Why Your Muscles Feel Sore After a Workout

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If getting in shape or intensifying your exercise routine was one of your goals since gyms reopened earlier this year, you’ve likely spent your fair share of time working out these past few months.

Have you ever wondered why your muscles feel so sore after a workout?

One reason may be delayed onset muscle soreness, otherwise known as DOMS.

Occurring anywhere between 24 to 48 hours after you try a new activity or exercise, or increase your workout intensity, DOMS can reduce your range of motion and muscle strength. This muscle soreness is a sign that your muscles are adapting to new loads.

The lactic acid myth

You may have heard that delayed onset muscle soreness is caused by a buildup of lactic acid. But lactic acid only lasts in your muscles one to two hours after a workout.

Resistance training causes micro-tears of muscle fibres, drawing increased blood flow and inflammation to the area, even leading to mild swelling, which stimulates the pain receptors in the muscle tissue and makes them more sensitive to movement.

The muscle damage is temporary. As muscle rebuilds itself, it gets stronger and can handle heavier loads.

How to reduce the discomfort of muscle soreness

Although DOMS is a natural process that indicates your body is getting stronger, there are ways you can reduce your level of discomfort.

  1. More exercise may be the best way to ease the soreness. Do a gentle workout such as light cardio, stretching or yoga a day or two after an intense workout. Pick up the intensity once the pain is gone.
  2. Introduce new exercises over a period of one to two weeks to give your body time to adapt.
  3. Try longer warmups before your resistance training.
  4. Take an Epsom salt bath. Epsom salts are made from magnesium, which helps relax muscles and improve circulation.
  5. Mix up your routine. If you do leg exercises one day, work your arms and core the next. This gives each muscle group time to recover.
  6. Stay hydrated and choose your foods wisely. Remember to drink plenty of water and replenish your electrolytes with a balanced diet full of fruits and vegetables. Leafy greens and bananas are two excellent options.

How to tell if it’s more serious

There are a few indicators that your pain can be something more serious than DOMS:

  • The pain does not diminish after three days.
  • The pain is so severe that you cannot carry on with daily tasks.
  • The pain is so severe that your legs give out.
  • You experience major swelling, redness, discolouration, or intense cramping.
  • The pain is very sharp – this could suggest a sprain/strain.

If you are concerned about any of the above, your chiropractor can conduct a thorough assessment and offer non-pharmacological pain management strategies, stretches, or manual treatments. You will be referred to the appropriate medical professional if the cause of pain is out of the scope of chiropractic care.

The chiropractic and massage therapy team at Pickering Village Chiropractic & Massage helps patients build better pathways to overall wellness, as well as relief from back pain and muscle aches. Poor habits and injury can lead to pain that can restrict your ability to work or enjoy your leisure time.

We provide you with more than just chiropractic and massage services, but also the know-how to build better personal wellness habits so that you can be at your best for work or play, every day. Contact our clinic today at 905-427-3202.



With content from the Canadian Chiropractic Association