Thursday, April 11, 2013

Sore Muscles? Exercise More!


Sore muscles are caused by microdamage to muscles.
Sore muscles are caused by microdamage to muscles.
Image: Shutterstock
It might seem like strange advice, but if your muscles are sore from exercise, exercising more can help relieve them. Sore muscles are caused by tiny injuries to muscle fibers and connective tissue—this “microdamage” is common after exercising harder or longer than usual and happens because our muscles are not used to working in that way. We all know the feeling of waking up the next day (or even the day after that) sore.

But don’t worry; a little microdamage is normal when we first start exercising or try new exercises. That’s why normally, after a few times doing that same activity you’ll no longer get sore. Your muscles will repair themselves, become stronger, and adapt to the new set of activities.

It’s all good and well talking about muscle soreness when it’s not around; but when it is, it can be brutal. Luckily, there are some things you can do about it. The first is to be sure that you always stretch before and after exercise, as well as on the days you feel sore. The second is to treat the soreness in some way.

Light exercise and stretching can help relieve soreness.
Light exercise and stretching can help relieve soreness.
Image: Shutterstock
Traditionally, people use hot and cold treatments to lessen soreness. Cold treatments should be used first to stop inflammation and swelling, especially after an injury or particularly strenuous exercise. Heat can be used later to help loosen and relax muscles. Both can help combat soreness. Just remember: cold first, heat later!

Massage is another common treatment for soreness, as it helps with blood flow and relaxes tightened muscles. Some also swear by acupuncture for helping to relieve sore muscles—though I haven’t tried that one yet.

But my favorite—and perhaps the most surprising to some—is treating soreness with more exercise. I’m not talking about going out and running a marathon; I’m talking about doing some light exercise similar to what made you sore. Exercise has been shown to be just as effective as massage at relieving sore muscles, as it also gets blood flowing and stretches muscles out once more. Through increased blood flow, muscles receive more oxygen and can heal faster. 
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