Treating Muscle Soreness after Exercise
Several of our patients are running in today’s New York Marathon. We want you to know that we’re rooting for you all. It’s a huge achievement to train for and complete a marathon and we have been happy to support our patients in the run up. I expect I’ll be treating some sore muscles in the next few days and so it seems like a good time to write about how Chinese Medicine sees exercise related muscle soreness and how we can help.
Many people find that they experience muscle pain 24 – 48 hours after intense exercise. The technical term for this is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). It usually lasts 4 – 5 days and varies in severity depending on the intensity of the exercise. It is different to the kind of pain that you experience during exercise or to the pain associated with an injury. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle fibers combined with inflammation.
In Chinese medicine the pain is caused by blood and qi that have become stagnant in the muscles. The severity of the symptoms depends on the intensity of the exercise as well as the athlete’s underlying constitution. That is why at The Yinova Center we have been preparing runners ahead of the marathon by giving them qi tonics. The more qi an athlete has the more they are able to transport and transform qi and blood in the muscles. This in turn reduces the possibility of injury or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. After the marathon we suggest you come in for a treatment. We use acupuncture, cupping, moxabustion, tui na massage and Chinese herbs to help to move the stagnation in the muscles and thus relieve pain and stiffness.
Here are some ways you can help yourself.
- Gentle stretching or yoga has been proved to help to relieve pain by moving stagnation in the muscles.
- Massage has been shown to reduce the pain associated with DOMS by about 30%.
- Acupuncture has been shown to relieve pain and soreness in the muscles associated with DOMS
- Whilst low intensity exercise can help relieve soreness avoid any kind of high intensity activity that causes further pain.
- Although ice can relieve the inflammation it also constricts blood vessels which hinders your body’s ability to remove debris. It is better to alternate the ice with heat to allow the blood vessels to dilate and promote healing. If you choose this method it is important to allow 1/2 an hour between using an ice pack and applying heat. Alternating too quickly between the two can cause swelling.
- Drink lots of water to help your body flush out debris in your muscle tissue.
- If your pain is no better in 7 days or is increasing in intensity you should see your doctor to make sure that you haven’t injured yourself.