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Should you work out with sore muscles?

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sore musclesPhoto: Shutterstock

Sore muscles should be a familiar sensation to most athletes – the feeling of discomfort one gets after starting a new workout or increasing the intensity of his or her exercise routine the day before.

This sensation is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. It is caused by muscle microtearing, which actually helps in building muscle fibres and developing stronger muscles. Just know that every time you are sore from working out, you are only getting stronger!

Muscle soreness is absolutely normal, lasting up 48 to 72 hours post-workout. You usually do not feel soreness right after a workout, but could wake up the following day feeling that your muscles are stiff and weaker than usual.

In the case of injury, pain is usually felt immediately, followed by swelling or bruising of the affected area. In such cases, seek professional advice from a doctor before proceeding with regular exercise.

sore musclesPhoto: Shutterstock

Many often struggle in deciding whether or not to continue exercising despite the sore muscles. According to experts, whether you persist through a workout while sore depends on your workout intensity, the intensity of your regular workouts, and the type of workout you are intending to do.

Here are some tips for exercising while sore:

Have protein
Having recovery drinks that contain protein can help to decrease muscle soreness as compared to normal carbohydrate-based sports drinks, according to studies. Additionally, having protein after you exercise can shorten the healing process of the muscles, as well as help to build more muscle over time.

Take it easy
Light exercise such as walking, swimming or simple cycling could help to increase circulation and improve the body’s ability to remove any waste products built up from strenuous exercise. You can also choose to work out parts of your body that are not sore, such as doing an upper-body workout if your lower-body is aching too much.

Don’t self-medicate

Sore muscles can be uncomfortable to bear at times, but taking painkillers to remove the pain is not a recommended solution. Not being able to feel muscle soreness could cause you to push your body further than you should, or could prevent you from feeling that you’ve developed a more serious injury.

sore musclesPhoto: Shutterstock

Stretching helps in muscle recovery, particularly when your muscles are sore after a workout. A great way to get stretching is to go for a low-intensity yoga class – not too strenuous, but sufficient for a simple workout.

However, if your muscle soreness is due to days of exercise without rest, perhaps it’s time to give your body the break it deserves. Overtraining can actually lead to persistent soreness, decreased performance, changes in heart rate, and fatigue. If the sore area in question hurts when it’s touched or is limiting mobility or range of motion, experts recommend staying away from exercising for a while to allow the muscles to recover.

While there are technically no scientifically proven methods of relieving muscle soreness, methods such as ice-bath immersions, massages and stretching have been known to help alleviate DOMS and prevent future injuries.