If you’re a regular at the gym, you’ve probably experienced soreness at one point or another after your workouts. In most cases, the soreness comes after you’ve changed the intensity of your workout or when you’re trying something new and challenging your muscles in a different way. In most cases, soreness is nothing to worry about, but understanding it will help you decide when something is worth your concern.
What is Soreness
Soreness is just what it sounds like: your muscles feel tired or “burned.” Soreness usually appears with a dull, constant intensity. Pain, on the other hand, is sharp or jabbing. While it’s possible to experience increased soreness when you move in a certain way or put pressure on certain areas of your body, the feeling is still ongoing and always present, rather than acute or jabbing as you move. There are two types of soreness connected to exercise:
One is acute onset soreness, which happens during a workout. This type of soreness is related to muscle weakness or poor blood circulation, and it should go away on its own if you stop the exercise you’re performing and give your muscles time to rest and relax.
The second type of soreness is most commonly associated with exercise ,and it appears about 48 hours after a workout. This is known as delayed onset soreness. Depending on how much effort you exerted on a particular muscle, this type of soreness can last for up to a week.
How to Avoid It
There’s no true way to avoid soreness. The best thing you can do is to keep working out to give your muscles a chance to adapt to the activity. As muscles develop and become stronger, you are less likely to experience severe soreness every time you exercise. While you can’t completely avoid soreness, you can reduce the chance of serious soreness and pain with consistency and moderation. You can help ease the level of soreness by drinking lots of water after your workout and having a healthy meal of lean protein and complex carbohydrates. Foods high in potassium, like bananas, are also known to help.
Tips to Treat It
Soreness rarely needs treatment, as it’s not an injury and will go away on its own eventually. While you’re waiting for this type of soreness to pass, you can still exercise - but do so with caution. Putting too much strain on a muscle that’s already sore can lead to serious injury. To ease the soreness while you’re waiting for the muscles to recover, try a combination of ice and heat.
Essentially, apply ice (wrap it in a thin cloth or towel) to the muscle worked soon after your workout. Do this even if you don’t feel any soreness at the moment. This will keep any potential inflammation under control and provide instant relief. Once the delayed onset soreness kicks in a couple of days later, use heat to increase circulation and ease ongoing pain. You can even apply ice as soon as the soreness starts and then switch to heat a few hours later.
When to See a Doctor
Delayed onset soreness hits you the hardest 2-3 days after a workout. After that, the soreness will get milder and milder as days pass. If you notice the opposite happening - soreness getting worse, not better, as days go by - it might be time to see your doctor. The same is true if you notice any acute pain in a particular area or if the pain seems to be throbbing and jabbing even when you’re not moving or putting a load on the muscle. This could be an indication of an injury.
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