One day you’re pleased with yourself for finally painting the guest room or spending an extra half hour on the rowing machine. The next day you can barely brush your teeth because you’re sore all over. You probably have a case of delayed onset muscle soreness.
That achy feeling is caused by microscopic tears in your muscle tissue, which lead to inflammation and discomfort. It’s most likely to appear about 1 or 2 days after you engage in a strenuous activity or a task that you’re not used to doing.
While it’s nothing serious, there are some things that will relieve the pain and some things you’re better off avoiding.
Worst Advice for Treating Sore Muscles
1. Become a couch potato. Inactivity will prolong your soreness. Daily conditioning is better for your body than popping into the gym once every three months.
2. Assume all pain is the same. Sudden pain requires a different approach. Stop what you’re doing. Get medical attention if needed for muscle strains and tears.
3. Worry about lactic acid. Experts used to believe that soreness was caused by lactic acid buildups. Research now shows that lactic acid dissolves almost instantly after exercising.
Instead, Help Your Sore Muscles
1. Stay active. Moving around increases blood flow. That circulates more oxygen and nutrients to all your body parts so they can heal and grow stronger.
2. Cross train. Alternating between kayaking and running targets different muscles. Give your arms a day off and work your legs instead. Head for the pool instead of the jogging track.
3. Intensify workouts gradually. Increasing your workout load by 10% or less a week is a good rule to follow. That means running 11 miles if you usually do 10.
4. Drink water. Dehydration weakens muscles and makes them more prone to soreness. Carry a water bottle with you to the gym. Sip water all day long.
5. Cool down and stretch. Schedule about 5 to 10 minutes at the end of each workout for gentler movements and flexibility training. Bicycle slowly or walk in place. Perform a few static stretches. Move slowly and evenly. Hold each position without straining or bouncing.
6. Get a massage. Book a session with a sports massage specialist or watch a video about how to perform a self-massage. There are many effective techniques you can use at home or anywhere.
7. Practice visualization. Visualization and meditation can decrease pain without any harmful side effects. Sit down and imagine your breath soothing away all discomfort.
8. Apply ice. Ice works best when applied at the first sign of soreness. Protect your skin by wrapping a towel around an ice pack or a bag of frozen vegetables.
9. Use heat. Heat can aggravate inflammation, but it also relaxes muscles and reduces spasms. Take a warm bath or apply a heat pack. Ask your doctor about ultrasound and electrical current treatments.
10. Visit a health food store. Some people get positive results from certain herbs and vitamins. You may want to try vitamin E supplements or willow bark tea. Tell your doctor about any substances you use to ensure they’re suitable for you.
11. Take a pain reliever. Many over-the-counter products provide quick relief. Aspirin and ibuprofen are often recommended because they treat both pain and inflammation. If you use pain relieving creams, avoid tight bandages or heating pads to prevent skin irritation.
Regular physical activity helps you to live a longer and healthier life. You can get fit without any muscle soreness, but for occasional soreness due to over activity, try these tips for some quick relief.
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