Any type of exercise that is vigorous enough and places unaccustomed loads on our muscles can leave us feel sore and stiff over the next few days. But what is this soreness and why do we feel this soreness?
Well, first of all the soreness we feel is something called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
This delayed soreness comes from applying loads or volume to the muscles that are not accustomed to it. Consequently this causes microscopic tears to the muscle fibres involved in the muscular actions performed, this damage then causes a local inflammatory response.
As a result, the muscles then can become very tender to the touch and also when stretched or contracted. This soreness normally peaks around 48 hours after exercise, but typically sets in after about 6-8 hours.
All sorts of different types of exercise can cause DOMS, from jogging and jumping to weightlifting and step aerobics. The severity of the DOMS does however depend on the intensity of the exercise, for example more repetitions is more likely to cause greater soreness than fewer repetitions.
Also, greater load placed on the muscle will again more likely cause greater muscle damage than a lighter load, it all depends on how accustomed the muscles are to particular loads. This means that muscles that are accustomed to heavier loads are less likely to succumb to large levels of DOMS, as the muscles very quickly adapt to the loads that are placed on them by becoming stronger, thus less likely to be damaged by the same weight that previously caused muscle damage.
However, this isn’t to say that once you have had it, you will never have some soreness again, as progressively increasing the weights you use the stronger you become will cause some muscle damage and DOMS initially as your muscles adapt and become accustomed to the new loads you begin to place on it.
The DOMS that occurs as a result of exercise does dissipate after 3-5 days, but there is no conclusive evidence around that any particular treatment will hasten recovery. However, if you are looking to reduce the symptoms then things like ice packs, massage or oral pain relief agents will help with the pain.
But it is important to remember that pain relief does not necessarily mean recovery, and the underlying muscle damage may still exist. Despite all this, there is no reason to stop exercising whilst experiencing DOMS, as the pain does often diminish during exercise and should not significantly impair your capability to exercise.
Consequently, don’t be put off by any muscle soreness you experience as it is only a sign that you are generally are getting stronger and your muscles are adapting. The soreness can also bring a sense of pride that you worked as hard as you could, and the slight pains experienced are just a symptom of your hard work. On the flip side, don’t think that if you do not have any DOMS, you haven’t worked hard enough.
So keep going and push through those comfort zones and the benefits you will experience, will far outweigh the slight soreness you may feel at the end of each workout.