“Soreness after exercise is mainly caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibers”
Explains Jacque Crockford, exercise physiologist and education specialist at the American Council on Exercise (ACE), based in San Diego. “These tears cause an inflammatory response in the body, and as they heal, it can be slightly painful.” It’s normal, but don’t think in terms of no pain, no gain. “Soreness isn’t a good gauge of the effectiveness of a workout,” she adds.
Don’t Overdue it! You don’t want to end up with an injury.
Muscles get sore when they’ve been stressed, says Kyle Stull, MS, National Academy of Sports Medicine (NASM) faculty instructor in Dallas. “This stress is actually a great thing because it results in adaptation over time.” Still, “soreness shouldn’t be so severe that it forces you alter your normal activities,” he says.
You can Minimize the Pain
The concepts your high school gym teacher tried to instill in you ring true today, Crockford says. “Proper hydration, exercise nutrition, and a cool-down with static stretches can help.” Then it’s time to rock and roll. “Foam rolling increases circulation and may help begin the repair process sooner.
After a heavy resistance training workout, foam rolling doesn’t eliminate soreness, but it does limit it and decrease total recovery time,” Stull says. And it can’t hurt to pre-game with a cup of java. University of Georgia researchers found that consuming the caffeine equivalent of two cups of coffee an hour before exercise can reduce later soreness by almost 50 percent.
“As much as you want to, don’t sit still!”
Stull says. Most of the time, the first ‘ouch’ comes after someone has been sedentary for a number of hours, whether that’s at the office or sleeping. Contractions of skeletal muscles—like those caused by walking—keep fluids moving and circulating, which can help with repair, . The moment you sit still, your ticker is only body part pumping’ and all that repair is a lot of work for one muscle to handle! “The more you can get up and move in the 24 hours after an intense workout, the better,” he says.
Make sure it is not an Injury.
If pain lasts longer than two days, it could be an injury rather than post-workout pain.
“Some people like the sore feeling since it makes them feel like they accomplished something”
And that’s fine Stull says. But for the average individual, pain is not a good thing. It could actually end up causing future injuries due to muscle imbalances and overcompensating.
If you’re feeling achy on day three after a couple days of rest, ice, and recovery, try easing back in with your normal routine, as the American Council on Exercise recommends. But stop if your muscles don’t begin to loosen up or if they start to feel worse.
Some natural food that will help alleviate the pain
Watermelon juice: Grab a glass after class! Sipping the low-calorie juice, which is rich in the amino acid L-citrulline, helps to ease muscle aches, says the American Chemical Society.
Hot peppers or spicy sauces like sriracha: Capsaicin, a component in many spicy foods, offers pain relief by blocking pain messages to the brain, says the University of Maryland Medical Center.