What Causes Muscle Soreness After Workout and What to Do

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, also known as DOMS, affects everybody who exercises or even tries scrubbing that floor for a bit too long. DOMS is that subtle, or not-so-subtle pain in your muscles after exposing them to too much strain.

The causes range from starting the workouts without warming up the muscles to working way too hard and overstepping the limits of your body.

What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?

DOMS is a pretty common feeling of pain, burning, and stiffness in our muscles after unaccustomed, strenuous, and eccentric exercise.

Eccentric exercises cause a contraction of the muscle while the muscle is lengthening, which can be especially challenging to the muscle fibers.

Amateur athletes usually don’t think much about sore muscles, thinking that working through the pain is how you get better results. Experienced exercisers know better.  People invested in competitive sports will do all they can to avoid DOMS or heal it as soon as possible.

The reason why many athletes are careful with the intensity of their workouts is that they know that high-intensity exercise actually causes microscopic tears in muscle fibers and decrements in motor performance as well. 

Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a type of ultrastructural muscle injury. Once you damage your muscle fibers, your body responds with inflammation, and it usually takes days before the complete recovery.

The Usual Causes of DOMS

Muscle soreness from working out usually happens after a more intense workout program. DOMS is also common when athletes are first introduced to certain types of activities. It affects everybody, no matter if they are in the middle of the training season or just starting after a pause.

It is not unusual for DOMS to happen even after increasing the intensity of the daily workouts. For example, you can trigger it by increasing the amount of weight lifted, number of repetitions, or speed.

To complete a DOMS definition – delayed-onset muscle soreness happens when our body is in intense or repetitive activity for a long time without a sufficient rest break (recovery mode).

Lactic Acid and Muscle Soreness

A pretty common understanding about the DOMS is that it is caused by a build-up of lactic acid. Lactic acid is a by-product of a process of depleting your oxygen reserves. 

But not all of the authors agree. Researchers J A Schwane, B G Watrous, S R Johnson, and R B Armstrong tested the hypothesis that delayed-onset muscular soreness (after running) is related to the production of lactic acid during the exercise. Results indicated that lactic acid is not related to exercise-induced delayed-onset muscle soreness.

How Long Does Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Last?

Delayed onset muscle soreness, in the form of stiffness, achiness, and muscle weakness, typically lasts between two and five days. The pain, as a result of DOMS, can range from mild to severe, and it usually occurs one or two days after the workout.

How to Relieve Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

So, what helps muscle soreness? It seems like every athlete has their own favorite muscle soreness remedies. There is, however, a general consensus that the following methods work the best – alone or in combination with each other. For example, you can use red light therapy on its own, but it will also help other methods be even more efficient. It can even improve your muscle soreness home remedies.

  • Stretches immediately after the workout
  • Muscle massage immediately after the workout
  • Red light therapy session
  • Heating and cooling pads
  • Soaks (Ice, Epsom Salt Soak, Warm water)
  • Foam rollers

Stretches for muscle soreness are at the top of every list of advice. The evidence from randomized studies suggests that muscle stretching, at any phase of the exercise, does not produce clinically important reductions in delayed-onset muscle soreness in healthy adults. 

However, subjective feelings of relaxation and pain relief are present with many athletes after stretching. That is not a neglectable benefit. That is why even professional athletes experiment with home remedies for DOMS.

The most common home remedies for muscle soreness:

  • Muscle soreness essential oils (marjoram, peppermint, lavender)
  • Certain foods and drinks (banana and beet juice)
  • Vitamin D and Magnesium supplements
  • Apple cider vinegar pads
  • Compression (wrap-ups)

How to Reduce Muscle Soreness After Working Out

Sore muscles after a workout can range from uncomfortable to very painful. There are a lot of things that can be done to “boost” muscle recovery.

Medication – Some opt for the over-the-counter, anti-inflammatory medications after the workout, before the soreness even occurs. Medications such as aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen can (in some cases) reduce swelling and relieve pain. Of course, this is not the option for everyone, especially those that want non pharmacological pain relief options.

Drug-free Options – Other ways of dealing with DOMS include maintaining light physical activity, taking extra care about adjusting your hydration, and light therapy. 

Nutrition – The regular intake of protein should be considered, even after the damage already occured. Protein is an important nutrient for building and maintaining the “health” of our muscles. 

Giving your body all the right nutrients will help it deal with DOMS faster. Especially if you have a way of helping it absorb and unitize those nutrients more efficiently – which is precisely what red and near-infrared therapy do.

Red Light Therapy– There are many positive experiences with light therapy. Modern solutions, like near-infrared light, are becoming increasingly popular since they are proven to benefit sore, damaged, and tired muscles without downsides or side effects.

Red light therapy can be applied immediately after a workout because it mimics the sun’s red and near-infrared spectrum of light your body is used to. The main benefits lie in the power of near-infrared light to energize the body’s natural healing systems, increase blood circulation and assist in a quicker repair of the damaged muscles.

Working out With Sore Muscles

There are people that continue working out, completely ignoring the DOMS and the damage their muscles suffer. However, it is important to know when to workout harder and when to work out smarter. Going for a high-intensity workout during DOMS can be counter-productive.

Being able to work out with DOMS is possible, but it is never a recommendation. Our body needs time to heal and to recover. Having a day or two for resting after an intense workout is not wasted – it’s the time necessary for the muscle-building process.

The most common situation is that athletes think they don’t have enough time to take “recovery mode” seriously. Usually, their recovery time comes down to the night between two intense workouts, which can be one of the reasons why most athletes suffer from injuries.

The awareness about the importance of resting time is growing. More and more athletes are using innovative therapeutic technologies, such as FlexBeam to speed up their recovery time and make it more efficient.

Recharge Health team created this device with athletes’ needs in mind and it is a powerful recovery device that uses targeted red light therapy to work on the damaged muscles. 

FlexBeam is designed to help your body relieve, repair, and recover faster. The secret is in specific red light and near-infrared wavelengths that stimulate the body’s natural process of healing.

More and more athletes are using FlexBeam as their go-to solution for muscle soreness, injury prevention and even to help to heal existing injuries. This is not where it stops. Take a look at the long list of FlexBeam benefits.