Sore muscles are a common complaint after workouts and weight-lifting sessions. This soreness does not necessarily mean that you're out of shape. Even seasoned fitness enthusiasts suffer muscle soreness and injury after workouts. It is important to know the reason behind sore muscles after a workout routine, as well as treatment and prevention options.
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Causes of Sore Muscles
When you work out for the first time in years, you are bound to have some sore muscles for a couple of days afterward. You are working muscles that have lain dormant for an extended period of time.
If you who work out regularly, you can still suffer the aches and pains of overworked muscles. In weight-lifting, for example, your muscles may not be accustomed to pushing excess weight upward. Additional weight makes muscles lengthen. Too much additional weight can cause muscle fibers to develop small tears, an injury that cannot simply be "worked off." The muscle fibers require time to repair themselves, or further injury is a sure bet. Some people can take seven days to heal; others may take twice that.
During Your Workout
There are a few things you can do during your workout to help prevent muscle injury and soreness. According to personal trainer and writer for "Iron Magazine," Marc David, doing warm-ups and cool-downs between sets can help keep muscle soreness to a minimum. Take time to breathe before moving on to the next set, and stretch those muscles. Properly loosening and adding flexibility to muscle groups will prevent injury and reduce muscle soreness.
David also advises alternating workouts during the week. For example, one day you may do extreme weight training, while the next you may just take a long walk or do Pilates. Alternating heavy and light workouts can keep your muscles toned and continue strengthening them without injury or pain.
How to Lessen Muscle Pain
Certain activities can assist in healing muscle soreness, leading to a somewhat speedier recovery. According to Dr. John M. Berardi, Ph.D., light exercise can help. Walking, stretching and general daily activities can help reduce soreness and speed up healing. Do not resume a rigorous workout, because of the risk of further injury to the sore muscles.
Massage is another way to reduce soreness. Massaging the muscles and promoting proper muscle relaxation will help keep muscle contractions down to a minimum. Massage with the jets of a hot tub is ideal, as the heat assists in easing muscle spasm and soreness.
Some athletes have reported success with cold-water immersion, according to Dr. Berardi. After a game, these athletes have reported dipping sore muscles or even the whole body into a tub of ice water. The water is said to increase circulation and promote faster healing, along with pain relief.
Another way to reduce soreness is muscle compression. This is simply wrapping the sore muscle with an elastic bandage. The bandage should be snug, but not tight enough to limit blood flow. The wrapping limits the muscle movement, allowing for faster healing and a decrease in muscle pain from continuous overworking the muscle.
The best way to deal with sore muscles is to allow your body to naturally heal. General workout strain will take at least two to four days before experiencing total pain relief and healing. These muscles have not suffered injury, just overexertion such as walking too far or standing on your feet at a new job for several hours. Injured muscles will take longer to recover, perhaps a week or two. Healing times will vary depending on the individual. Although it is not always possible to stay in bed all day, light work and frequent resting periods are ideal when muscle soreness and injury are present.
Eating a properly balanced diet of fruits, vegetables and protein can help prevent muscle injury and strain. When your body is lacking in essential nutrients, the muscle fibers are weaker. General workouts can place too much stress on them, increasing the odds of strain and injury. Plus, get plenty of sleep. Muscles need rest too, and sleep provides them with deep relaxation.