When you work out, you create a stronger, more toned physique and healthier heart. But the first few days of a new routine can be rough. If you haven’t exercised in a while or you change your routine to work your muscles harder or in different ways, you’ll probably experience some soreness after working out. Depending upon how hard you’ve challenged your muscles, the soreness could make it hard to get around for a few days - much less exercise. What causes sore muscles after working out, and what’s the best way to soothe those aching muscles?
After-workout soreness is often referred to as DOMS, an acronym for delayed onset muscle soreness. In a nutshell, DOMS happens because you’ve worked your muscles hard enough to cause microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. When muscle fibers are injured, they become inflamed, sore and stiff. In a sense, having sore muscles after exercise is a sign you’ve worked your muscles hard enough to adapt - and get stronger. But that doesn’t make the aches and stiffness any easier to deal with.
You may be tempted to reach for a bottle of
non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medications like Advil for your sore
muscles. Not so fast. According to a study published in the German
Journal of Rheumatology, taking Advil or other NSAID for sore
muscles after exercise can delay healing. Dulling the discomfort
with medications also masks the pain enough that you may overdo it
and cause injury.
So, should you keep working out even if you’re sore? You may feel like nursing your aching muscles by resting in an easy chair for a few days, but don’t do it. Inactivity will only stiffen sore muscles and make the discomfort worse. Keep moving, but do light exercise like walking and stretching until it’s less painful – or head to the pool and swim laps to keep the blood pumping and prevent stiffness. If you’re only sore in the lower body, you can still do upper body strength and conditioning exercises.
The good news is after workout soreness usually goes away within a few days to a week. In the meantime, apply warm, moist heat to the sore areas until they improve. Heat increases blood flow to the muscles and removes chemicals that trigger the brain to feel pain.
Don’t let soreness after working out keep you from achieving your fitness goals. Your body naturally adapts to the stress of working out, and you usually won’t experience the same degree of soreness again unless you drastically change your routine. Soreness after working out is a “rite of passage” that most people when they start to exercise – and it doesn’t stick around very long.