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If you exercise regularly, muscle soreness is nothing new to you. You may experience it after stretching a tight body area or exerting force on a weak muscle to lift a weight repeatedly.
Body pains and aches are an inevitable effect of contracting the muscles beyond their existing capability level. Learn how to relieve sore muscles fast in six ways.
Muscle sores occur when the connective tissue surrounding the muscles sustains microtears during exercise, triggering an inflammatory response. While it’s associated with pain, it’s a normal part of the muscle growth process and positively affects the body. After healing, the muscles are back more robust.
There are two types of muscle soreness. Treatment is tailored depending on the type you sustain when doing fitness activities.
It’s a type of muscle pain felt instantly or up to 24 hours after your gym sessions. Two things can cause AMS — muscle fatigue and lactic acid buildup as a byproduct of energy production without oxygen.
For light aerobic exercise — like walking or casual biking — the muscles use oxygen to supply the active body parts with energy. But for strenuous routines, such as weight lifting and high-intensity interval training (HIIT), the oxygen can’t travel to the muscles at the same pace as they burn energy. As a result, they make energy anaerobically or without oxygen. The byproduct of this process is lactic acid which leads to immediate muscle soreness. It should be gone about an hour after you stop moving.
It’s a type of pain opposite to AMS, as soreness is felt 24–72 hours after a workout. In this case, pain is a positive response since the body recognizes its limitations. Restoration encourages the tissues to expand and grow to adapt to future requirements. The next time you exercise, you’ll have increased muscle tolerance and are less likely to get sore.
Generally, sore muscle indicates progress and muscle adaptation and is beneficial for health. However, it’s bound to have risks if it becomes excessive, so avoid overusing your muscles.
Thankfully, several home remedies can address muscle problems after fitness training. Learn how to relieve sore muscles fast in six ways.
It may seem counterintuitive to move when your muscles are already sore but stretching can help. It’s ideal for treating AMS after a demanding activity. When you move the aching muscles gently, you facilitate active recovery by boosting blood circulation and helping break down the accumulated lactic acid in the muscles. The key to preventing further damage to the body areas is to do mild stretches. Switching to low-impact yoga or Pilates following a stressful activity is a good option.
Cold therapy eases swelling and pain, slows blood flow and numbs the painful area. When applied to an affected area, it restricts the blood vessels to decrease blood flow and reduce inflammation. Ice has an analgesic property and is best for treating short-term aches, like muscle or joint pain.
Apply an ice pack to the sore area for 20–30 minutes for 2–3 days to alleviate muscle inflammation. Avoid over-icing as it can potentially cause skin damage.
Heat therapy has the opposite effect of cold therapy — it expands the blood vessels to increase blood flow and allow more oxygen and nutrients to reach the sore area, soothing pain over time. It can warm the muscles up, reduce joint stiffness and pain and ease spasms.
Apply heat to the injured area using a heating pad for 20–30 minutes. Alternatively, you can soak in a warm bath.
If you find it confusing when to use cold and heat therapy, remember to warm up before any activity and cool down afterward. Before exercising, apply heat to increase the joint’s mobility and use ice to soothe post-training discomforts.
Like heat therapy, massage also facilitates circulation by breaking up congested areas with pressure, enabling blood to flow more easily to the muscles. This blood carries oxygen and nutrients the body needs for recovery.
A study on mice found that applying repeated pressure to the injured leg muscles led to stronger and faster recovery. Researchers discovered that compression can squeeze the inflammation-causing cells out of the muscle tissue to allow healing.
Massage has many benefits, including stress relief and muscle recovery. A session after a stressful workout is the most relaxing way to end the training.
You can also minimize muscle aches naturally by tweaking your diet. Foods can heal through the anti-inflammation benefits and other nutrients they provide for the body. Make sure you have these options in your kitchen for optimum muscle recovery.
Whenever you work out, you lose lots of bodily fluids through sweat. You must replenish by hydrating during and after a workout. Water helps the heart pump blood easily and supports efficient muscle functions. Here’s a quick guideline for fluid intake.
Proper hydration through water, watery fruits or vegetables and sports drinks is crucial when you do activities that make you lose your body fluids.
While muscle pain is an inevitable aftermath of physical activities, you can reduce the severity of soreness with some strategies.
Avoid jumping to high-intensity routines immediately. Build your exercise starting from mild stretching to strenuous strength training. Doing so conditions your body to the increasing muscle demand.
While it’s tempting to squeeze a whole-body training into an hour session, you risk getting injured by transitioning between sets or reps without rest. Rest for a few seconds in between routines to help the muscles recover. Similarly, alternate muscle groups when training and assign rest days for healing.
Warm-ups help prime your body for training. Just like how a pilot performs a ground roll on the runway before taking off to get that necessary lift, warming up raises the body temperature and heart rate and increases blood flow to prepare the muscles for physical activities. It minimizes the risk of injury. Cooling down is as important as warming up to restore the body’s physiology to normal.
Soreness is a positive sign of muscle growth, so it’s OK to experience it after a satisfying workout. You can ease any body aches and pains by using cold and hot therapy, massage, eating healthy and hydrating. The pain should resolve in a few days, but if it doesn’t, check with your doctor if it’s a potential injury.