You tried a new machine at the gym, you finally had a chance to go for a run or you spent your Saturday playing a game of softball. You felt great when it was over. Then you gradually began to feel some soreness. The next morning or even two days later, you could barely get out of bed. There’s a name for that. It’s delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).

What is DOMS?

DOMS, also known as “muscle fever,” occurs anywhere from 24 to 48 hours after a physical activity — usually one that you’re not used to. It often happens when people are starting a new exercise regimen. It’s actually normal. Sports medicine physicians will attest that even professional athletes and longtime bodybuilders experience it sometimes — not just weekend warriors.

It’s our muscle tissue reacting to being put through a new or especially intense activity that it isn’t used to. The extra lengthening that’s occurred in the muscle caused microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. These tears and the inflammation that accompanies them can be uncomfortable.

As your muscles adjust to the new or increased activity, they’ll get stronger and the soreness will decrease. It shouldn’t be the norm, nor should it discourage you from exercising.

How Can You Prevent DOMS?

A brief warm-up can help prevent it. Many people think stretching is good enough. However, static stretching may tighten muscles rather than loosen them. Five minutes on the treadmill or bike will warm up your muscles.

Following exercise, take a few minutes to cool down. Then have a protein snack and some water.

How to Reduce the Soreness

In the meantime, sports medicine professionals recommend some things you can take to reduce the soreness.

  • Limit yourself to light exercise to keep your muscles moving, but give them some relief. Some light aerobic work and then some stretching afterwards can help.
  • Alternate heat and ice packs. If the temperature of the muscle rises, oxygen and blood flow to the muscle also increases. This helps the muscle heal. Cold provides an analgesic that can smooth the muscle.
  • Foam rollers can also help smooth out the knots in your muscle. Florida physical therapists use foam rollers regularly. They let you use your own weight to put pressure on your muscle. It’s similar to smoothing out the lumps in dough with a rolling pin.
  • Hydrate. Muscle soreness can be exacerbated by dehydration. That’s why it’s essential to drink plenty of water. Coconut water is a good way to hydrate and add electrolytes to your system.
  • Get plenty of sleep. While we sleep, our bodies release a growth hormone that helps repair our muscles. You should get eight hours of sleep. For even faster results, take a couple of twenty-to-sixty minute naps each day.

Of course, if you experience pain as opposed to soreness for any period of time, you should consult a physician. Pain can mean that a muscle or tendon has been damaged and requires treatment. Our Jacksonville orthopedic surgeons can determine what is causing the pain and prescribe the best treatment. Call us or contact us online to schedule an appointment.

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