Have you ever felt some pain and stiffness in your muscles after an intense workout or sports activity? If yes, that’s most commonly called muscle soreness. Also called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), it’s a side effect of the stress you put on your muscles during exercise. Some experts suggest that muscle soreness is an indication of the muscles becoming stronger. The condition is caused due to the overtraining of your muscles that are otherwise not used to such intense activity. The pain and inflammation, as a result, indicate that the sore muscles are repairing, which makes the muscles stronger and larger. However, this is a slow process and takes time before your body sees any improvement.
To answer common questions and provide you with research-based information on muscle soreness, please keep reading this guide.
Common Causes of Sore Muscles
Some people attribute muscle soreness to physical activities that require great efforts. However, there are many other ways your muscles may become sore.
A human body needs water to function properly. Without adequate fluid, you won’t be able to do your basic activities, and may actually risk dehydration. Due to the low water level, you may feel muscle pain, headaches, and back pain, etc. To counter that, you should consume about 2 liters of water every day.
Muscle pain can also result from infection and poor health. People with severe health conditions such as anemia, arthritis, multiple sclerosis (MS), and pneumonia can feel severe muscular pain.
Healthy people and those with insomnia can experience pain in their muscles due to the lack of sleep. When you’re asleep, your body uses more energy in strengthening and repairing your muscles. However, if you’re sleep-deprived, your muscles have to work harder to keep up with the rest of your system.
If you’re a fitness geek or someone who performs strenuous fitness activities, there’s a chance of getting muscle injury. Due to an intense blow, the muscles in the affected area fail to absorb the shock, thus leading to rupture and tears. Sore muscles due to injury can last a little longer than common muscle soreness.
How Do You Know If You Have Sore Muscles?
Muscle soreness is itself the result of activities that use your muscles to a greater extent. However, there are some indications that can help you better understand if you have sore muscles.
One of the critical symptoms of sore muscles is stiffness and pain in the affected area. For example, after playing soccer, you may feel tenderness and discomfort in your lower leg muscles. Sometimes, your whole body can become sore after playing. It’s due to the stress and tension of your muscles, which shows you have soreness.
Besides localized pain, there are also secondary symptoms that indicate sore muscles. They are:
- You can’t breathe properly
- Rashes may appear on your body
- You can experience redness and swelling
- Dizziness or a feeling of spinning around
These secondary symptoms may not always appear and could be a sign of some other health condition. Soreness is common among athletes and sports players, but if it starts to get worse with time instead of healing, this may pose some threat.
How Do You Recover from Muscle Soreness?
There are many ways you can recover from muscle soreness. Each method depends on individual needs, muscle condition, and severeness of the problem, etc. Below is a list of different things you can do to relieve muscle soreness.
Home Remedies to Reduce Muscle Soreness
Common sore muscles can be relieved at home by using different home remedies. Most of the time, these techniques reduce pain and discomfort due to minor injuries and soreness.
The most effective, first-aid method to reduce ankle sprain, muscle pain, bruises, and swelling is to use RICE technique. RICE stands for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation.
Rest – You should immediately get some rest so the muscles are relieved, and the pain is reduced.
Ice – Applying an ice pack to the affected area helps to numb your sore tissues and reduce swelling and inflammation.
Compression – Compression bandage does the exact opposite of an ice pack. It increases blood flow and provides warmth, thus helping you recover fast.
Elevation – Another way of reducing blood flow to the affected area is to elevate it above your heart level. It can significantly reduce swelling and bruises. Elevation for up to 3 hours a day is effective.
Massage Therapy for People with Sore Muscles
Another effective way to reduce sore muscles is to use different massage techniques. Each massage type has its own method and is intended for a specific part of your body.
Deep tissue massage – This massage type applies high pressure to your sore area of the body. Usually, people with severe muscle pain and injury use this massage. During this 60-90 minutes of massage, the therapist will apply deep finger pressure to your muscles and connective tissues.
Sports massage – As the name indicates, this type of massage is intended for people with sports or fitness injuries. It also includes those who want to reduce muscle stress and improve flexibility and performance. The therapist will apply deep pressure along with soft strokes to target the affected muscles.
Aromatherapy massage – This type of massage is done by applying low to moderate pressure along with the application of essential oils. You have the choice to use a specific type of essential oil. Aromatherapy focuses on your head, legs, feet, back, and shoulder, etc. Like deep tissue massage, this one also lasts for up to an hour or more.
Stretches and Exercises to Reduce Muscle Ache
Stretches and simple exercises can significantly improve your condition and relieve pain due to sore muscles. There are many stretching techniques for different parts of the body.
Stretches for sore feet – People who stand and walk all day long may experience an annoying pain in their feet. To reduce foot pain, place your foot in front of the other so that the top of your back foot’s toe is perpendicular to the ground. Now, with that position, apply gentle pressure until you feel an adequate stretch in your feet. Hold this position for 20-40 seconds.
Stretches for lower back – Lifting heavy load and putting too much pressure on your lower back can cause muscle spasm and soreness. To reduce pain in your lower back and minimize soreness, sit in a chair and bring one of your knees up to the chest level by holding it with your hands. Make sure you’re sitting straight in a chair and that your other foot is resting on the ground. Hold this position for 20-40 seconds.
Stretches for chest muscles – Activities such as gymnastic, golf, tennis, and lifting heavy objects may result in soreness of your chest muscles. To help with chest muscle pain, sit in a chair with your both hands behind your head, while your elbows stretched out perpendicular to your ears. Keep stretching your elbows until you feel a stretch in your shoulder blades. Hold this position for 20-40 seconds.
Stretches for shoulder muscles – Pain and soreness in your shoulders can be annoying. To reduce that pain, sit straight in a chair and start taking deep breaths. Also, shrug your shoulders so that they touch your ear lobes, while still taking deep breaths. Inhale when you pull up your shoulders and exhale when you release them back. Repeat this multiple (15-20) times.
Acupuncture Technique for Sore Muscles
If you have chronic muscle pain and inflammation, you can give acupuncture a try. This technique uses the insertion of fine needles in certain areas of your body, which are called acupuncture points. These needles prompt your brain to increase blood flow to the affected areas, thereby reducing stress and relaxing the muscles. Acupuncture can be effective if done well, as the method can help with many other conditions as well.
When Should You Seek Medical Treatment for Sore Muscles?
If home remedies fail to provide any comfort and relief, and the person doesn’t show improvement even after physical therapy and massage, medical treatment is recommended. Here are a few signs you should seek medical advice.
- Home remedies and physical therapies fail
- Muscle pain is severe and needs instant relief
- Muscles are still sore after 3-5 days duration
- Secondary symptoms are present
- Other condition mimics sore muscles
Over the Counter Medications for Sore Muscles
Over the counter medication can help if the condition is not severe and is bearable. These medications include anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and naproxen. These are called nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAID). While some steroidal drugs may provide fast relief, others simply take some time before you see any improvement.
Seek Medical Advice for Muscles Soreness
If your muscles are painful and causing severe discomfort, even after trying over the counter medications, you should seek professional medical advice. Sometimes, the underlying problem may not be localized but instead due to some other medical condition. In such a case, your doctor may ask questions about your health history and any treatment you’ve been through. If the pain and stiffness are due to a medical condition, muscle soreness may not be limited to just one muscle but may rather prevail in many different parts of the body.
Injury and Fitness Devices for Sore Muscles
With an increase in falling risks, poor posture, sports injuries, and muscle pain, the sports and fitness industry is rolling out new devices to help with physical conditions. Here are a few things that you may find helpful for those with muscle soreness.
Compression sleeves – These are made of different fabrics and are worn on the wrist, feet, and knees. Compression sleeves provide optimum heat and compression to your injured area and increase blood flow for fast recovery from sore muscles.
Posture correctors – They are helpful if you have pain and discomfort due to the habits of standing and sitting incorrectly. Most people who used posture correctors and back braces saw an improvement in their back pain and muscle soreness.
Knee braces – They are specifically used to reduce pain and swelling of the knee joints. Due to intense sports and physical fitness activities, wear and tear may occur in your knee joints, which can lead to severe pain, muscle soreness, and swelling. A knee brace protects your knee from future injury while also providing support.
Insoles and shoes – Wearing improper shoes can cause foot, leg, and lower back problems. It’s because when your shoes and insoles are not supportive, they tend to cause imbalance and destabilize your whole body. Due to this, some muscles are overused and hence become sore and injured.
Tips for Post Workout Recovery to Reduce Muscle Soreness
Post workout recovery is essential to refill your lost energy reservoirs. Not only is it necessary for gaining strength and becoming tough, but it also aids in reducing sore muscles, inflammation, and sprains. Below are a few general tips for you to recover from muscle soreness.
Drink water – Water balances your alkaline pH level and ensures an optimum amount of minerals in your blood. These minerals such as calcium, potassium, and magnesium help with muscle soreness.
Eat healthy food – Nutrient dense food that has high quality protein, healthy fats, and vitamins can help repair your tissues and provide fuel for the muscles. It’s not good to delay your meal after a workout.
Catch some Zzz – Sound sleep is one of the most important factors for muscle recovery. The body releases growth hormones during sleep. These hormones ensure tissue repair and growth.
RICE technique – Rest, Ice, compression, elevation help you reduce muscle pain and inflammation due to severe injury. It’s better to give one or more of this technique a try for faster recovery.
Muscle soreness is common among athletes, sportspeople, and fitness enthusiasts. It shouldn’t be a big problem if you have sore muscles after sports or fitness activity, as there are many different ways you can get relief. The first thing to do after your muscles become sore is to get some rest. While as simple as it sounds, many people don’t have a recovery plan after a workout. You can then use home remedies to relieve pain and swelling. If the condition still fails to improve, you may use over the counter medications or, in rare cases, seek a physician’s help.