Have you ever experienced sore muscles after a new workout or when you’ve pushed yourself harder than you usually would?

If the answer is yes, do not worry. This is called “delayed onset muscle soreness”, also known as DOMS and is common when you increase the intensity or duration of your workout or when you try a new activity for the first time. Research also suggests muscle stiffness, contraction velocity, fatigue and angle of contraction can play a role in contributing to DOMS.

Symptoms associated with DOMS include:

  • Strength loss: peaks immediately or within 48hrs
  • Pain: peaks 1-3 days after exercise
  • Muscle tenderness: peaks 1-3 days after exercise
  • Stiffness: peaks 3-4 days after exercise
  • Swelling: peaks 3-4 days after exercise

DOMS occur as a result of myofibril tears, also known as muscle strains. This causes an inflammatory response with intramuscular fluid and electrolyte shifts which results in the arising symptoms of DOMS. This is nothing to be worried about, it is a normal and natural process for our muscles to adapt and strengthen.

In this article, we’ll walk you through 6 tips to relieve sore muscles after a workout!

light exercise to relieve muscle soreness

Tips to stop muscle pain and soreness

Light Exercise

Light exercise, also known as active recovery, has been found to be an effective tool in relieving sore muscles after a workout, particularly in strength recovery.

Although light exercise is probably the last thing you want to do when experiencing DOMS, the gentle, restorative movements of active recovery can help to stretch the sore muscles and increase blood flow, which in turn sends more oxygen to your muscles to encourage recovery.

This is where Pilates classes or Yoga can be really helpful and useful in aiding the recovery process. Pilates focuses on non-impact exercises which guide your body through a range of movement and gentle muscle activation to aid circulation and recovery.

sleep for recovery

Sleep

The importance of sleep is often underplayed in the recovery of muscle soreness, however, getting 6 hours or less of sleep at night can significantly increase your risk of getting injured.

A good sleep routine is required for sufficient recovery from muscle soreness and damage following intense workouts. During sleep, our human growth hormone (HGH) peaks which stimulates protein synthesis aiding muscle recovery. When sleep is restricted, the body releases less HGH which impairs protein synthesis and leads to incomplete muscle restoration.

Diet

Diet also plays a really important role in reducing or stopping muscle pain following a workout.

You should ensure your day-to-day diet includes plenty of quality proteins, wholegrains, fruits, vegetables and healthy fats to support the muscle adaption process.

In addition to this, you should also replenish protein and carbohydrate sources after a workout.

eggs on toast for sore muscles

Foods proven to help sore muscles:

  1. Tart cherry juice: Research shows tart cherry juice can help improve recovery time and decrease muscle pain and damage. Simply add it to a protein smoothie for easy intake.
  2. Cottage cheese: High in protection, one of the best sources of casein protein and contains amino acid leucine, all are known to rejuvenate sore muscle and speed up the recovery process.
  3. Turmeric: Add turmeric to your porridge, eggs, smoothies or coffee to reduce muscle pain.
  4. Coffee: A cup or two of coffee approximately an hour before a workout can help to significantly reduce muscle pain.
  5. Salmon: Full of anti-inflammatory fats, antioxidants and protein, salmon is the perfect post-workout snack.
  6. Eggs: As a source of protein as well as containing amino acid leucine, eggs are a great choice to help reduce the effects of DOMS after strenuous exercise.
  7. Banana: Bananas are a great way to spike your insulin to drive protein to your muscles and in turn aid muscle recovery and growth.

Food to avoid with sore muscles:

  1. Sugar: Sugar is known to be inflammatory which can make muscle soreness worse so it is wise to cut back on sugary foods on the days you workout.
  2. Alcohol: As many of us know, alcohol is known to dehydrate you which can result in soreness. Research also suggests alcohol can interfere with blood flow and muscle recovery.

Massage

Massages are widely used as a form of therapeutic treatment to facilitate the recovery of muscle soreness following exercise.

Studies show that massages performed post exercise but before DOMS are developed, can decrease the severity of muscle soreness by 20-40% due to its ability to reduce swelling and plasma CK. Plasma CK refers to an enzyme (or type of protein) called creatine kinase which is present in your blood. Levels of CK typically rise after skeletal muscle injury or strenuous exercise.

Although there is little evidence to describe the effects of massage, they are known to increase blood and lymph flow which may enhance the removal of pain substrates which accumulate in an injured area.

At Complete Pilates, we work closely with our soft tissue team to ensure patients have access to massage therapy alongside their Pilates classes.

Cold Water Immersion

ice bath

Cold water immersion is a form of cryotherapy which involves immersing the body in cold water (≤15˚C/59˚F) for between 1-15 minutes immediately after a workout to reduce the effects of DOMS.

At home this can be achieved by having a cold bath after a workout. It’s a bit like marmite this technique, some people love it or hate it, but it might really help reduce muscle soreness!

Research suggests the temperature of the cold water is believed to reduce the inflammatory response of muscle damage as a result of vasoconstriction which in turn reduces fluid diffusion following exercise.

Compression Treatment

Compression is often advised and used in clinic to reduce muscle pain, inflammatory responses and swelling as a result of injury. There is also evidence to suggest such treatments are effective in relieving sore muscles after a workout but further research is required to reach a convincing conclusion.

Treatments such as compression sleeves are frequently seen worn by athletes for their ability to improve circulation by dilating the artery walls which in turn increase the amount of blood flow and therefore oxygen to the muscles. Increased circulation prevents lactic acid from building up, boosts your lymphatic system and reduces inflammation which aids performance and recovery.

Summary

ladder barell Pilates for sore muscles

At Complete Pilates our entire team has extensive training in clinical Pilates. If you have an injury or muscle pain one of our Physiotherapists can assess your injury and determine exactly what is going on and how we can help. We can then tailor the programme to suit you and ensure you progress.

We offer equipment Pilates in London as well as online Pilates classes which can be 1:1s or as a group. The classes include

  • Back to basics: this online group class is suitable for anyone who wants to check back in with the basics or has any current injury.
  • Intermediate and advanced classes: this online group class is great for anyone looking for a challenge who already understands movement well.
  • One to one sessions. These are our speciality as we can individually assess you and plan your sessions.
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Education is key:

These blogs are designed to give information to everyone, however, it is important to remember that everyone is different! If you have not seen one of our therapists and have any questions about injuries, what you have read or whether this may be useful to you, please just ask. We are more than happy to help anyone and point you in the right direction. Our biggest belief is that education is key. The more you understand about your injury, illness and movement, the more you are likely to improve.

If you are not sure whether this is for you, simply get in touch. We are here to help!