Whether you refer to your muscle aches as DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), Muscle Fever, or just Holy Crap My Muscles Hurt, it is painful and annoying. So, what is it, and can a person reduce the discomfort?
By exerting yourself in a new way you will probably experience DOMS. The scenario goes like this: You do some epic workout. You feel amazing about yourself the rest of the day. The next morning you wake up feeling as if you ran into something enormous and rock solid. Your muscles are sore and burning and it’s difficult to do normal activities like picking up a pen or walking downstairs.
And to make everything more demoralizing, the day after, you are even worse.
After climbing Kings Mountain last weekend, the soreness in my legs lasted until Thursday. I was still running on those tired and worn out legs, which couldn’t have helped anything. Every stair was torture.
While there is no actual way to avoid this condition, there may be a few things you could do to reduce your pain.
I rarely have time to take a bath, but I made them a priority last week and it did seem to help. You can add Epsom salt to your bath water and soak for 20 minutes. The pain didn’t go away after my soaks, but it did help me walk easier. WebMD has a good article on Epsom salt and its uses.
Every time I complain about my muscles aching my mom tries to give me magnesium. I still haven’t taken her up on the offer, but I’m not sure why. Magnesium is a mineral that is removed from our bodies when we sweat. The more you sweat, the more you’re at risk for a magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is found naturally in fiber-rich foods, or you can take a supplement. There is no proof that magnesium helps reduce muscle soreness even though some people swear by it.
Foam Roller & the Stick
I located a fascinating study by The Journal of Athletic Training that claims foam rolling directly following the exercise, and then each day after does reduce the pain caused by DOMS. The study states that by using your own body weight to roll out your soft tissue you will see better results than hiring an expensive massage therapist to do it for you. Out of all of these solutions proposed in this article, this one seems the most viable.
Advil or Tylenol
While pain relievers will only mask the pain of DOMS, it can be quite a relief to be able to get out of your car or off the toilet without crying. I would recommend using pain relievers in great moderation as they can often cover an injury. I never take them prior to a workout as I want to know when I’m pushing my joints too hard.
There are many who claim you can reduce the effects of DOMS with certain foods. You may have heard of people using pickle juice, tart cherry juice, spicy foods, bananas, pineapple, eggs, and fish right after a hard workout to help prevent soreness. While these may help, there is no solid evidence that it does—I can attest that after drinking turmeric tea (yuck) and taking a turmeric supplement for months, it did nothing to keep my tendonitis from flaring up. But of all the things you can try, these sound the most delicious!
Staying hydrated is always, always a good idea. But pay special attention to water consumption when your muscles are sore. By drinking enough, or even a little extra water, you can flush some of the toxins from your body that are causing the pain. This is why they tell you to drink a lot of water before and after a massage—the massage releases toxins from your muscles which can make you sore post rub.
Try one or try them all and you are sure to find a little reprieve from the pain caused by DOMS. And remember, regardless of all that pain, you are doing amazing things for your body—whether it makes you pay for it a bit or not.