It waits for you to wake up in the morning before it hits.
Sometimes it waits two days before showing up.
It’s the reward that we all love to hate.
I’m talking, of course, about muscle soreness.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, is the healthy reminder that we did a great job in our workout the previous day. While it may be a sign of hard work and great effort, it can also be a real pain (no pun intended).
Muscle soreness can have a direct impact on your future workouts and your overall mobility. (Who hasn’t had the early morning stumble when getting out of bed after Leg Day?)
Let’s dive into 5 easy and effective ways you can get rid of your muscle soreness faster.
1. Get Active
It may seem counterintuitive and downright impossible at times but by simply moving and working the sore muscle, you can help to alleviate soreness and promote recovery.
You don’t have to (nor should you) perform another high intensity workout on the same muscle groups that are sore. Rather, you want to take the sore muscle through a low impact set of movements that focus on a full range of motion. (1)
For example, let’s say that yesterday was leg day and you’re really feeling it today. You can start by doing some light dynamic stretches such as toe touches. Follow up with a nice, brisk walk. Finish with static stretching.
2. Ice & Heat
Once you’ve warmed up and stretched out the muscle, the next thing to consider doing is applying ice followed by heat.
Now, before you get on your soap box: Yes, I understand that there are some conflicting studies regarding the use of ice and heat as a means to offset DOMS. While results have differed from study to study, the overall industry consensus still holds ice and heat compresses as effective ways to treat muscle soreness.
You’ll want to use both ice and heat compresses. Ice will help to reduce inflammation while heat will alleviate the soreness. This is especially true if you’re a beginner just starting a workout routine. You’ll notice that as you gain more experience with exercise, especially weight lifting, DOMS will not tend to bother you as much. (2)
3. Eat the Right Foods
You already know that nutrition plays an important role in our overall results but it can also significantly impact our recovery as well. Regardless of your fitness goals, you should be eating a well-balanced diet that is rich in lean proteins, complex carbohydrates, and healthy fats. You can also eat specific foods to help with your recovery.
Ginger, cinnamon, and turmeric all help with digestion but they also alleviate inflammation. Personally, I like to make a tea with all three along with some lemon and honey. Try drinking this tea 2 or 3 times per day to help get rid of that soreness. (3-5)
You can also promote recovery with supplements. Specific ingredients have been shown in a variety of studies to promote effective recovery while reducing the amount of time spent experiencing DOMS.
- In particular, the amino acids, L-isoleucine, DL-isoleucine and L-leucine, have been shown to promote anti-inflammatory properties. (6)
- Studies show that glutamine may have a powerful effect against muscle soreness. (7)
- The omega 3 fatty acids found in krill oil are a natural anti-inflammatory agent that may help with muscle soreness. (8)
If you are a very active person who is in the gym more days of the week than not, massage should already be a part of your fitness program.
First, a sports massage or deep tissue massage helps to restore proper length-tension relationships with your muscles. Secondly, it alleviates the pressure, soreness, and tightness that you feel from adhesions in the muscle. These adhesions are most commonly called “knots.” Lastly, a sports massage can help to drain the lactic acid build-up in the muscle tissue, which will dramatically improve how you feel. (9)
If you needed an excuse to get to the spa, you just found it.
- Law, R. Y., and R. D. Herbert. "Warm-up Reduces Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness but Cool-down Does Not: A Randomised Controlled Trial." The Australian Journal of Physiotherapy. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 2007. Web. 08 July 2017.
- Petrofsky, J. S., I. A. Khowailed, H. Lee, L. Berk, G. S. Bains, S. Akerkar, J. Shah, F. Al-Dabbak, and M. S. Laymon. "Cold Vs. Heat After Exercise-Is There a Clear Winner for Muscle Soreness." Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Nov. 2015. Web. 08 July 2017.
- Black, C. D., M. P. Herring, D. J. Hurley, and P. J. O'Connor. "Ginger (Zingiber Officinale) Reduces Muscle Pain Caused by Eccentric Exercise." The Journal of Pain : Official Journal of the American Pain Society. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Sept. 2010. Web. 08 July 2017.
- Rao, Pasupuleti Visweswara, and Siew Hua Gan. "Cinnamon: A Multifaceted Medicinal Plant." Evidence-based Complementary and Alternative Medicine : ECAM. Hindawi Publishing Corporation, 2014. Web. 08 July 2017.
- Chainani-Wu, N. "Safety and Anti-inflammatory Activity of Curcumin: A Component of Tumeric (Curcuma Longa)." Journal of Alternative and Complementary Medicine (New York, N.Y.). U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2003. Web. 08 July 2017.
- Saxena, R. N., V. K. Pendse, and N. K. Khanna. "Anti-inflammatory and Analgesic Properties of Four Amino-acids." Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, 1984. Web. 08 July 2017.
- Tajari, Somayeh Namdar, Mona Rezaee, and Naghme Gheidi. "Assessment of the Effect of L-glutamine Supplementation on DOMS." British Journal of Sports Medicine. British Association of Sport and Excercise Medicine, 01 Sept. 2010. Web. 08 July 2017.
- Maroon, J. C., and J. W. Bost. "Omega-3 Fatty Acids (fish Oil) as an Anti-inflammatory: An Alternative to Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory Drugs for Discogenic Pain." Surgical Neurology. U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2006. Web. 08 July 2017.
- Zainuddin, Zainal, Mike Newton, Paul Sacco, and Kazunori Nosaka. "Effects of Massage on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, Swelling, and Recovery of Muscle Function." Journal of Athletic Training. National Athletic Trainers Association, 2005. Web. 08 July 2017.
ABOUT DAVID SAUTTER
David Sautter is a NASM certified personal trainer, NASM certified fitness nutrition specialist, fitness workshop leader, and health and fitness writer who has been featured in NoTimeWheysted, Kutting Weight, and Workout Labs. With over 12 years of experience, David has been the driving creative force behind numerous fitness-related e-books, training guides, articles, and supplement research. You can discover more of his work at his website: WriteOnSautter.com.