Do You Suffer From Stiff Muscles After a Workout? Simple Ways to Treat Sore Muscles Post-Workout
A change in your workout routine or a grueling session may result in sore and painful muscles the following day. Also, known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), sore muscles are normal if you've worked your body more than what's normal for you. DOMS is usually just an annoying side effect of a new or rigorous exercise regime and usually subsides after 24 to 72 hours. In the meantime, simple measures such as the ones outlined below can help ease the pain and stiffness.
What Causes Post-Workout Soreness?
If you're new to working out and are experiencing muscle soreness, let's explain some science behind the phenomenon, so you know what's going on in your body. When you exercise, small tears occur in the muscles that result in inflammation at those sites, leading to tightness and pain that typically starts 12 to 24 hours after the workout. Though inflamed muscles sound bad, some degree of inflammation, especially post-workout, is good for you. Low degrees of inflammation in muscles and tissues help them recover from the stress they endured during the workout, making them grow bigger and stronger, which is the ultimate goal of a strength-building exercise routine.
Chronic inflammation anywhere in the body is certainly not healthy, and you'd want to reverse or minimize it quickly. This prevents the onset of serious injury, so you don't miss out on your workouts. Also, you want the soreness to go away quickly so you can resume normal activity and get back to lifting or any other exercise form you're actively practicing. It's also not essential to do soreness-inducing workouts every single time. You can get a very effective workout without feeling sore or hurt. As your body adapts to working out more frequently, you're less likely to experience sore or painful muscles.
Top Things You Can Do To Minimize Muscle Pain and Stiffness After Workouts
Below our top strategies to reduce muscle pain and soreness after exercising.
This one is the most obvious - any injury to the body needs time to heal, and this is true for the micro-tears in your muscles as well. Allowing a rest day in between demanding workouts will help your muscles rest and become stronger. Rest and recovery are the best ways to combat post-workout soreness naturally.
Sore muscles surely need time to recover, but moving around and being active will reduce the pain and tightness. The key is to avoid working out the same muscle group on consecutive days. Light exercises such as a walk in the park, yoga, and stretching, swimming, etc. will improve blood circulation and deliver oxygen and nutrients to tired muscles, helping them recover faster while keeping you feeling light and energized.
Applying wet heat immediately post-exercise is considered effective in reducing DOMS. Moist heat such as warm damp towels, wet heating packs, etc. can improve blood flow to achy muscles, reducing pain and inflammation. Be careful with heat as it comes with the risk of burns and injuries. Soaking in a warm bath infused with Epsom salts or essential oils is also a natural way to reduce muscle pain while enjoying a relaxing bath. Topical ointments containing CBD oil, such as the zilis ultra cell topical cream may help reduce inflammation and can be applied to sore muscles for quick relief.
Self-myofascial release (SMR) techniques such as foam rolling can be used immediately after a workout to prevent fluid accumulation around the muscles, which reduces post-exercise pain and inflammation. Foam rollers smoothen out the connective tissue and release the knots or trigger points caused by exercise or repetitive motion. When you get rid of these knots in your muscles, you're reducing tightness and pain that improves joint mobility. Using foam rollers is a great way to relieve muscle tightness that improves your range of motion, helping you maximize your workouts. If you're new to foam rolling, we recommend investing in a softer variety that will be easy on your muscles and joints.
A Relaxing Massage
Reward your hard work at the gym with a relaxing massage that will reduce the intensity of soreness and pain. A massage is most effective at reducing muscle pain when done within 24-48 hours after the workout. A gentle massage such as the Swedish massage, uses minimal pressure to relieve muscle tension and improve blood flow that's greatly helpful in alleviating DOMS. A rejuvenating massage not only relieves sore muscles but is also a great mood booster and gives you more energy to get past the day.
A healthy diet rich in proteins, complex carbohydrates, and essential fats helps fuel-efficient workouts and prevents the risk of injury. Your muscles need a good balance of vital nutrients to enable them to recover and grow stronger. Protein is the most important macronutrient that helps build lean muscle and keep you satiated for longer. Carbohydrates are the essential fuel needed to power through your workouts and help replenish energy reserves post an intense exercise session. Your diet, therefore, plays a significant role in how your muscles react to the strain of exercise.
Eating Before Working Out
What you eat before a workout and how much you eat depends mostly on your preference, the time of the day, and your workout style. For example, if you're going for a brisk walk first thing in the morning, you may not really need to eat anything significant, except maybe a glass of water or your morning coffee. Your hunger cues and how you feel will be your best guide in helping you decide what to eat before a light exercise routine.
However, if you're going to be exercising for more than an hour and have some heavy-duty moves planned, it's best to eat a light, well-balanced snack 20-30 minutes prior to working out. Think apples with almond butter, a whole-grain toast with peanut butter, banana, etc. This light snack will give you enough energy to last a long session and prevent fatigue. It's never a good idea to exercise immediately after you've just had a meal. Remember to wait at least 2-3 hours after a meal before you begin working out.
Eating Post Workout
Your muscles use up their glycogen stores for fuel during the workout, making them tired and sore. Additionally, the breakdown of protein in your muscles leads to pain and inflammation. Eating a nutritious snack within 30-45 minutes after a workout can enhance recovery and decrease muscle protein breakdown, reducing the degree of muscle soreness post-workout. A multigrain avocado toast, chicken salad, protein shake, Greek yogurt with berries, cottage cheese and fruit, etc. are healthy snack ideas that will help repair muscles quickly, and stimulate the growth of lean and strong muscles.
If you're feeling sore after a workout, it's a good idea to stretch the muscles lightly to get rid of the tightness and increase your range of motion. The key here is to stretch gently enough to ensure you're not overworking already fatigued muscles. If the pain is unbearable when you stretch, avoid doing it completely. It's important to hold the stretch for a couple of seconds on each side of the body to ensure you're getting the most out of them. Certain yoga poses such as the knee-to-chest stretch cat-and-cow pose, forward bend, etc. are also extremely beneficial in relieving muscle soreness and can help calm the rush of adrenalin you're experiencing post an intense workout.
Getting a good night's sleep is crucial for muscle recovery and can help relieve soreness quickly. After a tough workout, aim for at least 7-8 hours of uninterrupted sleep. Good-quality sleep encourages protein synthesis that's needed to repair damaged muscles.
Professionals have shown the correlation between dehydration and increased levels of muscle inflammation post a workout. Keeping yourself hydrated during and after exercise can minimize muscle soreness. Water helps flush out the toxins, such as proteins that are released as part of the muscle breakdown post-workout. This reduces the severity of soreness and prevents swelling and water retention around the muscles. Staying well-hydrated also helps replenish salts and electrolytes lost as you sweat while exercising, reducing fatigue.
Warm-Up Before and Cool Down After Exercise
The best way to minimizing sore muscles and staying injury-free is to include a warm-up before starting a workout and bringing the heart rate down with a relaxing cooldown immediately after. 2-3 minutes of warm-up is all that's needed to get your muscles and joints moving and get you ready for the workout. A cooldown can be any form of light exercises such as slow walking or flexibility stretches that'll help you relax and reduce stiff joints and muscles. Also, practice the right form for your exercise moves, especially if you're incorporating strength training as part of your routine. Improper form and incorrect technique lead to increased soreness and injuries while reducing the efficacy of your hard work.
Post-exercise soreness doesn't need medical treatment and will usually resolve on its own within a few days. With our simple tips and techniques, it's easy to not only prevent the onset of muscle soreness but also relieve it effectively. However, if the pain gets severe or doesn't go away, you must seek medical advice.