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How To Relieve SORE MUSCLES!! (Including DOMS)

This article is a transcribed edited summary of a video Bob and Brad recorded in November of 2021. For the original video go to

Brad: Bob is not here today, but we're absolutely honored to have Chris here. He's done some wonderful research and we both have an extraordinary history of sore muscles. So, the title today is how to relieve sore muscles, including DOMS. That means Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. That's when you work out on Saturday, but you don't feel the sore muscles until Sunday or Monday. Oftentimes it skips a day and it's into Monday, it's delayed. And it's an interesting concept. Chris is going to go through this in detail. We're gonna give you some health information, about how you can avoid sore muscles.

Chris: Well, like we said in the title, DOMS, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, not fun. And no one is immune. It doesn't matter if you're the novice, the average guy that exercises on a consistent basis, or the elite of the elite athletes. We are all subject to becoming a victim of it at some point in our lives with workout programs.

Brad: That's kind of strong, Chris. A victim?

Chris: Well, it's painful.

Brad: Yeah.

Chris: I mean, it hurts. At some point, if you're sore, you kind of feel like you've been victimized. You know you're gonna pay the piper at some point or another. I'm going to actually pay for it tomorrow with what I did this morning. But it's one of those things where is it bad, is it good? It's been kind of a debated question and when you consider that with athletes, you've got trillions of dollars invested in these athletes all around the world between Olympic athletes and pro athletes and college athletes. But we don't really have any clear answers as to how do we solve the mystery of DOMS. The true remedy is time.

Brad: Okay.

Chris: But there's aspects of it that we can help to try there are and minimize it and hopefully make it not quite so severe. But at the same time, we always want to have a guideline, so what is it? Well, it's the pain that you get. It's not the pain that you get when you're working out, you know, that's more fatigue of the muscle, maybe some muscle soreness. That goes away after you've been exercising. So if you've been doing squats and your muscles are burning, but as soon as you stop doing squats and you walk away, go drink some water, do some stretching, that's gone.

Brad: Right.

Chris: It's not that type of pain. This is the pain that shows up, actually, one to two days later. Most often, like you said, it skips a day. So it's usually days three, four, and five are usually the range for most people. For most of us when we're well-conditioned, about 72 hours is the window, it seems to go away, but not everybody, it can go up to five days. If it goes beyond five days, or if you have more severe pain, we'll just kind of do a quick, make sure you check with your doctor here kind of thing. So if you have pain that's extreme in nature where you can barely walk upstairs, it is excruciating. If you are hydrating well and you have dark urine, this is a sign you've got some serious muscle toxicity going on and you do want to report that to your doctor.

Brad: Sure.

Chris: It could actually be very serious. And actually, some of those occur like in basic training where a lot of newbie military members that may have not been training so hard, they go all gung-ho.

Brad: Day after day after day.

Chris: They hammer into basic training and they have very clear, the US military and I'm sure other militaries show examples of how in fact you can end up with DOMS and/or something more serious.

Brad: For the average person, pretty unlikely? Unless you're doing some really, strenuous training. You've got to give your body a break when you're sore, and that's what we're gonna talk about.

Chris: Yeah, well, that's what we're gonna talk about. There's exercises that can be used to induce DOMS. And so a lot of researchers are gravitating towards that, we'll talk about maybe some light at the end of the tunnel where I think they might be getting a better handle on this.

So we'll talk about that towards the end. So what do we know? We work out, it usually happens, there's basically an eccentric contraction is usually when it's the efficient contraction. So if you're doing a curl, that's the exercise when you're going down, your muscles getting longer, or if you're doing a squat, it's on the way down, your muscles are getting longer or running down a hill or even going down in a pushup. So those are all examples of eccentric contractions.

Brad: Right.

Chris: And then if you're going up, that's the concentric contraction, that's the one that seems harder, but it's not. So that's where the damage gets done. And again, it's not happening at the time, it's just going to show up later. And so you get this pain, you're like, "Wow, I'm tender, I'm sore." You lose range of motion. So what do you do? Well, I think one of the best things is just gentle exercise. We talked about cross training, we were kind of breaking this down the other day. There's a variety of different things you can do, but something like walking, biking, swimming, gentle stretching, I think those are all things that certainly are physical things that you can do.

Brad: So if you're starting a running program, you haven't done anything and you ran two miles, you felt pretty good. But then all of a sudden, all this muscle soreness, up and downstairs, all this pain. Now, what I do, I still get this because I'm always pushing the limit a little bit, especially if I'm training for a race. I'll run one day, I'm sore the next day, I'll go for a two mile walk. And that's it.

Chris: Yeah. And I think that a walk is one of the simplest ways to help to relieve that pain. It's an active recovery. Now, the relief is temporary. I mean, I'm sure you remember after you've taken that walk, you feel pretty good during the walk and even shortly thereafter, but you go and sit down and maybe have a good protein meal and maybe get some fruits and veggies in you. Which nutrition is very important with this, and we'll touch on that a little bit, and hydration. But then you stand up from the table and you're like, "ooh I'm tender again. It's not gone yet." So it is temporary, in time your body will go through it. And your body adapts to that, so that eventually when you repeat said workout, say, day five, because you want to give your body some time to heal. It's gonna be repeatable and you're gonna come back stronger.

Brad: So the next time you run that same distance, you won't be near as sore.

Chris: You won't be near as sore, it's gonna be a little easier. And it's how we become adaptable to training. That's why whether you're the novice, whether you're professional, everything becomes adaptable, and that's where progress is made. So from a development standpoint. Other things that we've found, what else can you do after a workout? Immediately after, one of the studies suggests actually heat right on the muscles right away.

Brad: Ah!

Chris: Yeah, so they took a whole bunch of people that were actually in really good shape. They took elite hockey players and they had them doing squats to induce DOMS. And basically they found in one group that they would actually apply heat wraps, so something like ThermaCare, which is about 104 degrees. It sounds pretty hot, similar to a hot pack. So, but, you know, keep it in mind, after you've just done intense exercise, last thing we find comfortable is applying heat to ourselves. But if you can do heat and gentle stretching right after, they've found that it helps with the blood movement in and out of the muscle.

Brad: Yep.

Chris: And also that flexibility because you've created all these little micro tears.

It just kind of helps to lengthen those muscles and help with the healing process. And you'll still have the DOMS pain the next day, but it won't be as intense, which allows you to get back into your workouts more aggressively, sooner. But at the same time when we're experiencing DOMS, you want to make sure that we're not, if you just did the run, all of a sudden it's day two or three and you're feeling miserable, don't do something intense, do something gradual.

Brad: Listen to your body.

Chris: Yeah, very, very important with that.

Brad: If you had a hot tub at your house, you could use that for heat.

Chris: Hot tub, yeah.

Brad: That would be a little more fun.

Chris: Exactly, that's way more fun. For a variety of different reasons, but this is a family show. But that said, yeah, that will definitely help you. People have all said, well, what about cold? Well, that was an interesting aspect of the study. They said, cold in a lot of cases, like a cold pack will relieve pain because it deadens the nerve endings, so it seems to work pretty well. But it didn't actually seem to improve or speed up the healing with DOMS, which I thought was kind of interesting. But if it feels better, I say do it, because I mean, the reality of it, it's your comfort level. And if it helps you feel a little bit better. And you've had excellent experience with ice. I mean, it's one of your primary recommendations.

Brad: Yeah, I'm slowly changing, and it may vary too, but for this, you know, for people who are exercising, you get soreness, I really encourage you if you haven't experienced it before, because you just are starting a program. Get through it, it's going to get better. Use some of these, you know, if you ran and you got sore from running, well, maybe ride your bike the next day. Very gently, very gently. And that's the hard part if you've got that, go-go attitude, you got no pain, no gain. That's the hardest thing on DOMS. People have to learn to relax and just settle down.

Chris: Well, and that's one of the things too. A lot of trainers also emphasize that it's not so much the no pain no gain anymore. I mean, you can still get excellent muscle development without hurting yourself.

Brad: Sure.

Chris: And that's something to take home. And actually starting a program to minimize DOMS. I mean, you're going to want to warm up, you want to start gradually. We don't go to the intense stuff right away. We're not jumping off that cliff.

Brad: Right.

Chris: We're going to warm up to this thing so that we can gradually improve as we get in there.

Brad: Right.

Chris: A couple other things that seem to give some decent relief. Foam roller. So the foam roller is a really nice tool so far as trying to help to move fluids. So you can kind of roll that out, then basically, Brad, you can probably show it just a couple of techniques to maybe improve things.

Brad: Sure. You're going to do this on the floor, not on a bed or a soft surface, but for demonstration. If I had sore calves, I would roll back and forth like this, and then I would turn sideways to get that aspect of the muscle.

Chris: Yeah, because it's going to get that connective tissue and the other muscle fibers. It's moving fluid.

Brad: Yeah. I could put some pressure, but I'm probably not going to, because remember, we don't want to get too aggressive. Crossing my ankles puts all the weight on one, having your legs apart divides the weight up between both. You're going to do this for 30 seconds or a minute and just get that blood flow and that circulation improved so that those muscles can heal. And you know, you can do this on your hamstrings. You can roll pretty much anything on your body. Some arms and traps and lats are difficult, but legs are good. What are you looking for?

Chris: I'm looking for my ball.

Brad: Oh yes, a tennis ball.

Chris: Yeah, this guy. All right, these things are actually genius, and this one's pretty fancy because it lights up. I think Brad said you found it at the dollar store.

Brad: It cost a dollar.

Chris: So if you were working your biceps, here's a very simple way, you can just kind of get some decent circulation to the area. Little pressure on it, kind of get that fluid moving. And so it works pretty well. And these little fingers actually kind of dig in a little bit.

Brad: Yes.

Chris: So it kind of works out pretty well, but a tennis ball works great as well, there's a little compression with that. So you can use your forearms if you're doing hamstring, quad. So these types of things, totally inexpensive, you can travel with it. So if you were doing a race and right afterwards you want to just try and get a little bit of a massage into those muscles. These work phenomenally well.

Brad: Yeah, so if you're traveling, you're in a hotel, you'd done with your event, jump in the hot tub, get your little fancy ball, your tennis ball. You know, if you happen to have a massage gun, they work great too, but you're not going to get real aggressive with it.

Chris: No, you have to keep it on those low settings, because you don't want to get overly aggressive. And that's the same thing with like massage too, we have to be careful, like a deep massage, I've actually shown that it can actually create DOMS. So you wanna be real careful with that. But on a low setting, these are a little bit more expensive, so we favor the cheap on this show.

Brad: Right.

Chris: And I think the foam roller and balls work great, but those work excellent too. And so if you can give yourself just about three or four minutes of treatment, I think you will find it'll go a long way to helping those muscles heal a little bit quicker and minimizing that painful interval.

Brad: I do want to mention a really nice way to work these so they're not so aggressive. You put the round head on it, like this has, and instead of taking it straight into the muscle, which it's a lot more aggressive, you turn it sideways and it's very gentle and it spreads out the massage to a larger area. It's a really nice alternative. Because some people may already have these.

Chris: Sure.

Brad: I wouldn't buy one just for DOMS.

Chris: No.

Brad: Unless you want to, you can use them for all kinds issues.

Chris: You can use them for a variety of different recovery.

Brad: I mean, your whole family uses them.

Chris: We use them all the time. Critical for recovery, in my opinion.

Brad: Yep. So anyways, there we go with that. Was there another one, Chris?

Chris: Well, I guess we were talking about cold beer, lol.

Brad: Well, I was just having fun when I was writing my notes down. I thought you said that if you get a dark beer like Guinness, there are some properties in it.

Chris: Actually, Guinness has some properties actually. And they actually did a medical study, probably in the early two thousands that shows the flavonoids in beer, and actually coffees have the same type because it's dark, basically they're free radicals, so they help improve circulation. So believe it or not, a dark beer is probably something, or even a red wine or even grape juice for people that don't want alcohol. Because alcohol can dehydrate. But it's one of those things that might help out a little bit.

Brad: But you know, we're from Wisconsin, it's just part of the culture.

Chris: Beer is in our DNA. But you know, the other interesting thing, like I said early in the video is that, they're doing lots of research on these and they're finding that there's other things that may be more, they're actually finding that DOMS might be more of something that might be due more to connective tissue and fascia tissue.

Brad: Ah, yes!

Chris: So there's an interesting book that you alluded to when we were talking about this pre-production and also with respect to a couple of new articles that came out in September of this year and October of this year in PubMed, actually are showing that maybe that connective tissue has much more of the nerve firing and maybe causing that discomfort.

Brad: I can't remember the title of that video, but I did it and I read the book. This woman, I believe she's from the UK, and she's dedicated her life basically to working with the fascia and pain relief through fascia. Now they're studying it more. We could do a video on that.

Chris: I think so, because I think it's kind of the tip of the iceberg. Even though we don't fully understand it, the takeaways I think are really, if you're new to exercise, start gradual.

Brad: Yes.

Chris: Warm up before you get started and then ramp up the intensity as time goes by and your fitness level gains.

Brad: Sure.

Chris: So just don't all gung-ho right away.

Brad: If you're 50 years old, you may take two weeks before you ramp up to a level, so you avoid that pain versus going into a class and getting hurt easy, and then you can't walk the next day.

Chris: Slow and steady wins the race. I think we all are naturally driven to try and do our best. And so, we think we have to get in there and work it out for a great sweat, but if we ease our way into it and cool down afterwards, it's very important. And then either using the massage, the foam roller, the guns, the hydration and eating well. You're going to want to get some protein in your diet. You're going to want to have fruits and veggies to get those flavonoids, to help circulatory issues and natural anti-inflammatory aspects. I guess I didn't touch on the NSAIDs. Ibuprofen and naproxen are over the counter pain relievers that might give you a little bit of relief, but the jury is now out on that saying that, you get some of that pain relief, but it doesn't solve DOMS, it's not going to make you heal quicker. It might be counterproductive because the inflammatory factors that happen from muscle breakdown are what's helping with muscle development.

Brad: Ah!

Chris: So if we take an anti-inflammatory, we could be slowing down our progress. So maybe some of the pain rubs like Bengay or a capsaicin containing thing, like Tiger Balm, for instance, may be better for topical analgesic relief.

Brad: Right.

Chris: More so than the anti-inflammatories, coupled with the massage, the hydration, resting, active rest, meaning taking a walk rather than a run or swimming or biking.

Brad: Right.

Chris: So those I think are some of the keys that are going to help us to minimize DOMS and hopefully keep us more successful, more effective, and getting out there and doing more.

Brad: Absolutely. Stay healthy, active and pain-free, and keep the DOMS away from you. Thanks for helping us, Chris.

Chris: Thanks, guys.

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