Sore Muscles After Exercise: How to Relieve the Pain

I am group fitness addict! I participate in six to seven classes a week — three firming classes (weight lifting), a couple yoga classes and a spin class or two. I recently went away on a two week vacation, and I really didn’t exercise much except walking. I went to one firming class the day I got home, and now I can barely move because my muscles are so sore. Why does this happen? And what can I do to relieve the pain?

Dr. Sarah Answered

You are experiencing DOMS — delayed onset of muscle soreness. This is a pain that does not occur immediately after your workout, usually setting in the next morning (you know that feeling when you can barely get out of bed?). The peak of this soreness is usually around 72 hours post-workout and it can last for five to seven days (yup, just like your period). The cause of DOMS is mostly likely from microscopic tears in your muscles, natural damage that occurs when you exercise.

Activities that cause your muscles to forcefully contract while they are lengthening, such as lowering weights or running downhill, seem to cause the more severe DOMS. When your body is at rest, your muscles repair themselves, and this natural repair process generally takes 48-72 hours. (Please note that if your pain persists for longer than seven days, consult your health care provider.)

DOMS is part of an adaptive process — when you stop exercising and start again, your muscles react by getting sore. And while experiencing DOMS is not fun, is it a sign that your muscles are becoming attenuated to your workout. In other words, it’s okay to hurt, sometimes.

Here are the best ways to relieve DOMS:

1. Rest — Allow your body the time it needs to repair the muscles and recover from the workout.

2. Aerobics — Light aerobic activity such as walking, light jogging (on a flat surface only), or using any cardio machine will increase the blood flow to the working muscles and improve soreness.

3. Supplements — While there is no magic pill, vitamin C will aid in tissue repair and Omega-3s are excellent anti-inflammatories.

In the future, after a period of inactivity, try the following when you return to your routine:

1. Do a proper warm upEven if you are going to a class, arrive early and spend an extra 10 minutes on a cardio machine.

2. Remember to cool down — Spend an extra few minutes after your workout for your muscles’ sake. Try five minutes of light cardio followed by 10 minutes of stretching.

About the fitness expert: Sarah Brown is a very healthy woman. She is not only a fitness instructor at Goodlife where she teaches Body Pump, Body Flow, boot camp and yoga but she is also a registered holistic nutritionist.