Sore post workout? Achy muscles? Tenderness days after training a body part?
You may be experiencing some DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) which may begin 12-24 hours post-workout and last 1-3 days thereafter. If you’re new to exercise or returning after any sort of break, one might worry whether intense soreness is room for concern or become too nervous that they end up quitting before the body has a chance to truly see any real results.
So, let’s bust those fears and misconceptions about training and soreness versus pain.
🧿 “Extreme soreness can happen occasionally, usually after you've done something your muscles aren't used to.”
For example, using your body in new ways and engaging those smaller, accessory muscles that aren’t used to being worked or that come into play when the larger ones fatigue, which creates a new stress to the muscles and body. This can happen any time you do something new or unfamiliar, even simply pushing yourself harder during a routine training session. Emphasis on eccentric movements (the lowering portion of an exercise) and plyometrics (jumping, impact) are more likely to produce muscle soreness as well.
Doing exercise and physically activity in simple terms you’re really creating damage to the muscle on the level of the muscle fibers - creating tears, which is exactly what is necessary in order to get stronger, leaner, etc. But, it‘s not that hard to push ourselves and do new things without realizing just how fatigued those muscles are until you experience that soreness that comes later on.
It’s not ‘bad’ or harmful to be sore, but the degree of soreness and it’s frequency and length can serve to help you determine if maybe you are pushing too much and may be overtraining. *Keep in mind, everyone’s tolerance level is different, this is where biofeedback is critical, and having a trusted expert to guide you (in person or coaching) is very useful.
🧿 Is soreness a bad thing?
Well not necessarily, but it shouldn’t be a regularly significant thing. If you do new or different exercise you may experience greater soreness. DOMS is the delayed soreness that starts 12-24 hrs post workout and lasts 2-4 days thereafter. If you go periods of time without exercising then pick back up where you left off, or you’re inconsistent with your training you may experience greater soreness.
Genetics, lifestyle and fitness level also play roles here. What’s important here is that you don’t shy away and avoid exercise because of soreness, find a balance. And if you do do activity or continue to train while fatigued or sore be extra cautious of form and execution as to not injure yourself which is common if you are typically challenging yourself and don’t like to give yourself a break. Vary your training intensities cyclically.
🧿 Should You Take a Painkiller to Relieve Muscle Soreness?
Popping some vitamin I (the street name for nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs [NSAID] such as ibuprofen, naproxen, and aspirin), can significantly reduce exercise-induced muscle soreness, but that relief might come at a price.
An ever-growing body of research has linked NSAIDs (including ibuprofen) to everything from cardiovascular issues and intestinal dysfunction to suppressed protein synthesis post-exercise.
Occasionally taking a couple capsules for muscle soreness is probably fine — but give some serious thought to using it regularly.
🧿 Here’s what you should be doing:
- light stretching, foam rolling and SMR/self-massage
- active recovery and light movement and walking
- hydrate! Plenty of water
- get enough protein (at least people 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per kilogram of bodyweight, if you’re unsure or just not getting enough add in BCAAs or protein shakes), and nutrient rich foods.
- try heat (avoid long periods of being cold)
- consider icing
- include tart cherry juice, pineapple, and curcumin.
- get enough of sleep and rest
For more information on this topic, check out the following studies:
Resources: Donnelly AE, Maughan RJ, Whiting PH. Effects of ibuprofen on exercise-induced muscle soreness and indices of muscle damage.
Gorsline RT1, Kaeding CC. The use of NSAIDs and nutritional supplements in athletes with osteoarthritis: prevalence, benefits, and consequences.Clin Sports Med. 2005 Jan;24(1):71-82.
Rahnama N, Rahmani-Nia F, Ebrahim K. The isolated and combined effects of selected physical activity and ibuprofen on delayed-onset muscle soreness. Journal of Sports Science. 2005 Aug; 23(8): 843-50.
Trelle S1, Reichenbach S, Wandel S, Hildebrand P, Tschannen B, Villiger PM, Egger M, Jüni P. Cardiovascular safety of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs: network meta-analysis.BMJ. 2011 Jan 11;342:c7086. doi: 10.1136/bmj.c7086.
Warden SJ. Prophylactic use of NSAIDs by athletes: a risk/benefit assessment. Phys Sportsmed. 2010 Apr;38(1):132-8. doi: 10.3810/psm.2010.04.1770.
Wharam PC, Speedy DB, Noakes TD, Thompson JM, Reid SA, Holtzhausen LM. NSAID use increases the risk of developing hyponatremia during an Ironman triathlon. Medicine and Science Sports and Exercise. 2006 Apr; 38(4): 618-22.