You hit the gym of late and within a week of stretching and slogging on the treadmill, you are too exhausted to sit straight for long. Does it sound familiar to you? Being a fitness freak, I know how rewarding a fit body can be. Just like every other thing, fitness comes at a price. When you start hitting the gym, you may not be able to bear the continuous slogging and stretching. Before you start to get assignment of fitness, be ready to endure the initial response and denial of your body.
If you had been too naïve to think that waking up to an early alarm and dragging your sleepy self to the gym and facing the wrath of the trainer was the hardest part of going to a gym, then the bubble has burst, and you are in for a reality check. The fatigue and stiffness that you face post-workout is the real deal. Even the simplest task of changing into a set of fresh clothes gets you on your knees, grimacing with stiffness and soreness. The blinding pain in the muscles that you face is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. Your trainer might call it muscle fever.
And it just isn’t limited to a workout session at the gym. Racquet sports, swimming sessions or dancing out at night can induce muscle fever as well. I remember enjoying this Metal rock gig where I danced like a maniac through the night. I was fine even when I got back home too. Now I think that was me just high on spirits. Joie de vivre, anyone? But the next morning was a straight dive into hell. I could not move my legs, and my neck hurt too – probably an outcome of an intensive session of animated head-banging.
What is Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness?
Delayed onset muscle soreness is the pain and stiffness that you feel in your muscles after a session of strenuous exercise. The soreness is felt within 24 to 72 hours after the workout. It happens mostly after you practice intense exercise like extreme lengthening and stretching.
DOMS timing: How fast or delayed does the pain set in?
There is no fixed time for the DOMS to set in. It can vary from one person to another. For most people, it is typical of the soreness to set in within 72 hours of the intense exercise drill. But for some, muscle fever may start almost right away after an intense workout. In that case, the soreness generally stays for a full day.
In case it is delayed, then the pain generally stays for a long time. It can stretch to an unbearable week as well. If you make the mistake of continuing with the activity that has given you DOMS in the first place, then the pain can persist for a long stretch and can accelerate muscle fever.
What exactly is the reason behind Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness?
The reason why we go through DOMS remains an enigma and the jury is still out on it. As of now, studies conducted in exercise science have come up with one explanation. Excessive and abnormal contraction of the body causes muscle damage and triggers the pain receptors. For example, if you have not been swimming for a long time, then your body starts losing flexibility and agility. When you suddenly go for a swim for an extended period, the swimming strokes release a load that your body is not prepared to endure.
If you miss a few calculus classes at your school or college, then try to learn it all for an upcoming assignment. That is exactly what happens to your body. Every time you do an exercise that is outside your normal range of intensity or any other activity that you aren’t used to, your body takes time to get used to it. Eccentric contractions or elongations can cause DOMS. It can also pose a problem if you do not keep yourself hydrated while exercising. Also, if you eat unhealthy food, then metabolic stress can trigger muscle fever too.
Although not proven yet, research has shown that genetics can be a far-fetched factor as well. If you have a bone density disorder or arthritis, then you might be more prone to frequent muscle fever attacks. However, you need to understand that not all kind of pain is DOMS.
Here are the common symptoms of DOMS:
- Dull and aching pain in the affected part
- Stiffness along with loss of flexibility
- A slow and long-lasting intense burn in the muscle
I know what your query at this point is – “Is there any way I can save myself from this ordeal and prevent muscle fever altogether? “
Treatment and Home Remedies to Cure DOMS
To be honest, medical science has not been able to come up with a way to treat DOMS. If you want that toned body and the sculpted abs, then you might as well have to pay the tax on exercise in the form of DOMS. However, you may find the internet awash with cures for DOMS, but you can’t just believe everything on the internet. Having been into the field of exercise myself, I have done a lot of research to arrive at the solutions.
Here are some home remedies that you can try to reduce the severity of the pain.
1. Start slow but steady
The way you build up your training regime can help you reduce the risk of this severe kind of muscle pain. You can reduce the severity of the pain by gradually introducing yourself to a new activity or slowly increasing the intensity instead of getting to it at once. Also, avoid the workout mistakes that most starters make.
2. Try compression clothing
Compression clothing helps in warding off DOMS. When your muscles work hard during a workout session, they tend to get inflamed. This is when white blood cells and extra fluid rush to the inflamed area of your body. This can cause soreness and stiffness in the muscle groups. Compression clothing can reduce the rate of inflammation due to the lack of space. It also increases blood flow to the muscles and decreases soreness.
3. Keep a pain relief spray handy
This is not rocket science, of course. Pain relief balms can relieve pain. They provide a cooling sensation on the skin, and it can reduce the burning sensation in your muscles. Pain relief balms contain menthol that affects the neurons that sense temperature and numbs the area so that your brain does not feel the pain.
4. Take a hot shower or an ice bath
This has to be the easiest and cheapest solution to get rid of muscle fever. All you need to do is draw yourself a hot or a cold bath, and you can leave some of your body stress in the water and come out of it. Hot water causes our blood vessels to expand and fills them with blood. Blood circulation helps in reducing the pain. As for ice baths, the cold temperature will constrict the blood vessels and force the blood to flow through other parts of the body.
5. Take Supplements
Sometimes, our bodies are not strong enough to endure the brunt of a workout session. You need to upgrade your strength by consuming supplements of amino acid. Amino acids help in building protein and speed up muscle repair and growth. You can consume BCAA supplements that aid in muscle tissue repair. You cannot cure DOMS altogether, but you can certainly reduce the soreness.
Physiotherapy and Calisthenics can be helpful in treating DOMS
Physiotherapy treatment has been very effective in treating delayed onset muscle soreness. Most physiotherapists use a portable air-activated heat wrap on the skin to alleviate D.O.M.S symptoms. Compress massages also help in loosening the muscles and relaxing them, which helps in the process of recovery. A deep soft-tissue massage can also give some immediate relief from the symptoms of muscle fever.
You can even try out some low-impact cardio exercises to increase blood flow to your muscles. Callisthenics can also help you achieve body fitness and agility that can reduce the effect DOMS has on your body.
I hope this guide has been able to answer some of your queries. Do not give in when D.O.M.S. pulls you down. Increase your core strength to face the pain and continue working towards your fitness goal.
If you have other tips that have worked for you, do share them with us in the comment section below.