The sore muscles most of us experience are the ones we wake up to in the morning after some type of physical activity the day before. They weren't sore the night before and the pain is different to that experienced during exercise or to that of an injury such as a muscle strain.
These sore muscles are a result of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness), a condition affecting muscles 24 to 48 hours after physical activity. The sore muscles are in response to any unusual exertion during the activity and the body's attempt to adapt to the increased physical demands.
Ironically, this adaptation process produces greater stamina and strength in the muscles as they recover and build in growth and size (muscle hypertrophy). In other words, sore muscles are usually an indication that they are getting stronger, leading to greater fitness!
Be sure that the muscle soreness is only moderate and that it has been caused by exercise, not by muscle overuse or injury. This is important when considering what you need to do for sore muscle relief. Any sore muscle treatment as a result of DOMS should work with the adaption process rather than against it.
The Principle of Adaptation
Adaptation is the ability of the body's muscles to adjust to changing physical demands. This process enables us to coordinate muscle movement and to develop sports skills. By repeatedly practicing the same physical activity, it becomes second-nature and easier to perform. Only in the early stages of the activity, when it is relatively new to us, does muscle soreness usually occur.
What Causes Sore Muscles?
Muscles experience physical stress when we exercise. Certain factors challenge the adaption process, which can ultimately cause moderate muscle damage and soreness as opposed to unnecessary strain and pain. These factors are:
Why Are Muscles Sore?
It is natural for your muscles to feel sore the next day after exercising. By increasing the intensity, you increase the stress on your muscles. The sore muscles then need to recover to increase their endurance and strength. So basically, muscle recovery leads to improved muscle function. Let's look at this process in greater detail.
By exercising hard, you stress your muscle tissue beyond what it is used to. Your muscles begin to burn, which indicates muscle damage. Because of this damage, your muscles feel sore the next day. Muscle soreness is delayed because damage to the muscles consists of small microscopic tears in the muscles after they have undergone lengthening contractions. Inflammation sets in after 24 to 48 hours, which then causes the soreness.
It used to be thought that next-day muscle soreness was caused by a build-up of lactic acid in the muscles. Lactic acid in the muscle's tissue is completely washed out 30 to 60 minutes after physical activity. With most muscle soreness occurring 24 to 48 hours after exercising, the cause of sore muscles cannot be lactic acid build up in the muscles.
Muscle biopsies taken immediately after physical exertion show disruption of z-band filaments holding the muscle fibers together as they slide over each other during a contraction. Next-day muscle soreness (DOMS) is solely caused by damage to the muscle fibers themselves.
Can You Avoid Sore Muscles?
You can only avoid sore muscles by doing everything at the same pace and intensity as you have always done it, which is basically unnatural. Muscles must be stressed enough to strengthen them but not too much to cause them injury. Normal healthy muscles need to be tested through physical activity so sore muscles cannot be avoided.
Here are some tricks to help you avoid the type of sore muscles that cause injury.
No-one has discovered a panacea for DOMS yet but there are remedies that have proved to be of some help in the recovery process. These include ice, rest, anti-inflammatory medication, massage and heat treatment. To reduce sore muscles;
While the recommendations on this page are a good starting point, you'll get a lot more benefit when you include a wider variety of exercises. So to improve your athletic ability, reduce injuries and really take advantage of all the stretching exercises on offer, grab a copy of the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility (Handbook, DVD & CD-ROM).
In total, they include 135 clear photographs and 44 video demonstrations of unique stretching exercises for every major muscle group in your body. Plus, over 80 printable stretching routines for 22 sports and 19 different muscle groups.
The DVD also includes 3 customized stretching routines (8 minutes each) for the Upper Body; the Lower Body; and the Neck, Back & Core, plus a bonus CD-ROM that allows you to print out over 80 stretching routines that you can take with you wherever you go.
The Handbook and DVD will show you, step-by-step, how to perform each stretch correctly. Plus, you'll also learn the 7 critical rules for safe stretching; the benefits of flexibility; and how to stretch properly. Check out the Ultimate Guide to Stretching & Flexibility for yourself.
Don't Stop Exercising
Sore muscles are a natural outcome of any kind of physical activity, particularly in the beginning stages of an exercise program. Don't give up exercising altogether just because you have sore muscles. Give your body time to recover and continue with your activity. By doing this, you are allowing your body to adapt to higher stress in a very healthy and natural way, which will lead to stronger muscles and greater fitness.