Causes of Muscle Soreness After Exercising

Some muscle soreness is typical after exercise, especially if you are just starting a new routine or working a particular group of muscles. This soreness is felt a few hours after exercise, and it is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) or post-exercise muscle soreness (PEMS). It is a result of physical activity which stresses the muscles in the body beyond what it is used to, causing microscopic tears in the muscle fibers which become inflamed.

Factors that increase soreness after a workout are:

  • The volume training during any one time – the longer the time the muscles spend under tension
  • Resistance training with an eccentric component – this refers to exercises that causes the lengthening of the muscle as it contracts, which can strain the muscles

Muscle soreness is an indication that your muscles are adapting to your workout regime, leading to increased strength and stamina as the muscles rebuild . However, repeated, excessive muscle soreness may lead to injury to the muscles. If the soreness you feel is more than just some slight tenderness or you can’t move the muscle properly, you should not continue exercising, and see a doctor.

Easing DOMS

Here are some tips to deal with muscle soreness:

  • Rest between workouts: don’t work the sore muscles again until the soreness has gone in order to prevent injuring the muscle.
  • Warm up properly before a workout: this helps prepare the muscles for strenuous activity
  • Stretch after a workout: this helps to eliminate the lactic acid in the muscles which can worsen the pain and prevents stiffness by relaxing the muscles
  • Apply heat to the area of soreness or sauna: this increases blood flow to the area, aiding in the healing of the muscle fibers
  • Nutrition: maintaining a proper diet is important because protein is required to rebuild muscle fibers which have been stressed during a workout

However, be sure not to confuse DOMS with muscle pain or fatigue you experience during exercise. Delayed muscle soreness is different to the acute, sudden and sharp pain of an injury such as a muscle strains or sprain. DOMS normally occurs up to 24 hours after workout and lasts for another 48 hours, diminishing over time.

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