Ouch!!! Remember the other weekend when I told you how soreeee my body was after Thrust-O-Rama? Well it got me thinking, and got me a bit mad. I also felt like a bit of a hypocrite because I tell my patients every day that exercise should not induce pain, and if it does cause pain they are doing themselves more harm than good.
Muscle soreness is something we all experience. It is something that as athletes or new fitness enthusiasts experience and are told from a young age that the pain/soreness associated with the exercise is normal.
I cannot count the number of times in high school that my, very well meaning, coaches said “No Pain. No Gain Ladies” when we were all whimpering about the workout that we were undergoing. Just for us to come to practice the next day extremely sore. This soreness was interpreted as a “reward” you worked hard enough at practice the day before that you got sore, therefore you did it correctly.
When I was in college DOMS was introduced to me, we went over the lactic acid build up, the ways to decrease the effects and truthfully it all went straight over my head. I heard DOMS and knew DOMS was bad, but outside of the classroom I did not correlate DOMS with the muscle soreness that I assumed was normal with an exercise or workout.
Then I went to Physical Therapy school and DOMS was introduced again and elaborated on some more. I again heard, absorbed and internalized some of the facts regarding the process but did not put my knowledge into action. That is until I became more physically active.
When I started working out and making exercise a priority, I noticed that there was a stark difference between DOMS & Muscle Soreness. The difference is the severity and intensity, where muscle soreness is just that soreness, DOMS is a painful experience and pain is never good.
Pain is our body’s way of telling us that something more is going on. Pain is not the first physiological response this means that when we finally experience pain our body has already undergone further damage and is now trying to correct for the injuries that have occurred.
I think a fundamental error in our development is understanding that exercise does not, let me repeat that, does not have to be painful to be effective. You can do a “hard” workout and walk out of the gym in zero pain, have zero soreness and 2 days later feel 100% fine, this does not mean you did anything wrong, rather it means you exercised smart.
So you’re saying no muscle soreness is good?? ABSOLUTELY NOT!! I am a huge advocate of having soreness but soreness is not always painful. Where DOMS becomes a problem is when you are in pain.
I hate to be in pain and I get mad at myself when a workout that I didn’t intend to be painful makes it hard for me to walk, or move. This means my poor muscles are torn, they have baby tears in them and my body is trying to heal them. It also means that other than an active rest, performing vigorous exercise on these muscles is not a healthy decision. And I HATE to be told to slow down or stop.
Ok so DOMS – What is it? Well lets start with the name Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Typically occurring 24-72 hours post exercise. The severity of DOMS can vary based on your body, fitness level and the type of exercise/muscles elicited. Not all DOMS is created equal, however we do know that DOMS lasting greater than 72 hours can have a potentially detrimental effect.
Muscle soreness is not the conduit to health or to a higher fitness level. However understanding soreness can help you find that health and fitness level at a faster rate.
How to Reduce or Combat DOMS:
GPP’s Neil Anderson has a few tips:
Start with slow movements, low volume and light intensity. Build gradually!
Continue to exercise!!! As I said earlier an active rest or active exercise is an ideal way to relieve the DOMS/soreness… There is a cool theory called “exercised-induced analgesia” (exercise induced pain relief) that helps to temporarily suppress soreness. Note the word temporary… Extreme muscle soreness will not be eliminated from further exercise. Thus exercise smart
My friends at Applied Fitness Solutions have a few more tips on DOMS:
Take an NSAID (if this is something your body tolerates, if you are unsure seek a physician first) – although the research is a bit conflicted on this topic my professional opinion & knowledge would point to the fact that DOMS is occurring due to an inflammatory process and the non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (Aleve) would help to decrease the pain associated with inflammation. All inflammation is painful to some extent.
Supplementing your exercise with sugar intake & high quality proteins. This helps to decrease the recovery time and elicits a productive use of nutrition in your exercise regime.
Take Home Message
Muscle soreness is a normal part of increasing your exercise routine and regime however it is not something that should decrease your tolerance to daily tasks, activities or limit your ability to continue to exercise. If you are experiencing DOMS at a level of increased severity you need to check yourself and your exercise routine before you wreck all the progress you’ve made.
Train Smart, not Sore!
How do you combat muscle soreness?
Do you judge a workout by how sore you are the next day?
General thoughts/discussion is welcomed!