Let me begin with a confession. While training for my recent triathlon, I skimped on my strength training, and that's an understatement. To jump back in the thick of it, I started working with my trainer Hannah at the Equinox Fitness around the corner from my office. Proximity and weekly appointments have made my efforts excuse-proof. The problem is, I am sore. Very, very sore. While I appreciate a little post-workout pain, I am dealing with serious delayed onset muscle soreness, aka DOMS.
I thought I would take this painful lesson as a chance to review the best strategies for dealing with DOMS. For a refresher course on the subject,
- DOMS is defined as pain usually felt 12 to 48 hours after exercising, but can last as long as a week. It is a commonly held theory that the pain comes from microscopic tears in the muscles and the swelling associated with those tears. Sometimes you can actually see or feel the swelling.
- In 2007, an Australian study found that stretching did not relieve the pain associated with DOMS. I feel, though, that stretching the muscles when sore helps to build more elasticity in the new muscle fibers.
- The soreness should go away by itself, but do avoid any vigorous activity that makes the pain worse. Light aerobic exercise can help the healing process by bringing fresh blood to the sore muscles.
- Some people find pain relief in massage, although this doesn't necessarily improve muscular function.Taking non-steroidal anti-inflammatory medication (NSAID) like ibuprofen can help relieve the pain, but like massage, this will not speed your recovery time.
- A proper warmup can help reduce the symptoms associated with DOMS. Increasing blood flow to muscles with light cardio makes them more elastic, so they are more resistant to micro-tearing.
- When you're experiencing DOMS, your muscles are actually weaker. Keep this in mind and avoid strenuous activities until the pain has subsided, because you are more likely to injure yourself.
- Drinking tart cherry juice after a workout might help reduce the pain, but the jury is still out on this one.