Exercise is something we should all engage in in order to stay healthy. By getting regular physical activity, we reap a lot of benefits associated with it. It can help with weight loss, can decrease fatigue, can reduce your risk of developing a chronic disease (such as diabetes and heart disease), can boost brain health, improve your memory and mood, and can even help the skin. It’s also great for your bones and muscles. However, if you’re someone who is more used to living a sedentary lifestyle and not used to exercise, then it’s not uncommon for your muscles to feel sore after a workout. In many cases, it may take a day or two following exercise before you notice the pain begin to set in, which is completely normal. This is referred to as “delayed onset muscle soreness” (DOMS), which can commonly occur as a result of beginning a new exercise routine or changing your exercise routine in any way, as well as increasing the intensity and duration of your workouts. When you make your muscles work harder, this causes microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, which is what results in them feeling sore or stiff.
Post-exercise muscle soreness and stiffness doesn’t just happen to people who aren’t used to exercise, however. It can happen to anyone. Even seasoned athletes. While it may cause one to lose their enthusiasm to want to continue to workout, the good news is that as your body and your muscles adapt to the new physical demands that you’re putting upon them, the soreness is something that should eventually dissipate over time, and you should even find that your stamina increases – meaning your workouts will start to get easier and easier.
As mentioned, DOMS typically does not develop until 1 or 2 days following a workout, ranging from mild to severe, and can occur between 3 and 5 days. Anything beyond that, or pain that is excruciating to the point where you can barely walk or move certain parts of your body, could mean that you have some type of injury, such as a sprain or strain. If this is the case then you’ll want to see your physician as soon as possible so that you not only avoid causing further damage, but so that you can also be referred to a physiotherapist if necessary. Typically, though, muscle pain as a result of workouts should go away on its own without any serious medical intervention being required. There are, however, certain things you can do yourself to try and ease symptoms and relieve pain.
Some things that can help reduce muscle pain include massaging the affected area, as well as alternating between applying hot and cold (such as heating pads and ice packs) to the affected areas. Heat helps to promote blood flow and also helps muscles relax, while cold can reduce inflammation and numb sore tissues. If you’re applying cold to the affected area, it is typically most effective when you apply it within 48 hours of an injury. Always avoid using extreme heat, as this can cause burns, as well as avoid applying ice directly onto the skin. Furthermore, ice should also be avoided if you’re at risk of cramping, as this could make the pain worse. When it comes to choosing between hot and cold, it all depends on the type of injury you’ve sustained, as well as about personal choice. If you’re unsure whether you should use hot or cold, don’t hesitate to ask your physician for their expert opinion. You can also try taking mild pain relievers, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen.
In order to prevent muscle soreness from exercise, always try to start gradual with any physical activity you do. By starting slow, you give your muscles more time to adapt to the changes which will hopefully minimize the amount of soreness you experience. It can also help to warm up your muscles by stretching both before and after your workout, although there’s no guarantee that this will fully decrease your risk of developing muscle pain or injuries.