If it’s been a while since you’ve moved your body — or you’ve been active but recently tried some new workout moves — it may seem like your muscles are in protest by feeling sore.
So, what’s going on behind the soreness and, maybe even more importantly, how sore is too sore? Let’s take a look.
Muscle discomfort after a workout actually has a name — DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It’s caused by inflammation from the stress put on your muscles and it’s totally normal, especially if you pushed yourself a bit hard. DOMS kicks in about 6 to 8 hours after a workout and may last as long as two days.
No Pain, No Gain?
You may think that soreness is a sign you’re more out of shape than you realized, and while that could be true, keep in mind that even pro athletes get the same feeling when they do something new or push themselves too hard. The truth is, when you’re feeling sore, it’s generally a good sign. The pain you feel comes from the fibers in your muscles breaking down, which may sound bad, but is part of getting stronger. Remember the old saying “no pain, no gain”? As your body heals those damaged fibers, it builds new, stronger muscle so that next time you work out your body is able to handle it better. It’s all part of the process.
How to Stop The Ouch
If you find yourself feeling sore after a sweat sesh, the best thing to do is move some more. Really! Go for a walk or maybe do some stretches. Because the more you move, the sooner you’ll feel better.
You can also try a warm bath or a heating pad. Or, if you want to go all-in, you can do what pro athletes do: get in a tub filled with ice. It may not sound fun, but it’s the best way to stop inflammation.
How Sore is Too Sore?
Keep in mind there’s a big difference between good muscle soreness and being so sore it’s a real problem. Overuse and injury are not the same things. If you can’t do your normal activities or you’re hurting for more than 3 days, it’s possible you may have injured yourself. Or, if your pain started while you were working out or right after, that’s almost certainly an injury. See a doctor right away, especially if your limbs get swollen or your urine turns dark.
As you move your body more, your run-ins with DOMS may lessen. Until then, embrace the ouch and know that your muscles are building and getting stronger each day. Unless you’re truly injured, keep at it. You got this!
NOTE: It’s very important to stretch before and after every workout. Check out these warm-up and cool-down stretches and see if you can stop DOMS before it even starts.
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