What’s up with this muscle soreness, ‘zilla?
Hobbling out of bed in the morning? Clutching the stair rails when walking down the stairs? Carefully lowering oneself onto to toilet? Let’s be clear here, what we are talking about is the “delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)” that seems to show up a day or so after a workout.(1)
What is the cause? And, what is the remedy?
First, two theories have been presented. The first popular belief – although incorrect – attributes the soreness to accumulated lactic acid resulting from the higher intensity exercise. Unfortunately, there is no scientific evidence that would link lactic acid to the subsequent muscle damage or soreness.(1)
Instead, evidence now points to the eccentric movement the primary agent in DOMS.(1) Eccentric movement is the movement usually associated with the lowering phase or deceleration phase of any movement, like descending into an air squat, or descending away from the bar in a pullup. More than the other forms of muscle action, eccentric movement tends to promote a level of micro-trauma to the microstructure of the muscle fibers.
It is important to understand that eccentric actions are a key ingredient in order for muscles to adapt effectively to a strength or power training program. (1) The resulting inflammation, neuralendocrine response, and protein synthesis speak to the adaptations we seek in training – increased resiliency, stamina and strength.
What to do?
- Listen to your body, allow time for the muscle(s) concerned to rest;
- Gradually progress in your workouts (in terms of load and number of reps);
- Avoid long layoffs from CrossFit workouts
Loading (also known as active recovery) is essential for achieving optimal healing of damaged tissue regardless as to whether you are merely tired and/or sore from a training session.(2)
What is Active Recovery?
- Activate the affected muscle (extend and contract the upstream/downstream joints)
- Move! (for example, light rowing, walking, cycling)
- Follow-up with gentle massage
- Avoid ice, sitting still or being immobile – instead, move!
Please note that the above is provided for informative purposes only. If you feel that you might be injured or suffering from a more serious condition, please seek the advice of your doctor.
(1) Muscle Damage and Soreness: An Overview – Tony Webster 2008, CrossFit Journal, http://journal.crossfit.com/2008/11/muscle-damage—muscle-soreness.tpl
(2) pp. 112-3, “Iced! – The Illusionary Treatment Option” – Gary Reinl, 2013, http://www.amazon.com/Iced-Illusionary-Treatment-Gary-Reinl/dp/0989831949/