Great athletes focus on various muscle groups each day they exercise. And no matter how long they’ve been in sports, muscles will still hurt after a set.
“I hate to admit this,” one athlete told me, “but if I can find an excuse to skip my “leg day” I will.”
Instead of skipping a hated series, try to make the “leg day” (or any other one you dread) mandatory. The key is to have a solution that works so you can welcome the stiffness. The only way you’ll improve your body is to push those muscles. You’ll feel better and stronger. You can push a lot more weight that way and even increase your size. My friend told me he just has to “suck it up” then follow his “muscle pain relief program.” So What Is DOMS? DOMS means “Delayed onset muscle soreness.” Any and everyone knows when you’ve been lazy for a while then exercise, DOMS sets in. It’s especially apparent if you’ve been distracted from your regular routine; and it happens to both men and women. It’s muscle pain and soreness that occurs between 12 to 48 hours after exercise. Work a new muscle group on Monday and you’ll wake up sore in that area on Wednesday. It also happens if you increase the intensity, frequency, or duration of your workout. Like a hangover, it subsides over time. And athletes know that a little “hair-of-the-dog” (gentle stretching and using the sore muscles) will loosen them up and
increase the healing. Sadly, it’s also the major reason exercise programs fail. It also happens when you try a new technique or piece of workout equipment. You can suffer from tenderness to excruciating pain. Many people feel it’s a sign that your efforts are paying off! But for the committed athlete it’s more important than ever to have a strategy to manage the pain. The question is, how can you speed up your recovery?
Why do you feel so bad if exercise is “good” for you?
Your body creates ATP (Adenosine Triphosphate) by breaking down carbohydrates. There are three systems that provide energy: ATP is the principle energy compound in most cells that stores energy. The other two systems are Phosphagen and Oxidative (which we’ll cover in future articles). Your pain comes from the Lactic acid in your muscles, created by the Glycolytic system.
Lactic Acid’s Role in DOMS
The primary function of the Glycolytic System is to break those carbohydrates down and produce ATP producing energy for moderate to high intensity activities (30 sec up to 3 min). You don’t have to be a biology major to know that when carbohydrates are burned lactic acid is leftover in the muscle…leaving you sore until that lactic acid dissipates. Through regular training and practice, your body learns to burn the carbs more effectively. It eliminates the lactic acid build up faster and you won’t be sore after doing your routine for some time.
Strategies to Treat DOMS
The goal is to reduce the intensity of DOMS as soon as possible so you can keep up your routines. Of course, you can treat DOMS with Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDS) such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen. I’m not a big
fan of these drugs (read the fine print if you want to know all the side effects and damage they can do to your body.) And there are times they are required on a temporary basis. But what other choices do you have?
The Natural Choice that feels SO good!
Massage has been proven to be very effective. Think about it. The lactic acid is trapped in your muscles. You can wait for the body to remove it OR get a good massage. The massage increases the blood flow to the sore region, which carries away the lactic acid and speeds healing. The benefits far exceed reducing lactic acid. My patients tell me that weekly massage treatments do a lot of good for their overall health. A Swedish Massage is the most common form of Sports Massage. It includes Deep Tissue and gentler techniques that heal muscles.
There was a study published in 2003 in the Journal of Athletic Training where ten healthy subjects (5 men, 5 women) with no history of upper arm injury and no experience in resistance training were asked to perform 10 sets of 6 maximal isokinetic eccentric movements of the elbow flexors with both arms. One arm received 10 minutes of massage 3 hours after the exercise and the other arm received no treatment. The study concluded that massage reducing swelling and was effective in alleviating DOMS by approximately 30%, but it had no effects on muscle function.
Better yet is the study debunking “conventional medical wisdom.”
Another study published by the School of Community Health and Sports Studies: Cryotherapy (ice packs), stretching, homeopathy, ultrasound and electrical current modalities (muscle stimulation) ALL have demonstrated NO effect on the alleviation of muscle or other DOMS related symptoms.
The “Hair-of-the-dog” solution
Yes, exercise does relieve pain during DOMS. Unfortunately, the analgesic effect is temporary. Reduce the duration and intensity of exercise for 1-2 days following the exercise that caused the DOMS If you have to train on a daily basis, train less effected body parts to allow time for the body to recover. Another option is to train a hard day/light day after you start a new program or routine. We often overlook rest as an option and when you put it in your plan you’ll get better results. I’ve seen people who over trained for big marathons and forgot the “rest” that heals. The “burn”
feels good, but isn’t always the best for your body.
Your body is an amazing thing.
It’s designed to deliver what you ask it to do, as long as you take good care of it. Include massage in your exercise strategy and you’ll find DOMS isn’t the problem it once was; because you’ll know the secret great athletes know. You’ll know the secret of what to do to help your body heal.