Muscle Pain After Exercise and How to Relieve It

Muscle pain after exercise is a common thing. Although it's actually harmless, a complaint this sometimes raises concerns of serious injury.

Muscle soreness after exercise is usually experienced by people who exercise after a period of not doing it, have recently increased the intensity of exercise, or are trying a new type of exercise.

In medical terms, muscle pain and stiffness that occurs after exercise is called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. This muscle pain usually appears within 24-48 hours after exercising with a high enough intensity, such as: jogging, aerobics, or lifting weights.

This condition can cause complaints of mild to severe muscle pain, muscle stiffness, aches, slight swelling of the muscles, and temporary reduced muscle strength. If the muscles are rested, complaints of pain and stiffness will usually improve faster.

Causes of Muscle Pain After Exercise

After physical activity or strenuous exercise, DOMS can occur when the body's muscle tissue tries to adapt by repairing and increasing muscle tissue mass. This reaction is actually a normal thing to happen.

Although the exact mechanism is unknown, several studies have concluded that DOMS can occur as a result of:

  • Lactic acid buildup as a result of muscle metabolism
  • Minor muscle injury
  • Damage to connective tissue and muscles
  • Inflammation of the muscles
  • Changes in electrolyte and enzyme levels in muscles

People who rarely warm up or do not warm up well before exercising have a high risk of developing DOMS.

Tips to Relieve Muscle Pain After Exercising

When DOMS occurs, there are several things that can be done to alleviate this complaint, namely by:

1. Gentle massage

Light, gentle massage on painful areas of the body has been shown to increase blood flow and stimulate nerves, thereby reducing pain and muscle swelling. You can also try Thai massage which has been shown to help the athlete's recovery process.

2. Kcold or warm compress

If the new pain appears and there is a slight swelling in the muscle, you can apply a cold compress for 10-15 minutes. The trick, wrap the ice cubes with a cloth or towel, then stick it on the sore and swollen muscles.

Once the pain subsides and there is no swelling, you can speed up the recovery with a warm compress for 10-15 minutes. A warm bath can also help relieve pain from DOMS.

3. Increase rest

To help muscle recovery, you are recommended to sleep for 8-9 hours a day and eat a high-protein diet. Don't forget to drink enough water to avoid dehydration.

4. Using drugs

In addition to the methods above, taking medication or applying pain medication creams, such as non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), can also help relieve pain after exercise. This method can also be done on DOMS that have interfered with daily activities.

During recovery, you should avoid physical exercise that is too heavy and long, until the pain begins to decrease. However, try to stay active. You can do some stretching or light exercise, such as walking around the house.

This method can help improve blood flow to problematic muscles and stimulate the production of endorphins that can relieve pain.

To prevent DOMS recurrence, do exercise regularly and do not increase the intensity of exercise drastically. If you want to increase the intensity, do it gradually. Also, don't forget to warm up sufficiently before exercising and stretch or cool down after.

Muscle Pain After Exercise That Needs to be Watched

DOMS is a normal reaction that is temporary, but this muscle pain must still be distinguished from serious muscle injury. Immediately consult a doctor if there are severe complaints, such as:

  • Unbearable pain.
  • Severe muscle swelling.
  • Muscles become difficult or unable to move at all after exercise.
  • Changes in urine color to dark.
  • Muscle pain does not reduce at all for more than a week.

If you experience these complaints after exercising, you should immediately consult a doctor for further treatment.

Written by:

dr. Andi Marsa Nadhira