How to Treat Sore Muscles: Your DOMS Survival Guide

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A staggering 20% of Americans are in pain all the time. 8% of US adults also suffer from high-impact, debilitating chronic pain.

Many others experience sports-related pain and inflammation. Each year, from 2011 to 2014, an estimated 8.6 million folks had such an experience. Sore muscles are among the most common complaints they had.

That said, it’s best to prepare yourself (and your muscles) if you’re planning to try a new workout or exercise plan. Learning how to treat sore muscles, especially DOMS, is key to making the most out of your gym time.

Ready to minimize your post-exercise pain and suffering? Then read on as we’ve rounded up the top ways to beat DOMS!

Understand What DOMS Is and How It Occurs

The first step on how to combat DOMS is to understand how soreness occurs in the first place. This also gives you a clear idea of what exactly happens to your body during exercise.

DOMS stands for “delayed onset muscle soreness”. It’s exactly what it sounds like — muscle soreness that develops later on, usually after a workout.

The “delayed” here refers to how the soreness peaks only after 24 to 72 hours from the time you exercised. The pain is temporary, however, although it does take between five and seven days to go away.

As for the cause, one possible culprit is microtrauma. These are tiny tears in the muscles and nearby tissues. As with most other tissue injuries, they lead to inflammation, hence the pain and soreness.

That said, muscle soreness is normal, no matter how trained or untrained you are. However, it seems that in trained folks, the soreness peaks earlier (and lasts less time). In this way, people who haven’t worked out ever might feel a greater degree of soreness.

You’re also most likely to feel the signs of DOMS after trying a new workout regimen for the first time. The same goes if you’re adding more activities to your existing exercise program. You can also expect soreness whenever you increase the intensity of your activities.

Post-Workout Massage Can Help

One of the best ways on how to relieve muscle soreness is to get a massage after an intense workout. An analysis of studies found evidence that massages helped to significantly reduce soreness. The best time to get a massage, however, appears to be 48 hours post-workout.

Researchers also found massages to benefit people with musculoskeletal disorders. Aside from reducing pain, massages can also help improve bone and muscle function.

If you can’t get a therapist-provided massage after every workout, you can use a massage gun at home. You can also try self-massage to experience that much-needed muscle pain relief. Apply some therapeutic oil on the sore areas before you start kneading and squeezing.

Try Heat Treatment

Immediately apply heat wraps to the areas of your body that you worked out the most. According to a study, this can provide DOMS relief better than applying heat a day after exercise. You can still use heat treatment the following day though, to further reduce soreness.

You can also give yourself a warm bath or shower to help boost blood flow to your sore tissues. This brings more oxygen to your injured muscles, which they need to recover.

Go for the Cold

If you’ve seen the film “Wanted”, then you likely remember AJ taking a bath in a tub full of ice. It turns out that this is actually helpful in reducing muscle soreness.

In one study, participants immersed their bodies in cold water (50 to 59 Fahrenheit). Their average immersion time was 12 minutes. The results revealed that the patients experienced a reduction in their DOMS symptoms.

Get Some Topical Analgesics

These are pain-relieving products that you apply directly to the skin. They may help relieve some of the soreness that you feel after spending hours at the gym. For the best results, use topical analgesics that contain menthol ingredients.

Reach Out for That Water Bottle

Keep yourself hydrated pre-, during, and post-workout. Researchers found evidence that doing so helped lessen the severity of DOMS.

Besides, working out makes you perspire a lot, so you have to replenish your lost fluids. This way, your body can maintain proper internal heat regulation. Otherwise, you’re likely to end up feeling more fatigued than you usually do.

Avoid Major Spikes In Your Workout Intensity

Even though DOMS can affect both the trained and untrained, it doesn’t mean that you should just grin and bear it. The saying “no pain, no gain” in this situation is a myth. It’s not true that the more pain you feel, the better and more effective your workout regimen is.

It’s better to slowly get your body acclimatized to increased workout intensity. You’ll still have DOMS, but this gradual rise in intensity can strengthen your muscles. It may also help boost your overall endurance. 

Can DOMS Land You in the Hospital?

In most cases, the signs of DOMS doesn’t last longer than a week. However, if you still feel severe soreness after seven days, it’s best that you see your doctor. This is especially true if your urine becomes extremely dark.

Although rare, DOMS can be an indication of rhabdomyolysis or “rhabdo”. This condition occurs when the muscle cells burst and their contents leak out into the blood. When this happens, the muscles become weak and sore, while the urine takes on a darker color.

Follow These Tips on How to Treat Sore Muscles After Heavy Workouts

While you may not be able to completely get rid of your DOMS risks, you can lessen its severity. So long as you follow this guide on how to treat sore muscles, then you can say goodbye to extreme post-workout pains and aches.

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