No pain, no gain. This is the adage that many of us work out by. If it’s not hurting, we are not working hard enough. What causes sore muscles and what part does lactic acid buildup play?
There are two types of muscle pain. One is the burning that you feel in your muscles while you are working out, and this is commonly known as lactic-acid buildup. The second kind is the stiffness and soreness you may encounter for two to five days after you have worked out. This pain is referred to as delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS for short).
Lactic acid is created when the body is not getting enough oxygen to break down the glucose required for energy. Lactic acid is produced during extreme anaerobic activity (such as weight lifting) as a defensive measure, forcing the body to slow down and catch its metabolic breath, so to speak.
The burning feeling you experience is a sure sign that you are working out to your maximum. Once your body starts producing the lactic acid in high quantities, the body can only continue that particular muscle use (rep) for another one to three minutes. The lactic acid does not hang around in your muscles for too long: from several hours to 24 hours.
DOMS is the correct term for the pain, stiffness, and suffering you may encounter when you try to get out of bed the day or two after the massive or new workout. This pain and stiffness usually peaks within the first one to two days and then subsides. The length of recovery time can depend on the muscle damage and subsequent repair necessary.
Yes, you read right. DOMS is actually caused by the inflammation and damage of the muscles created by the workout. Generally, if DOMS is caused by a new workout routine, your muscles will soon adjust, and you will find the DOMS will stop troubling you.
Relieving Muscle Pain
Massage has been proven to reduce both the tissue swelling and the pain associated with DOMS after strenuous workouts. The theory is that the massaging motion helps clear the chemical buildup in the muscles and surrounding tissues, allowing the healing process to start faster.
Light exercise again has been clinically proven to help alleviate some of the symptoms of DOMS. A light cardio workout is recommended first to warm up, followed by some stretches. If you are then able to do your usual workout that’s fine.
However, if the pain is interfering with your routine, or the pain intensifies, then this is your body signaling you that those particular muscles need more recovery time. It is important to listen to your body and not ignore severe pain.
Heat packs and ice packs can both help with tissue damage and pain. Ice will help prevent swelling, and heat is generally found to be soothing for sore muscles and joints.
Does it really have to hurt to work? The pain that is felt in the muscles after an intensive routine is from the small tears in the muscles healing themselves. This is part of the muscle strengthening process.
A little DOMS can be a great indicator that you have successfully pushed yourself. On the other hand, severe DOMS indicates that you have overexerted yourself. Lactic acid burn is a signal that your muscles are indeed working out.
To sum up, the production of lactic acid is a process signaling that muscles have run out of oxygen needed to clear out the chemicals created by an intensive workout. The buildup of lactic acid is signaled by the feeling of muscle burn. DOMS, on the other hand, is the pain and stiffness felt from anywhere between one to five days after a strenuous activity.