are your best friends after endurance workouts because you will be able to digest them faster all while decreasing muscle soreness.