Starting a new exercise regimen may not be the most pleasant experience. Learning a new activity, fitting the new exercise regimen into your already packed schedule, and of course the soreness. Soreness in affected muscles is a common after effect of exercise, especially when taking on a new activity. For instance, even somebody who has been an active speed walker and has engaged in upper body strength training may experience lingering soreness in the thighs if they incorporate an elliptical machine into their routine. This soreness may take effect immediately, or it may not appear for 24 to 48 hours following the activity. This common phenomenon is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS.
DOMS is a natural response to the muscle tissue being pushed beyond its normal comfort zone. When a muscle is subjected to uncommon stress, it suffers mild muscle strain. This mild strain causes microscopic tears in the muscle tissue. This miniscule tears are often accompanied by inflammation, resulting in pain. This aching, sore sensation is typically mild and completely normal. DOMS should not deter a newcomer from continuing a particular exercise.
While delayed onset muscle soreness is completely normal, it is still unpleasant and patients may be relieved to know that there are some steps one can take to alleviate the pain. Of course, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, so one cannot overstate the importance of stretching and warming up prior to any exercise. The same can be said of a cool down period. Wrap up an exercise session with ten minutes of light aerobic activity, such as jogging or walking, followed by stretching. It is also vital not to exercise too hard too fast. Gradually building up one’s endurance may go a long way towards preventing DOMS. If DOMS does occur, it is important to take it easy for a few days. This does not mean all activity must be ceased, but instead engage in gentle activity until the soreness is resolved. Walking or swimming may keep the muscles in motion, which may actually help reduce muscle aches. Application of heat, such as heating pads or portable heat wraps like Thermacare, may also relieve discomfort.
If your pain is severe or does not go away after a few days, schedule an appointment with your doctor to rule out a more serious injury.