Why Am I Sore From Yesterday’s Workout?
Shortly after moving to Denver, I joined a Crossfit Gym to start getting back in shape. If you know anything about Crossfit, you know they take their workouts SERIOUSLY! The warm-up is a workout in and of itself! With high intensity workouts that many times focus on Olympic-style lifts, I knew that I had found something that I would enjoy.
After taking a couple days off for the holiday weekend, I came back to the gym for a squat heavy workout. Feeling pretty good after achieving a new pr for my maximum squat weight, I woke up the next day really sore. Getting up from a chair, picking something up from off the ground, even walking, I was looking like an old man!
This is something that many of us have experienced. Whether it’s from finishing a race or competition, an intense workout, or remodeling or landscaping, most of us know what I am talking about. In the medical field they refer to it as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and despite how common it is, most people misunderstand what causes it.
As an Ironman Triathlete and specializing in the sports medicine field, I’ve worked with and talked to many athletes and personal trainers. When discussing the soreness you get the next day after a workout, 9 times out of 10 they will say it is due to lactic acid build up. Numerous studies have shown that blood lactate levels return to normal usually within an hour of working out. So while it may attribute to that burn you feel while working out, it’s not likely the cause of your soreness the next day.
When we workout, we create micro-tears in the muscles and actually damaged the tissue a little bit. As the body repairs the muscles it builds more muscle fibers and we get stronger. That is the basis of strength training. Through muscle biopsies, we found that there is an inflammatory and immune response that happens with that tissue repair. The inflammation and damage to the tissue reduces the range of motion and puts pressure on the nerves. Hence, muscle soreness.
There are various ways to try and treat DOMS. Massage can help, especially a lighter pressure massage focusing on promoting circulation. Epsom salt baths can also provide relief. Epsom salts are a magnesium based salt which is an electrolyte that the body needs for muscle contraction and relaxation. There have been studies that show sports acupuncture and especially electro-acupuncture can help with DOMS. In my own personal experience, the best way I’ve found to feel better is to workout again the next day.