In the aftermath of a hard workout, such as one associated with running, biking, or even a jaunty hike through the woods and over hills, pain isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most likely, this is the presence of what is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), a condition in which muscle pain develops a day or two after exercise, if not sooner.
DOMS can be experienced as general soreness or even pain. It often comes about from someone starting a new exercise from scratch or ramping up an exercise already in motion by adding intensity or duration, or both. It usually is not something to fear or get in a tizzy about; it’s our body’s normal response to unusual exertion, per verywellfit.com, “and is part of an adaptation process by which the muscles recover and undergo hypertrophy (an increase in muscle size).”
No Pain, No Gain?
You’ve probably heard that saying a hundred times if you have heard it once, and it is rooted in truth. When we feel such pain or soreness – often when we first get out of bed (or try to get out of bed) the day after starting a new regimen or boosting a workout to a new level. Most likely, what you are feeling are microscopic tears in your muscle fibers, the result of excessive exertion. One easy response is the application of an icy, topical gel that can relieve both muscle and joint pain/soreness.
Age is not a big consideration here: ask your teen son or daughter how they feel the first day after the start of soccer or track practice, for instance. Their inevitable whining or groaning and slow moving around will tell you all you need to know. This isn’t just a problem for adults or “old fogies.” Welcome to the get-fit club.
DOMS can affect anyone, regardless of fitness level, per nhs.uk. You might have heard someone experienced in physical training and workouts – especially runners, bikers, and triathletes – state that the post-workout pain/soreness you are feeling is the result of the buildup of lactic acid. However, many health experts say that isn’t it at all, that lactic acid isn’t a factor in that delayed DOMS response, although it might be a source of pain or burning sensations felt during a workout.
Be of good cheer, exercise aficionados: the soreness or pain you might be feeling a few hours or a day or two later is most likely that aforementioned adaptive process that leads to bolstered stamina as the muscles recover and build. Expect such pain to range anywhere from mild to severe and to last three to five days, but it will soon fade as you continue to build your fitness.
Treating Muscle Soreness or Pain
A pre-workout warmup can help prevent or at least reduce the effects of DOMS. You may also hear this referred to as myalgia, which are muscle aches producing the discomfort you likely feel – remember also, there is muscle tissue throughout your body, so you can feel this “all over.”
Exercising with muscles that have been stretched and loosened up – in other words, “warmed up” – will reduce your risk of injury while enhancing your performance. It will also make that period as you transition through the pain to get to the other side of soreness that much more amenable.
Meanwhile, here are some tips to keep in mind to help you deal with those first few days or perhaps a week or more in treating DOMS-type pain (if you experience soreness or pain much longer than that, or even during a workout, it’s time to see a health professional):
- Avoid high-impact physical activity until the muscle pain fades away, per healthline.com.
- Supplementing your workouts with yoga, meditation, or some other proven activity that is effective for relieving tension.
- Stretch after you exercise as well as before. This helps reduce muscle fatigue and improve your flexibility. It also helps muscles recover more quickly after a tough workout. This probably won’t prevent DOMS, but it will help you deal with it.
- An over-the-counter pain reliever such as ibuprofen should help, but take it in moderation and with a doctor’s guidance.
- Ice the affected area to help diminish the pain and cut down on inflammation.
- Apply a topical remedy such as a fast-acting gel that can provide penetrating, long-lasting relief of minor aches and pains, like those associated with post-workouts
Wonder Labs offers such a topical gel as mentioned in that last tip – Wonder Freeze Pain-Relieving Gel, which can also penetrate deep enough to provide relief from joint pain. Wonder Freeze is available in a squeeze tube, pump container or roll-on applicator.