Ever felt the soreness in your muscles after a day of that leg workout? Or to put it simply the slight pain, the difficulty in walking because your muscles are aching. It may sometimes indicate that you had an intense, good workout but at the same time, you should be cautious about it, because that’s not the only reason it happens.
Also, how do you help your muscles to deal with the soreness?
A common muscle discomfort experienced by many individuals as a result of mainly physical activity, exercise, or even sedentary lifestyles is referred to as the soreness in muscles. There are some other factors as well which can contribute to sore muscles.
In such situations, the age-old remedy of stretching has proven to be an effective way to alleviate muscle soreness and promote recovery.
Through this article, we will dive deep to analyze everything we know about muscle soreness. It includes the science behind muscle soreness, what causes muscle soreness, the benefits of stretching, different types of stretches, and how incorporating a regular stretching routine can contribute to overall muscle health. Furthermore, we’ll look for different other strategies to deal with muscle soreness.
2. Understanding the Muscle Soreness by Physical Activity
Physical activity is one of the primary causes of muscle soreness apart from different other reasons which will be discussed further.
Muscle soreness, known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), typically occurs after engaging in strenuous physical activities, especially with those involving unfamiliar movements or intense resistance training & movement.
It’s believed to be caused as a result of microscopic damage to the muscle fibers and connective tissues during eccentric (lengthening) contractions. The muscle fiber damage triggers an inflammatory response, leading to pain, stiffness, and reduced range of motion. Through some rest, hydration, and gentle stretching, most of the soreness can be treated early.
2.2. Time Frame of Muscle Soreness
DOMS usually peaks within 24 to 72 hours after exercise and gradually subsides as the body repairs and adapts to the stress. While muscle soreness can be uncomfortable, it’s an indicator of the body’s adaptive response and should not discourage individuals from pursuing their regular physical activity.
3. Other Causes of Muscle Soreness
There are a variety of causes of muscle soreness apart from exercises, sports and physical activity. Some of them are discussed below, which are:
Muscle soreness can also result from injuries or trauma, which can include falls, accidents, or direct blows to the muscles. Injuries can cause muscle fibers to tear, leading to pain, inflammation, and soreness in the affected area.
Also, because of any injury if the movement of any muscle is hindered for a long period then it may also lead to muscle soreness.
Muscle soreness can also be caused as a symptom of certain illnesses and infections. These infections and illnesses can include flu, viral infections and bacterial infections which can lead to muscle pain and soreness throughout the body.
Certain cholesterol-lowering drugs and statins in particular apart from other medications, can cause muscle soreness as a side effect which is known as drug-induced myopathy.
3.4. Dehydration & Electrolyte Imbalance
Dehydration and imbalances in electrolytes like potassium, calcium, and sodium can lead to muscle cramps and soreness. Proper hydration and electrolyte balance are essential for muscle function and preventing cramps.
3.5. Stress and Tension
Emotional stress and tension can manifest physically as muscle soreness or tightness, especially in the neck, shoulders, and back. Stress-related muscle soreness is often linked to muscle tension and poor posture.
3.6. Metabolic Conditions
Metabolic conditions like metabolic myopathies can result in muscle soreness due to problems with energy production within muscle cells. These conditions are characterized by muscle weakness and pain.
4. Effects of Muscle Soreness
Muscle soreness can have a variety of effects on an individual’s body and how the individual lives.
4.1. Pain and Discomfort:
Muscle soreness is typically associated with pain, tenderness, and discomfort in and often around the affected muscles. This pain can range from mild to severe and is often felt when there is movement of the affected muscle or when pressure is applied to the sore areas.
4.2. Reduced Range of Motion:
Sore muscles may lead to a decreased range of motion, making it challenging to move or stretch the affected muscles fully. This reduced flexibility can impact daily activities and exercise performance. A lot of pain can also be experienced while performing the basic activities.
4.3. Impact on Exercise Performance:
Severe muscle soreness can hamper an individual’s performance while exercising, making it difficult to engage in subsequent workouts with the same intensity and power.
This can disrupt training routines and at the same time hinder progress toward fitness goals as the potential of a person is drastically reduced.
5. Does Stretching Help Recovery from Sore Muscles?
If we come straight to the point then ‘YES’, stretching does help with muscle soreness. A good stretch has always been recommended as a good solution to reduce muscle soreness and thus overcome any physical limitations. It helps in the following ways by having the positive effects on our muscles:
5.1. Improves Blood Flow & Circulation
Stretching helps in enhancing blood circulation to the muscles. Blood circulation as we know, helps in the delivery of nutrients and oxygen necessary for tissue repair. Thus through stretching, which increases blood flow, muscle recovery would be faster.
Increased blood flow also helps to remove waste products that accumulate during muscle damage, thus contributing to a faster recovery.
5.2. Reduces Muscle Tension
Sore muscles often become tense and stiff as a result of the intense workout. Stretching helps to relieve tension from muscles by elongating the muscle fibers, thus promoting relaxation, and restoring flexibility. This improved flexibility can also prevent future injuries and enhance overall athletic performance.
6. What are the Stretches that Help?
There are a number of stretches that you can incorporate into your routine to help with and reduce muscle soreness. Any negative impact of stretching has not been recorded yet if done under the bar. The types of stretches include:
6.1. Static Stretches
Static stretching involves holding a stretch for a certain duration, allowing the muscle to gradually relax and elongate. It’s particularly effective for increasing flexibility and relieving muscle tension.
Common static stretches include hamstring stretches, calf stretches, and quadriceps stretches which will help release tension and increase blood flow.
6.2. Dynamic Stretches
Dynamic stretching involves controlled movements that mimic the motions of the activity you’re preparing for. This type of stretching activates muscles and joints while gradually increasing their range of motion and helps to prepare for the workout you are about to do.
Dynamic stretches are beneficial as part of a warm-up routine before exercise to reduce the risk of injury and avoid the chances of a sore muscle afterwards.
6.3. Active Recovery Stretches
Engaging in gentle, active movements during recovery days can aid in flushing out metabolic waste products and promoting blood flow without causing additional muscle damage. Activities like yoga or gentle cycling can serve as effective active recovery stretches.
7. Adding Stretching in your Routine
Post-workout stretching and a regular stretching regime can help with muscle soreness quite effectively. Both ways will help you incorporate stretching in your routine and can really prove beneficial for both the prevention and curing of muscle fibres.
7.1. Post-Workout Stretching
Stretching after exercise, when muscles are warm and pliable, can be particularly effective in reducing muscle soreness that may or may not happen as a result of the intense workout or if done after a long time.
Focus on the major muscle groups you’ve targeted during your workout, holding each stretch for about 15-30 seconds to help the muscles recover and prevent the tension from building up.
7.2. Regular Stretching Routine
To prevent muscle soreness in the long run and reduce the risk of injury, consider incorporating regular stretching into your routine. This can be done on rest days, after waking up, or before going to bed, it can be done if you have the will and dedication to have a better life in the future ahead.
Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your stretches over time which will definitely help in decreasing the chances of a sore muscle.
8. Other Ways to Help Sore Muscles
Apart from stretching, there are other ways as well which can be used to help with sore muscles, each one of them is almost equally effective. These include the following;
8.1. Hydration & Nutrition
Staying adequately hydrated and consuming a balanced diet rich in protein and nutrients can support muscle recovery and repair as it helps with the body’s natural processes to speed up thus helping with sore muscles.
Adequate hydration or intake of water helps transport nutrients to the muscles faster and at the same time thus helping to remove the waste products from the damaged tissues of muscles, promoting faster healing.
Proper nutrition provides the essential building blocks needed for muscle tissue regeneration. A balanced diet rich in proteins, vitamins and minerals will help with the same.
8.2. Rest for Recovery
Quality sleep is crucial for muscle recovery as during sleep, the growth hormone is produced by the, which aids in tissue repair and growth, ultimately helping with the sore muscles and quick recovery. Prioritize getting 7-9 hours of sleep each night as giving time to muscle fiber recovery is necessary.
8.3. Active Light Activity
It is also important to engage in a light, low-intensity activity like walking or swimming which will help in better blood circulation to the muscles aiding in the recovery without at the cost of further muscle damage.
8.4. Foam Rolling and Massages
Using tools like a foam roller or seeking professional massage can help release muscle tension and promote blood circulation, which aids in recovery. Foam roller, in particular, can target specific muscle groups and reduce muscle tightness.
Using foam rollers on the affected area of muscle can help with the soreness along with any other type of massaging device included. It helps reduce the tension around the muscles, relaxes them, and increases circulation.
8.5. Stress Therapy
It becomes important to adopt measures to tackle stress and tension. Seek therapy or practice yoga which will help you in dealing with stress among other ways. This will help relieve sore muscles from stress and make sure to sit in a proper posture throughout the day.
Yoga is an effective way of practising meditation and light stretching exercises that will not only help with sore muscles but at the same time help with mental and emotional stress. A personal trainer or a yoga practitioner can guide you through the recovery process.
8.7. Pain Killers
Over-the-counter or OTC pain medicine like a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) which includes ibuprofen (brand name: Advil) can also help ease muscle soreness.
Muscle soreness is often a natural response to physical activities and can serve as an indicator of the body’s adaptation to new challenges. This is the case when it is caused by some physical exercise.
Other factors responsible for muscle soreness include medications, illness, dehydration lifestyle factors, etc. It is important to analyze the cause behind the sore muscles and start working & adapting a solution.
Stretching is one of the most effective ways of helping sore muscles and yes it does help. Other solutions include massages foam rolling machines, etc.
By adopting preventive measures, progressively increasing exercise intensity, and allowing adequate time for recovery, individuals can manage muscle soreness effectively and continue to pursue their fitness goals.