It’s just as that old saying goes, “no pain, no gain.” Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) appears a day or two after exercise, usually when you start a new regime or switch up your exercise routine and increase your workout intensity or duration. When you work muscles with more intensity than usual, you cause microscopic muscle damage that results in that satisfying ‘muscle-ache.’
It’s a good sign that you are improving your fitness levels, but the soreness can range from unpleasant to debilitating.
Here are 8 ways to prevent and ease the pain of DOMS.
- Preparation is Important
Prepare your body for your exercise session by increasing blood flow and loosening your muscles. A short warm-up of five to 10 minutes cardio and some stretching will help prepare your muscles.
A cool-down is equally as important. Lower your breathing, body temperature, and heart rate at the end of your exercise session. According to a study back in 2012, a low-intensity cool down after strength training reduces soreness in the following days.
Stretch out the muscles you have just punished, and you’ll reduce the chances of stiffness and soreness the next morning.
- Keep on Moving
You probably won’t feel like moving those sore muscles on your resting days. But keeping active will keep the nutrients you need to aid recovery pumping through your blood.
Don’t try and push through the pain if you’re really suffering. Listen to your body and take a rest day if you’re struggling.
If you don’t want to skip a workout day, take a brisk walk, go swimming, or do some stretching or light yoga exercises to calm those screaming muscles.
Don’t hit the weights or do any high-intensity training that will only make the pain worse and increase recovery time. If you have a weekly workout plan, be flexible, and switch up muscle groups to avoid the risk of injury by working out tired muscles.
- Healing Foods
Having a well-balanced diet is vital for energy levels, strength, and restorative capabilities.
Protein is an essential nutrient for building muscle and recovering from an intensive workout. It’s scientifically proven to aid muscle recovery and boost athletic performance.
If you’re feeling particularly sore, consider anti-inflammatory foods, including leafy greens, blueberries, and strawberries. You’ll also want to get in antioxidant foods like turmeric and goji berries.
- Hot or Icy Cold Baths
Who needs an excuse to have a nice hot bath?
Dipping into a hot bath will dilate blood vessels, help muscles relax, and promote blood flow.
On the other hand, if you are brave enough, an icy cold bath will reduce swelling and inflammation by restricting the blood flow to the muscles in pain.
You could try Contrast Water Therapy too. Submerge your body in cold water to contract the blood vessels. Then move to a hot bath, which will give your body a rush of those vital nutrients that will help injured muscles recover.
- Bathing in Epsom Salts
Epsom Salts have been used for hundreds of years to ease a plethora of aches and pains. When dissolved in warm water, the salts break down into magnesium and sulfate, which aid muscle recovery and reduce inflammation.
You do have to be very careful when using Epsom Salts. Only soak for a maximum of 15-minutes, so you don’t absorb toxins already removed by the salts.
- Music to Your Muscles
There has been a recent surge of percussion massage devices onto the market. It’s not quite as musical as it sounds.
This gun-like tool is designed to beat your muscles into submission and aid recovery, increase your range of motion, and ease soreness.
Percussion massage devices offer powerful deep soft tissue manipulation. It provides a self-myofascial release, which decreases stress, pain, and tissue tightness.
This slightly uncomfortable massage (no pain, no gain) will get deep into those pesky ‘knots’ and will loosen muscles and help them return to their normal function by increasing blood flow.
A 2014 clinical study proved that vibration therapy and massage are both effective treatments for preventing DOMS.
- Pain Relief Tonics
There are many pain-relief options available at any pharmacy which will give you some relief from pain. We all recognize that heady smell of Deep Heat or Tiger Balm.
Liberally massage the potions or lotions into your sore muscles and let them sink into your muscles.
Don’t take painkillers to get you through another session at the gym. These will dull your pain receptors so that you might not notice any injuries as you put yourself through another workout.
If you’re taking it easy and resting, ibuprofen and aspirin are proven to combat the inflammation and swelling associated with DOMS.
- Stay Hydrated
We all know how crucial remaining hydrated is to the body. Scientists have shown a connection between being dehydrated and muscle soreness, fatigue, and DOMS.
A 2006 study showed that dehydration and DOMS are linked. Ensure you stay hydrated during your workout and keep yourself topped up with fluids in the evening and following morning.
Being fully hydrated minimizes the chance of DOMS. Water flushes out toxins from your body. When muscles break down, they release toxins and waste products that are related to post-workout pain. Flush them away by staying hydrated.
Delayed onset muscle soreness is, unfortunately, a necessary evil of having a good fitness regime. It is good to push yourself, but don’t overdo it and risk serious injury.
Becoming fitter is a journey that requires dedication. Try too hard to reach unrealistic goals, and you risk unnecessary pain that may cause you to quit your fitness regime altogether.
Allow your muscles to recover and learn to identify your limits. Delayed onset muscle soreness is a positive alert from your body telling you to ease off from training until you feel less-sore.
The optimal goal is to find the right balance between training and recovery, which allows you to continue to feel motivated and focused. Stick to an achievable training routine and use the tools that make you feel most comfortable during your recovery days.