How to fight post-workout muscle soreness and aches

Soreness in the muscles and pain are some common signs after an intense workout but there are ways to alleviate them.

Going to the gym, most people tend to believe that they need to push their body and muscles to the limit in order to force growth. While that advice is generally true and most sets need to be taken to failure to get the best results for hypertrophy, one usually has to pay the price in the form of post-workout soreness or aches.

There are two types of soreness - acute soreness and delayed soreness. Acute soreness occurs during or immediately after the exercise. This takes place because of lactic acid accumulation inside the muscles which causes the cramping feeling during the last few reps of an intense set.The pain is short-lived and it gets better a few seconds or some time after the exercise is discontinued.

The other type is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and it is often a sign of a strong workout at the gym. As the name suggests, this soreness sets in a few hours after the workout and can last as long as 24 hours or even upto 48 hours.

Dr Karan Verma, Fitness Consultant at Mahatma Gandhi Hospital, Jodhpur, believes that muscle soreness can affect anyone who works out regularly and has increased the intensity, duration, or type of routine.

"This is because our muscles are constructed following a common principle: they are broken down first before being built up. To avoid any trouble during or post workout, listen to your body and understand its responses and adaptations to workout techniques," says Dr Verma.

How do you battle delayed muscle soreness? Here are some tips that can help:

Proper cool-down session involving stretches

Just as warm-ups are important to get blood flowing in the muscles before a workout in order to activate them and prevent injuries, similarly, a cool down session involving stretches post-workout is beneficial. Stretching the muscles make them longer and more flexible and this improves the blood flow to your muscles, which helps to get rid of waste products and make the muscles feel less stiff. Stretching also improves flexibility and mobility which helps prevent injuries and enhance athletic performance.

Take ample rest

Adequate rest after any workout is very important. During a severe workout, the muscles undergo microscopic tears and breakdown which initiates the muscle-building process. Resting allows these tears to heal and the muscles to repair and grow stronger. The body also releases testosterone and other growth hormones during rest which play a great role in muscle recovery and development.

Get good sleep

The muscle-protein synthesis mostly takes place when we are in deep sleep. This is why seven to eight hours of undisturbed sleep is crucial every night since it aids aids muscle recovery and overall health. The tissues in our body also get repaired during this phase of the sleep. Therefore, one should sleep more in order to heal more.

Hydrate yourself well

Proper hydration is necessary in order to support the body's optimal functioning and recovery. It is advised to drink at least three litres of water daily and besides the obvious health benefits, keeping yourself hydrated is mandatory for maintaining efficient nutrient circulation and waste product removal in the body.

Apply hot/cold compression

Both heat and ice therapy can also help to fight post-workout muscle soreness. Ice therapy is used to flush out all the waste products like lactic acid quickly by vasoconstriction. You can experiment with both heat and cold therapy to find what works best for your body and brings you the most relief.