Chief Science Officer Dr. Wayne Phillips offers Stack Magazine 5 Tips for Tackling Muscle Soreness

Muscle soreness happens not only to first-time exercisers, but also to athletes and regular exercisers if they significantly increase the intensity and/or duration of their workouts. Post-exercise soreness is a signal that you have exercised in a way your muscles aren’t used to.

In fact, sore muscles are a sign of microscopic damage and swelling that occurs in the sarcomere—the smallest contractile unit of a muscle. The damage is predominantly caused by eccentric muscle contractions in which the muscle works as it lengthens.

 For example, running, and especially downhill running, is a major source of eccentric contractions since the leg muscles work hard to slow and/or control the descent of the body. Weightlifting can also produce high levels of eccentric contractions, since after the bar is lifted it needs to be lowered under control with each repetition of a set.

Since this kind of soreness typically does not peak until post-workout, it is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

 DOMS begins fairly soon after exercise and typically peaks between 24 and 72 hours thereafter. It generally dissipates within 6-7 days depending on mode, intensity and duration of exercise, as well as the performer’s fitness status. While the delayed soreness can range from mild to debilitating pain, DOMS also produces immediate weakness in the affected muscle, which generally lasts as long as the pain. DOMS can also produce swelling, tense muscles, reduced coordination and a limited range of motion.

In general, time is the only dependable healer for DOMS. However, a number of approaches have been proposed to treat or minimize its effect. Below are five such approaches, grouped into three categories: physiological, mechanical and nutritional.

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