“Spring Training” – aka - Muscle Strains and Their Prevention

As I write this, it makes me remember it is Opening Day at Fenway!  Although none of us are professional athletes (or we wouldn’t be here and wouldn’t be reading this article!!), living in Maine does lead us to the tendency to increase our activity level significantly in the spring (sometimes from a winter of hibernation).  This often leads to a condition called “delayed onset muscle soreness.”  This is the pain and stiffness that you feel 24 – 48 hours later.

Originally, the explanation for the soreness was accumulation of lactic acid left in the tissues.  More recently, however, it has been found this is not the case.  The current belief is that it is merely micro-tears in the tissues.   Muscles are made up of bundles of fibers inside an outer sheath or covering.  When a muscle contracts, the fibers shorten by linking and sliding together.  When they are overloaded, the fibers reach a breaking point and a partial tear occurs.  As we age, our tissues become less pliable, therefore this is more likely to occur.

The healing process begins with inflammation that lasts 3-5 days.  This is a crucial time during which rest and protection of the injured part is vital to prevent further damage!  The body produces chemicals which remove dead muscle fibers and starts the repair process.  The bleeding inside the muscle causes a scar to anchor the 2 ends together.

You should use the PRICE principle to assist with the healing.

P = Protection   ( positioning, not overdoing it)

R = Rest

I = Ice         (10-20 minutes, every 2 hours for 3 days)

C = Compression     (ace wrap)


After these 3-5 days, begin with stretching, then progress to gradual progressive strengthening.

If you do find yourself sore after a tough workout or competition, these are recommended methods to deal with your discomfort. Although not all are backed up with research, many athletes report success with some of the following methods.

  • Use Active Recovery. This strategy does have support in the research. Performing easy low-impact aerobic exercise increases blood flow and is linked with diminished muscle soreness. After an intense workout or competition, use this technique as a part of your cool down.
  • Rest and Recover. If you simply wait it out, soreness will go away in 3 to 7 days with no special treatment.
  • Try a Sports Massage. Some research has found that sports massage may help reduce reported muscle soreness and reduce swelling, although it had no effects on muscle function.
  • Try an Ice Bath or Contrast Water Bath. Although no clear evidence proves they are effective, many pro athletes use them and claim they work to reduce soreness.
  • Perform Gentle Stretching. Although research doesn't find stretching alone reduces muscle pain of soreness, many people find it simply feels good.
  • Try a Nonsteroidal Anti-inflammatory. Aspirin, ibuprofen or naproxen sodium may help to temporarily reduce the muscle soreness, although they won't actually speed healing. Be careful, however, if you plan to take them before exercise. Studies reported that taking ibuprofen before endurance exercise is not recommended.
  • Try Yoga. There is growing support that performing Yoga may reduce DOMS.
  • Listen to Your Body. Avoid any vigorous activity or exercise that increases pain.
  • Allow the soreness to subside thoroughly before performing any vigorous exercise.
  • Warm Up completely before your next exercise session. This is more important than stretching before exercise.  There is some research that supports that a warm-up performed immediately prior to unaccustomed eccentric exercise produces small reductions in delayed-onset muscle soreness (but cool-down performed after exercise does not).
  • ** If your pain persists longer than about 7 days or increases despite these measures, consult your physician or physical therapist.
  • Learn something from the experience! Use prevention first.

Tips to Help Prevent Muscle Soreness After Exercise

While you may not be able to prevent muscle soreness entirely, you may reduce the intensity and duration of muscles soreness if you follow a few exercise recommendations.

  • **** Progress Slowly. The most important prevention method is to gradually increase your exercise time and intensity. Use the 10 percent rule for exercise progression guidelines (increase by 10% per week with regards to intensity, distance, time and eight lifted). *******
  • *** Warm Up thoroughly before activity and cool down completely afterward. ***
  • Cool Down with gentle stretching after exercise.
  • Follow the Ten Percent Rule. When beginning a new activity start gradually and build up your time and intensity no more than ten percent per week as above.
  • Hire a Personal Trainer if you aren't sure how to start a workout program that is safe and effective.
  • Start a new weight lifting routine with light weights and high reps (10-12) and gradually increase the amount you lift over several weeks.
  • Avoid making sudden major changes in the type of exercise you do.

Remember your Micro-Stretch breaks!!

One Response to “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness”

  1. Massage says:


    I loved your article.Much thanks again. Great....

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