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Four Steps to Minimize Soreness After Exercise
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Four Steps to Minimize Soreness After Exercise

By Tony Wolff, PT


So you take a new aerobics class at your gym and it leaves you feeling demolished, like the iceberg that hit the Titanic. We’ve all been there. Fortunately there are a slew of simple, inexpensive solutions you can try to help relieve your aches and pains.


It’s important to understand that delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) usually occurs 1-2 days after exercise, and is thought to be the result of microtrauma to muscle fibers. Soreness following exercise can come from different sources, and can impact your desire or ability to engage in activity the next time.


If you want to get a little adventurous at the gym, you might want to remember these proven ways to ease delayed onset muscle soreness so you can get back to your fitness routine: 


Preliminary: First off, it is worth talking about joint pain associated with exercise. This likely requires closer monitoring than typical muscle soreness. For those with a history of joint pain, possibly associated with arthritic degenerative changes, the Arthritis Foundation recommends a stretching routine targeting major muscle groups be done before and after vigorous or prolonged activity. In addition, keep in mind the ‘two-hour rule’, which is that there should not be an increase in joint pain lasting more than 2 hours upon completion of an exercise.


Dynamic Warm Up: Whereas traditional stretching is recommended in management of joint pain, as noted above, the most recent research tells us it does not help in lessening DOMS. This holds true for both stretching before and after exercise. What is recommended is a dynamic warm up that safely uses the momentum of movement to complete the available joint range of motion. A five-minute routine that includes arm circles, walking lunges, leg swings, and trunk twists is a good example.


Safe Progression: The overload principle of training states that a greater than normal loading is necessary for tissue adaptation. With an increase in exercise load, or possibly adding a new activity to our routine, DOMS may occur. The American College of Sports Medicine states that a ‘slow and steady’ progression across the variables of time, frequency, and intensity is best. Using this principle, we are much less likely to experience DOMS, and its limitations.


Rest: Our bodies need rest as much as regular exercise. Depending upon our level of fitness we may need more rest initially, as we take on new or more challenging activities. Essentially our body is working to relieve DOMS during rest, and without enough of it, we may be limited the next time out.


Massage: An immune reaction occurs following vigorous exercise. This leads to inflammation and pain. Research indicates that massage aids in decreasing the inflammatory response while improving cell recovery. The best massage likely comes from the hands of a licensed massage therapist, though very effective techniques can be taught for home. This includes both having a friend perform a massage, or simple self-massage practices.