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Exercise Column

What makes you sore after lifting weights? Or any intense workout?

Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness (DOMS) often occurs 24 48 hours after an intense workout.  The principal cause is muscle and connective tissue damage.  Accompanying the tissue damage, you will get tissue edema (fluid build up).  This fluid build up stimulates free nerve endings throughout the muscles, this stimulation is transmitted as a pain signal to the brain.

Due to the common soreness present after a tough workout, many scientists have set out to find ways to reduce the pain and get the gym rat back into the weight room.  There have been studies on massage therapy, heat therapy, cold treatment, ibuprofen and even vitamin C supplementation.  Some of these methods were shown effective in reducing the pain and pain, and some had no effect (vitamin C).  However, none of the treatments were effective in increasing muscle function.

In other words, while the pain might be minimized due to a decrease in swelling, the muscle has not healed from the damaged caused from the intense workout.  If you use one of these treatments to reduce the pain, but ignore the signals of the damaged muscle, it could ultimately result in increased muscle injury due to overuse.

The best method to during those times of eagerness is active recovery, which can help you reach your full potential and fitness goals.  Use a light workout as active recovery to flush the muscle with blood, essential nutrients, and oxygen and remove any residual waste products from the prior intense workout.

Recovery time from an intense workout is one of the most important, yet overlooked aspects of exercise.  For optimal results, make sure you wait at least 48 hours before working the same muscle group again and at least a week before another intense workout.

Written by Aaron Losey, B.A. Kinesiology, Occidental College, Los Angeles, CA