Following an especially intense workout, you may notice that your muscles are incredibly sore — and the aches and discomfort can last up to 72 hours.
Not only is being sore unpleasant — after all, none of us like being in pain — but it can seriously decrease your muscle function. The stiffness and discomfort can make you want to skip out on movement throughout the day (such as taking stairs) while inhibiting your performance in the gym.
For all of the above reasons, we want to get rid of muscle soreness as soon as possible. In this guide from ASYSTEM, we’ll give you ways to do exactly that.
Keep reading to find out what causes muscle soreness in the first place, what you can do to prevent it, and — if it happens — the top five ways to relieve sore muscles fast.
Why Do Muscles Get Sore?
If you exercise regularly, you might notice that your muscle groups only get sore in response to extra-grueling workouts. However, even workouts that don’t feel intense can cause your muscles to get sore if you're a beginner.
Although the process has yet to be entirely understood by researchers, inflammation and swelling are likely at play. Whenever you perform any activity that challenges your muscles, you create microscopic tears in the muscle fibers.
Your body rushes to repair these micro-tears, which makes your muscles stronger and bigger. However, if you overdid it — relative to your abilities — this repair process might be accompanied by a significant inflammatory response. This is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).
Although many believe that the build-up of lactic acid causes DOMS, this is a common misconception. No lactic acid is involved in the inflammatory process.
DOMS usually involves muscle pain, soreness, and muscle stiffness. The pain typically peaks around 48 hours and subsides — at most — within five days.
Is Muscle Soreness a Good Thing?
You might think that muscle soreness is a sign that you’re doing something right in the gym. However, this is not necessarily the case.
This is because muscle soreness is not required for muscle growth. It is entirely possible to grow your muscles without experiencing any muscle soreness following your workouts.
In addition, muscle soreness can make it difficult for you to train for several days. Studies show that muscle soreness can inhibit all aspects of athletic performance. In such cases, instead of aiding with muscle growth, muscle soreness can inhibit it.
Experiencing muscle soreness every once in a while is a sign that you’re challenging yourself. While it may not necessarily contribute to muscle growth, an extra challenge can certainly sharpen your physical endurance and mental resilience.
How Can I Reduce the Feeling of Sore Muscles?
To get back to your normal fitness routine, you want to reduce the feeling of sore muscles as soon as possible.
Here are five evidence-based strategies for reducing recovery time:
1. Get a Massage
If you ever needed an excuse to treat yourself to a spa day, then this is it.
By stimulating circulation, massage can increase the delivery of oxygen and other nutrients to your muscles. This, in turn, can speed up their recovery.
One study shows that getting a sports massage after a strenuous workout can significantly reduce recovery time by reducing pain. However, one thing to keep in mind is that the results were more significant the closer the massage was to the workout.
If you’re going to try this remedy to relieve muscle soreness, you may want to schedule your massage as close to your workout as possible.
2. Use a Foam Roller
Considered a form of self-induced massage, foam rolling can go a long way in reducing muscle soreness. By placing pressure on your muscle tissues, you can increase circulation while promoting muscle relaxation.
Research supports this, with studies showing that foam rolling after a strenuous workout can increase muscle flexibility, muscle activation, and range of motion.
As for the best part?
A foam roller is inexpensive, takes up very little storage space, and can be used without help. Use it for ten to 15 minutes following your more-intense-than-usual workouts to maximize its benefits.
3. Perform Recovery Workouts
It may not feel intuitive to work out more to relieve muscle soreness. Of course, we’re not suggesting going all-out when you can barely get out of your chair.
However, engaging in a light or moderate-intensity workout when your muscles are sore can increase blood flow and lymphatic drainage, reducing the inflammatory process responsible for all that pain.
If you plan to embark on a workout to reduce your muscle soreness, make sure you’re sticking to cardio — and remember that the more you sweat, the more you stimulate your lymphatic system.
Try to avoid directly training your sore muscles through strength training. That’s because instead of increasing recovery, this can interfere with it.
4. Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is responsible for many aspects of your health, including tissue repair. While you sleep, your muscles undergo protein synthesis, which can alleviate muscle soreness.
However, if you don’t get enough sleep, you’re putting your body at risk for impaired tissue repair. There are many reasons for this. Amongst them is the increase in pro-inflammatory proteins called cytokines, which can interfere with your body’s efforts to relieve the inflammation in your muscles.
So, while it’s not a quick fix, sleep is incredibly important in speeding up the recovery of sore muscles. As such, in the days following your most vigorous workouts, make sure to give your body as much time as it needs for sleep.
5. Use Pain-Relieving Ingredients
If your muscle soreness is bad enough, you may be tempted to take pain-relieving medication, such as ibuprofen and aspirin. While — on its face — this makes complete sense, there are some side effects you may not be considering.
Common painkillers work by suppressing the body’s inflammatory response. Although this can help alleviate pain quickly, it can interfere with healing. After all, the inflammatory response is a sign that your body is working to repair muscle tissue.
However, by suppressing the inflammatory response, you can be interfering with the process that makes your muscles grow stronger and bigger. Studies support this by showing that common pain relievers suppress the protein formation that occurs in muscles after strength training.
As a result, although you’ll experience less pain, you’ll potentially prevent your body from reaping the full benefits of exercise.
However, this does not mean that you can’t turn to supplements to support your body’s healing. Various ingredients have been clinically proven to aid in sore muscle relief.
ASYSTEM’s Radical Relief Gel Roll On contains evidence-based ingredients that are sure to reduce the feeling of sore muscles — fast. Let’s take a look.
Hemp Isolate CBD
Cannabidiol (CBD) is a type of cannabinoid — a chemical found in cannabis plants. It’s free of THC, which is the psychoactive compound in cannabis.
Although it’s fairly new to the health industry, CBD has a large evidence base to back it up. Studies show that it can effectively fight inflammation and reduce pain, which can support the body’s healing response after an especially strenuous workout.
Used since ancient times to reduce pain, menthol is an ingredient obtained from the oils of mint leaves. It works by producing a cooling effect on the skin, which can reduce inflammation. It is used for relief in a variety of painful conditions, such as migraines, burns, and, of course, muscle soreness.
Derived from salicylic acid, topical methyl salicylate works by supporting blood flow to the muscles. This supports the body’s healing response while providing temporary (but quick) relief from pain, tension, and stiffness.
Arnica Montana Oil
Arnica is a flower that belongs to the daisy family. It is native to Western European countries, such as Germany, where its oil has long been used for pain relief. This ingredient works by stimulating the action of immune cells, which can reduce the body’s inflammatory process during muscle soreness.
There are various ingredients that can support your body in healing sore muscles. It’s important to do your homework before investing in one — not all of them are made the same.
Fortunately, ASYSTEM has done the work for you.
All of our ingredients are clinically proven to reduce pain, which can help you cut down on recovery following your most strenuous workouts.
Check out our powerful products that will bring you muscle recovery — fast.
Meet our Experts
This article has been reviewed by members of our Scientific Advisory Board.
Former Olympic Athlete, Founder, B2ten Foundation (coach to multiple Olympic Champions)
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