I’m sure you have had it happen to you before – you do strenuous work or exercise and wake up the next morning with muscle soreness. Even when you didn’t hurt the night before, you may be experiencing something known as DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Whatever activity or project you did, you tried to do too much, too quickly. Now, you have sore muscles to deal with.
What causes those sore muscles?
Theories on the cause of muscle soreness have changed through the years. Not long ago, lactic acid would have been fingered as the culprit for those aching muscles. However, that theory has all but been dismissed today.
During high levels of physical activity, lactic acid is produced because the muscle’s demand for oxygen gets too high and the blood cannot deliver all it needs. In order to produce energy needed for the muscles to function, the body begins a process that works without that oxygen. This process has a byproduct – lactic acid! It builds up and gets locked in your muscles. Since it is an acid, it can cause a burning sensation within the muscle tissue.
For many years, lactic acid build up was thought to be the cause of sore muscles. Today, this has been shown to be an incorrect thought. Lactic acid does not remain in the muscles for any length of time. It is completely washed out between 30 and 60 minutes after the physical exertion. With most muscle soreness being noted 24 to 36 hours after the exercise, the cause of sore muscles was back to being a mystery.
The popular theory of today about the cause for sore muscles is micro-trauma to muscle fibers. When you overdue your physical exertion, whether it be during work or play, you do some localized damage to the muscle fiber membranes. This damaged muscle can become inflamed, which can cause soreness.
Other factors could be:
• That the damaged muscles release chemical irritants, which can irritate pain receptors.
• That there is an increase in blood flow to the area because of the increased activity of the muscle. This increased blood flow can cause swelling, which can irritate pain receptors.
So, whenever you overdo it physically, there is the possibility you won’t wake up feeling great! This is due to the fact that your muscle fibers have microscopic tears, are fatigued from the exercise, and are swollen due to various reasons.
By moving the sore muscles, you can gradually return them to their normal state. Don’t try to exercise at your previous intensity, though, since the damaged muscles have lost some of their strength. Give the muscles some time to heal before attempting to exercise or work at the level which originally caused the injury and soreness.
How do I avoid sore muscles?
While there is no “cure” once you have sore muscles (other than time), there are tricks to help you avoid sore muscles altogether.
• When you exercise, gradually increase the intensity of the workout. This will allow the strength and endurance of your muscles to grow.
• Make sure that you stretch and warm up properly before any physical activity. Stretch and cool down at the end of the activity. This will help you avoid the sore muscles in the future.
• Make sure that you are using the correct form when exercising, as incorrect posture and positioning can cause sore muscles.
It is best to think of sore muscles as an injury. You cannot push them or you will cause more damage or even more serious injury. While you do not have to stop activity completely, you will have to rest more and do moderate exercising for several days in order to give the muscles a chance to heal.