If you’ve just got started on your new get fit regime, one thing is certain — you’ll feel aches and pains in muscles you didn’t know you had!
“No pain, no gain,” is what the guys at the gym had casually mentioned when I first started out on my exercises. This coming from seasoned workout enthusiasts sounded like some unwritten law they were well versed with. So I took their words literally, and kept pushing myself.
I will never forget that day, when after an all too strenuous workout routine my instructor asked me to follow, I began to feel stiff around my lower back, then the pain set in. Spreading around my hips and moved further down to my legs and ankles. It was a dull throbbing pain that just wouldn’t go away.
All sorts of thoughts began to churn inside my aching head. I never realized that my desire to lose all that excess fat around my belly was pushing my body to its limits. And it reacted in a way I hadn’t expected it to. Before things got worse and made it impossible to move, I had to find a doc if not a physio.
A physiotherapist it was, who calmly examined me and in a matter of fact tone of voice, said that I was a victim of ‘Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness’ (DOMS). Seeing the blank look on my face, he went on to add, “this kind of discomfort usually starts a day or two after a new workout, or a workout that you’re not typically accustomed to. But don’t worry, we will have it under control.”
I felt immediate relief, and I knew I was in good hands.
Later on, I found out more about DOMS. In a way, DOMS is a good thing. It means my muscles were challenged at a structural level, and if I continued to gradually build the exercise, instead of rushing into it like I did, the muscle strength and structure would have got used to it.
The difference between DOMS and a pulled muscle
DOMS normally gets better by itself. It also is usually the whole muscle that hurts, and on both sides of the body, whereas a muscle strain is usually more localized, and is felt only on one side.
What I learnt after this event was to always bear one thing in mind, no four things: give yourself enough recovery time between sessions, get a good restful sleep at night, ensure adequate hydration and do not skip meals. This in itself will get you back on track.
How to minimize DOMS?
If you want to minimize your DOMS, choose a mix of exercises that work on different muscle groups, and ensure you build your exercise routine, gradually. Don’t be in a hurry to get rid of the fat. Don’t rush.
According to most people, a good massage, stretching, ice baths and low intensity cross-training might be of help. But what I now know for sure is a little stretching of muscles is all you really need.
Should you avoid training when you have DOMS?
Not necessarily. It will be OK to continue training. It usually gets better after a day or two. All you have to do is listen to what your body tells you. If it’s feeling vulnerable don’t push things.
We do know that the sooner you get moving after an encounter with DOMS, the better your chances of full recovery and the less likely that it will happen again. So, when it comes to your prescribed exercises causing pain, applying a little bit of common sense will go a long way.
Keep these questions in mind
Ask yourself, how bad is the pain? On a scale of 1 through 10, are we talking about a 9/10 pain? Or is it a can’t do anything else the rest of the day sort of pain? If your answer is a ‘yes’ to both, then maybe you need to sit down with your instructor and talk about modifying what you are doing.
However, if the pain gets worse and worse the more you exercise, pause. This is not normal, and sounds more like an active inflammatory process in progress. It definitely warrants a heart to heart chat with a physio at HealthCare atHOME (HCAH).
Physiotherapists at HCAH are always on call. Trained to deliver the kind of personal attention and overall care that will help you get better faster. Rest assured, you will always receive top-notch advice and treatment.