Author: Sean Skinner, DC
This is a great time of year to bring up the topic of muscle soreness. Not only are we trying to shed some extra pounds we put on over the holidays, but winter is quickly coming to an end, and we will be getting outside to be more active very soon. If you are reading this, you have probably experienced some level of muscle soreness from beginning an exercise program, spending a few too many hours doing house work, or getting out in the yard for the first time of the new year.
So what is it? It is delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it is a very common reaction to new physical activity. This soreness/pain is usually felt around 24 to 72 hours post activity, and can last for a few days. The most common symptoms of DOMS are very similar to the signs and symptoms of inflammation -- pain with movement of the affected muscles, regional tenderness, and loss of function. Not a complete loss of function, but reduced strength.
There are a few widely accepted theories about what causes this soreness. These theories include localized inflammation in the muscle, localized muscle spasm, and lactic acid build up. The inflammation theory is the most widely accepted because of the similarity to the classic signs and symptoms of inflammation (pain, heat, redness, swelling, and loss of function). Based on the most current research, the muscle spasm and lactic acid theories are most likely to be incorrect.
Ok, so how do we avoid DOMS? Unfortunately, DOMS is not something you can completely avoid. There are some simple preventative steps we can take to help minimize the soreness. Gradually increasing the intensity of the activity or exercise you are doing is the best way. I know sometimes this is hard to do. Spring time comes and we want to start an exercise program, get out into the yard and mow, weed whack, plant flowers, wash the car, and take the dog for a two mile walk around the neighborhood all in one day. This is a sure formula for DOMS.
Treatment for DOMS is actually quite simple. Continued activity and exercise can actually lessen the pain and loss of function. This activity can actually increase pain tolerance and increase pain threshold. Another great treatment is to take a dip in a cold bath (water at about 50-60 degrees F) for 10-20 minutes after the bout of activity. It sounds bone chilling, and it is, but this is what you see professional athletes doing after games and practices. If it works for them, you can bet that it will work for you.
Proper nutrition and staying well hydrated are also keys to fast recovery. The inflammatory chemicals that can accumulate in the muscle tissue will be flushed out faster if you are well hydrated. A good guideline to go by when it comes to making sure you are getting enough water is drink about six 12oz glasses of water every day. We get water from other sources like food, juice, coffee and others, but this will ensure you are getting enough in. For nutritional guidelines, check out Dr. Camidge’s “Eat to live” blog in the patient resources section of our website.
If you want to avoid a couple days of pain and agony, please take my advice and ease into new activities, stay hydrated, and get some good food in you every day. If the pain lasts more than a couple of days, then you might have an injury that requires some attention. If the pain doesn’t go away give the closest Tuck Chiropractic Clinic a call and schedule an consultation and examination today. I hope you have a happy spring!