Working it Out: The Reason We Feel Sore After Strenuous Exercise

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By Dr. Ravin Sodhi, D.C.

PUBLISHED ON September 9, 2023

We’ve all heard it said a thousand times before – No Pain, No Gain – and this is especially true for those of us embarking on strict workout regimens. Whether we’re trying to gain more muscle, lose weight, or simply start living a healthier lifestyle, most of us can expect the process to come with a significant measure of soreness – especially in the beginning stages.

What causes this soreness? How should we deal with it, if that’s possible? And when should we start being concerned about it? Read on for the answers to these questions, and all shall be made clear.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Explained

Whenever we participate in strenuous physical activity such as a workout, lifting unusually heavy loads, and so on, we may be prone to experiencing muscle soreness for anywhere between a day and two days afterward. This phenomenon can happen even to experienced gym goers and exercise fanatics if they raise the intensity of their workout or the resistance they place their muscles under.

The soreness you feel while experiencing this effect, which we refer to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), indicates that your muscles are attuning themselves to and recovering from the new strain. While many assume that muscle soreness is caused by the buildup of lactic acid in our muscles, the reality is that lactic acid dissipates from our systems within a few hours of our workouts. DOMS is caused by something else entirely.

Whenever we engage in intense resistance training, our muscle fibres and tissues incur tiny tears along their lengths. These tears cause inflammation, increased blood flow, and micro-swelling at times, making the muscles much more sensitive to movement and touch.

The important thing to note here is that as these micro-tears heal and repair themselves, your body builds up more muscle, thus making you stronger and more resistant to strenuous activities.

How to Deal With DOMS

Even though we recognize the fact that DOMS is a completely natural process that only indicates that we’re getting stronger, there are still a few useful pointers we can implement to avoid, mitigate, or eradicate the often uncomfortable effects of the condition.

These include:

  • Hydration: Take water at least 3-4 litres per day and take in electrolytes to replace what you lose during your workouts. Fruits and vegetables are also excellent sources of the nutrients that help reduce the symptoms of DOMS.
  • Variety: Focusing on one set of muscles day in and day out might contribute to chronic DOMS. To avoid this, alternate the muscle groups you work on daily so your muscles have time to rest and recover before exercising again.
  • Warm Up: One of our biggest mistakes in our workouts is failing to warm up appropriately. Take your time to warm up your muscles before any workout, and you will see a significant reduction in your DOMS symptoms.
  • Epsom Salts: By taking a bath infused with Epsom salts, you can soothe your muscles considerably thanks to the fact that Epsom salts are packed with magnesium, which boosts blood circulation and encourages muscle relaxation.
  • Physiotherapy: A good physiotherapist can help you recover quickly from mild to severe symptoms of DOMS. They will have the specialist knowledge required to help you regain your strength, flexibility, and resilience, putting you back on track to achieving your health objectives.

Final Thoughts

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, as we’ve seen, isn’t something we should be too worried about. Still, you should have it checked out if it persists for over three days, is extremely severe, or is accompanied by cramping, discoloration or significant swelling.

Should you have any doubts, questions, or concerns regarding your personal health and wellness regimen, contact the Active Life Wellness Center today for world-class chiropractic care, physiotherapy and holistic health guidance. You won’t regret it!

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