How to relieve muscle pain
If you start a new fitness programme or activity, it’s likely that you will experience muscle soreness. Don’t be deterred. Although it can be uncomfortable, muscle stiffness or achiness is normal. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is actually a sign that your body is adapting to the workout. It’s how you get fitter and stronger.
The stiffness or soreness occurs because exercise causes microscopic damage to the muscles. The pain tends to happen within a day or two after exercising, and can affect anyone from beginners to elite athletes.
The level of soreness depends on the type of workout, the intensity and on the individual’s fitness background. If you start a new exercise programme, change your existing routine, or increase the intensity of your sessions, you are likely to experience DOMS.
The good thing is that it doesn’t last for long. You’ll feel better within a few days, and the next time you do the same workout, your body will be better able to cope with the physical demands placed on it. There are also ways to reduce the risk and severity of the muscle stiffness. If you’re struggling with sore muscles, here’s what you can do.
A good warm up is essential before any exercise session. Warming up gets your mind and body ready for exercise. If your body is prepared, the muscles will be able to cope with the demands of the sport or activity. Warming up reduces your chances of injury, and allows you to train harder, thereby improving your performance.
If you are starting a new sport or activity the best thing is to start sensibly. A gentle and gradual approach with light training will allow your body the time it needs to adapt to the new exercise, which should minimise any soreness or stiffness.
Dehydration can make the muscle soreness worse, so it’s important to stay hydrated before, during and after exercise. Make sure you replace the fluid you use during a workout, before your next session. As well as keeping you hydrated, water can also help flush out toxins. You can monitor hydration levels by checking the colour of your urine. If it’s darker, you need to drink more. Recovery-boosting protein supplements can also help as they kick start the muscle recovery process.
Drinking cherry juice can also help prevent and reduce muscle damage. Tart cherries are rich in antioxidants and are also anti-inflammatory. According to a study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, drinking tart cherry juice seven days before, and during a strenuous running event can minimize post-run muscle pain.
A study by the University of Georgia suggests that drinking caffeine can help reduce post-workout muscle soreness. The researchers found that the equivalent caffeine of drinking around two cups of coffee cut post-workout muscle pain by almost 50 per cent in a small sample of volunteers.
Rest and recovery
Getting plenty of rest and sleeping well is the most effective treatment. Doing some light exercise, such as a steady jog, can help as it circulates blood flow to the muscles. Ice packs and massage might also help alleviate the pain.
When it comes to DOMS the important thing to remember is that it is a type of muscle conditioning. The next time you do the exercise, the muscle tissue damage will be minimal. Not only will your recovery be quicker, but you’ll also be getting fitter. Don’t let the muscle pain put you off exercise.