Feeling sore, the good kind of sore, is the trademark souvenir of a successful workout. That incredible pain of aching when you laugh, not being able to raise your arms above your head, and struggling to pick up those dropped car keys… these are the badges of honour that gym-goers love. But at the end of the day, pain is pain, and can prevent a swift return to the gym.
What you’re experience is called DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), and it can hurt.
“When people are initiating a new workout regimen, it’s very common to develop soreness,” says Dr. Ryan Lingor, a primary care sports physician at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City when talking to TIME Magazine. “It doesn’t necessarily mean they have to stop the exercise or they have an injury.”
Just to be clear, we’re not talking about injuries here, and there’s a clear way of identifying the difference, according to Lingor. He explains that DOMS usually hits between 24-48 hours after a workout, and is symmetrical. This means that if you have a stronger pain on one side of your body when compared to the other same muscle group, this could be a sign of an injury, rather than just muscle soreness.
But can you still workout with a case of DOMS? Well apparently not only can you hit the gym again, but it’s actually going to be your quickest road to recovery.
“There’s no real effective treatment for delayed-onset muscle soreness. The best thing actually is low-impact activity,” he says.
Moving the muscles through a range of motion not only helps to break down the scar tissue forming in sore muscles, but increases blood flow to the affected areas.
Recent popular strategies in coping with muscle soreness, such as magnesium supplementation, are still great and effective, however work more as a preventative strategy, rather than treating your aching muscles days after the offending workout.
So as the saying goes, ‘hop back on the horse’, and get back in the gym and push through that pain with some light, low impact activity like swimming.