You’ve put in an awesome workout and feel fantastic. However the next morning your legs are so sore you can barely get out of bed. And if you make it out of bed sitting down on the loo is where the real pain hits - what is going on?
You might have heard of DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. This refers to the gradually increasing discomfort that you will feel in the 24 to 72 hours after a strenuous workout.
DOMS occurs when your muscles are performing eccentric (lengthening) contractions, as your legs do when running downhill. These contractions cause microscopic tears in the muscle and studies show that this damage, together with the inflammation response that your body launches to heal it, are responsible for the pain you feel. This cycle is part of the natural process during which the muscles recover and grow bigger and you will find that as they adapt to the exercise you are less likely to feel similar levels of soreness.
You do need to be careful to distinguish DOMS from pain caused by muscle overuse or an injury. If the pain comes during exercise or follows a strain or a sprain then it is not DOMS and you need to follow an injury protocol such as RICE (Rest – Ice – Compression – Elevation) or see your doctor.
WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT DOMS?
L-Carnitine can protect muscles against damage occurring during workouts by stimulating blood flow and oxygen circulation to the muscles while also removing waste products that can lead to soreness.
You will also do yourself a favour by increasing load and distance gradually - patience is a virtue.
HOW TO EASE THE PAIN?
The common ways to alleviate post-exercise muscle pain include ice, rest, massage, foam rolling and stretching. Warm baths can help as well as they increase blood flow in the body, bringing in oxygen and healing nutrients to the injured muscle. NSAIDs are the go-to for many for pain relief but these medications can cause gastrointestinal bleeding among other negative side effects.
Studies have found curcumin to be a viable, and safer, alternative to medications such as ibuprofen. In a double-blind randomized-controlled study conducted in seventeen men doing unaccustomed heavy eccentric exercise found that curcumin was likely to reduce reduces pain associated with DOMS while showing evidence for enhanced recovery of muscle performance.
TAKE THE TIME TO RECOVER
If you are suffering from DOMS, take it easy while your body is adapting. This isn’t the time for hill repeats; stick to easy recovery runs or a walking instead while the soreness in your muscles subsides. By not allowing your body to recover you will risk ending up with overuse injuries with potentially long recovery times. And if it is your legs that are suffering then use it as an opportunity to work your arms instead. As they say – arms run hills!
Nicol, L. M., Rowlands, D. S., Fazakerly, R., & Kellett, J. (2015). Curcumin supplementation likely attenuates delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). European journal of applied physiology, 115(8), 1769–1777. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00421-015-3152-6
Fielding, R., Riede, L., Lugo, J. P., & Bellamine, A. (2018). l-Carnitine Supplementation in Recovery after Exercise. Nutrients, 10(3), 349. https://doi.org/10.3390/nu10030349