Why are muscles sore after exercise?
Muscle soreness tends to develop 24-48 hours after physical activity, especially if you’ve been using your body in ways it’s not used to. This, counter to popular belief, is not caused by a buildup of lactic acid, but microscopic tears in muscle tissue. Any time the body flexes a muscle and also puts pressure on it- such as jogging on concrete or the impact of a punching bag, tiny tears appear. This is not a bad thing, as every time the body rebuilds itself it makes the muscle more structurally sound. This is why repeatedly moving in a given activity builds up the muscles to continue moving. Your body is learning what you want to do, and giving you the resources to do it. The trick for minimal discomfort is to take care of your body before and after a new activity.
Stretching is essential for loosening up your muscles for your best performance. The stretching of the muscle fibers before activity makes them more pliable and less likely to strain. If the pain of your muscle soreness is too much, ice can help to numb the area. However, the real help comes in increased circulation, as it brings more oxygen to the injured site. This in turn helps myoblasts (the “repair” muscle cells) work to mend damage.
Massage can help reduce sore muscles when issued before and after an event by increasing circulation and stretching out the muscles. Your massage therapist should work with you in your comfort zone to increase your range of motion and bring your awareness to any areas of distress. If you have a previous injury, this step is particularly important as “Running requires sustained, repetitive muscle contractions….Massage works to elongate the muscles, relieve muscle tightness, restore joint range of motion, and improve circulation.” (Runnersworld.com). While massage before and after extreme exercise may not completely prevent post-race discomfort, it will reduce the pain to a manageable level.