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4 Proven Ways to Reduce Muscle Soreness

By Hillary Oberpeul | October 11, 2017
4 Proven Ways to Reduce Muscle Soreness

Most of us have experienced it—the second day soreness that pops up after a tough workout or an active adventure. That feeling is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. According to experts at the American College of Sports Medicine, DOMS can be caused by any type of activity putting unaccustomed strain on muscles. Unlike acute muscle soreness (the kind that happens during activity) DOMS generally develops 12–24 hours after exercise—but the greatest pain can occur between 24–72 hours. That’s why your soreness seems to get worse a few days after your increase in activity. While it may sound like some sort of chronic condition, DOMS is actually quite manageable (and temporary!).

What Causes DOMS?

Contrary to popular belief, DOMS isn’t actually caused by a buildup of lactic acid. It’s a response to microscopic muscle damage. When you do an exercise that causes your muscles to lengthen as force is applied—things like strength training, running downhill, jogging or jumping—you create tiny tears in the muscle tissue. This can happen to anyone, but it’s especially common if you’re trying a new exercise.

How Do You Alleviate the Pain?

DOMS is first and foremost muscle soreness, but you may also experience some swelling, stiffness or tenderness to the touch along with it. There are a few ways you can alleviate this discomfort:

Dec 15, 2017 8:36:27 PM1. Use Cryotherapy

If your first instinct is to ice down your sore muscles, you’re on the right track! Cryotherapy is the use of cold temperatures for pain relief—but it doesn’t have to involve ice itself. You can use a topical analgesic like Biofreeze® Pain Reliever or a reusable cold pack. These options are quick, convenient and cost effective.

While ice is a classic and effective way to use cryotherapy, it’s not actually the most effective method. Research shows that topical, menthol-based analgesics are more effective at reducing pain, and that Biofreeze specifically outperforms ice in areas like pain relief, comfort, durability and overall preference.

2. Get a Massage

But make sure it’s the right kind of massage. While the typical spa experience may sound relaxing, it may not be the best choice to deal with DOMS. Massages that go deeper into the tissue, like a sports massage or deep tissue massage, are more likely to have a positive effect. Though researchers aren’t certain if massage provides faster relief from DOMS, one study in the Journal of Athletic Training found that massage could reduce swelling and the effect of DOMS by 30 percent.

To find a massage therapist near you, try using the Biofreeze Professional Finder. Just click Fast Search, then enter your zip code and select “Licensed Massage Therapist,” and you'll be presented with a list of nearby massage therapists. For a more detailed search by body part or objective (or even various healthcare professional types), enter your zip code and click “Continue.”

3. Try Foam Rolling

Foam rolling or using a roller massager is all the rage. These rollers create a massage-like experience that helps mobilize your muscles, both at a surface level and deep into the tissue. A 2013 study found that foam rolling could reduce DOMS in your thigh muscles, while also improving range of motion and vertical jump—though a more recent study has shown that the mechanisms behind relief may be different than originally thought. Rather than causing improvement due to changes in muscle and myofascia, it’s actually a combination of muscular and neurological mechanisms.

Similarly, researchers in Denmark studied the TheraBand Roller Massager and noted its effectiveness at reducing DOMS. The study found that using a TheraBand Roller Massager could reduce DOMS after high intensity exercise, making it an efficient tool for recovery.

Oct 12, 2017 12:08:49 AM4. Engage in Light Exercise

It might sound counterintuitive when you’re sore, but healthcare professionals often recommend a bit of exercise to help recover from DOMS. They say it can help with inflammation and pain. Try a low-impact aerobic exercise right after an intense workout and in the hours and days following it. This helps increase blood flow throughout the body, which can help with recovery. A resistance band can be a great tool for recovery. Researchers found that TheraBand resistance bands provide similar acute relief for muscle soreness as massage.

Can You Prevent DOMS?

Yes and no…but mostly no. If you’re exercising, you’re probably going to get sore at some point. However, you can reduce the level of soreness with a few tactics from the American College of Sports Medicine.

      • Start slow: Allowing a bit of time to pass while you allow a muscle to adapt to new stress can help reduce the intensity of DOMS.
      • Warm up properly: Though there’s little evidence to suggest that warming up will fully prevent DOMS symptoms, a proper warm up lets your muscles prepare for the kinds of activities that can cause damage.
      • Allow time for recovery: If you’re working out and getting sore, allowing a few days for muscle recovery is key. That’s not to say that you can’t work out on subsequent days, you just might want to work different muscle groups.

There’s no quick fix for DOMS, but there are steps you can take to reduce your discomfort and recover as fast as possible. Topical products like Biofreeze, massage rollers and exercise are all great alternative options to merely icing your symptoms. Remember—when you spend time on tough workouts, your body deserves the best tools for recovery. So the next time that you really exert yourself, consider trying a few of these suggestions to help.

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