Physical activity is extremely important and necessary for the human body, as it promotes physical and mental development, as well as maintaining health and a sense of vigor at a high level. But what about severe fatigue and even sometimes pain after intense physical exertion? Is this normal or does the body signal to us that something in our training process has gone wrong? Let’s figure it out …
In order to understand how dangerous or safe it is – to feel painful sensations in the muscles during or after physical exertion – you need to understand the elementary processes that take place in muscle tissue during intense training.
Last Updated: October 3, 2022 (A few hours ago…)
So, during physical activity, the body expends glucose as a source of energy. Further processes will directly depend on the intensity of the exercises we perform. If the load for the body is not high (a person makes about 50% of the effort), then in the process of oxidative reactions, with a sufficient level of oxygen, glucose decomposes into pyruvate (two molecules of pyruvic acid). In the case when we train to the limit of our capabilities (as a rule, this process is short-lived, depending on the fitness of the body), then glucose breaks down into two molecules of lactic acid ( lactate ). The first type of workout is called aerobic and the second is called anaerobic .
What it means: during moderate physical exertion, skeletal muscles are fully supplied with oxygen, the availability of which determines the final breakdown of glucose: in this case, it is pyruvate. In the case of intense loads (over 50% of efforts), oxygen does not enter the required volume into the muscle tissue, and lactate is the result of glucose breakdown. It is the increasing concentration of lactate in the muscle that limits its capacity for duration. Therefore, there are breaks between approaches when performing strength exercises: so that fresh blood, once in the muscle tissue, removes the glucose breakdown product – lactic acids.
If the process of lactate formation exceeds the rate of its excretion and removal from cells, then the process of a decrease in the pH level begins in the muscle tissue, which negatively affects the metabolism of certain substances in the cell. The above processes entail a deterioration in the contractility of muscle tissue. Of course, muscle fatigue should not be attributed solely to an increase in the concentration of lactate levels, nevertheless, there is such a dependence.
The peak point of lactate concentration, after which there will be a deterioration or failure of the work of a particular muscle / muscle group, directly depends on the degree of their training. Thus, regularity and a gradual increase in the load will help to perform certain exercises for a longer time and not lose quality.
It is in our power to help the body remove lactate from muscle tissue, and this, in turn, will help get rid of muscle pain:
- After intense exertion, do some moderate exercise, such as dynamic stretching;
- during or after exercise, drink freshly squeezed cherry juice (which will protect the muscles from damage) or alkaline mineral water.
So, the accumulation of lactate is one of the reasons for the appearance of muscle pain, but it usually goes away immediately after the end of the exercise / exercises, when fresh blood “comes” to the tired muscles, carrying the long-awaited and necessary oxygen.
The next likely cause of aching pain after exercise is micro tears in the muscles . Why is this happening? In the process of moderate loads, muscle tissue hypertrophy occurs, that is, its increase as a result of thickening of the fibers, as well as an increase in their number. But under intense loads, not only the appearance of new fibers occurs, but also the destruction of the old, weakest links. The most interesting thing is that it is recovery (the appearance of new muscle fibers) that causes muscle pain the next or several days after training. This type of pain is called DOMS, or delayed pain syndrome.
It is important to understand that DOMS is that feeling of “dull” (not “sharp”!) Pain that occurs about 12 hours after exercise. Do not be afraid of it: your body reacts in this way to an increased or unusual load, so try to increase it gradually, without creating unnecessary stress for it. Also, do not confuse it with “acute” pain that occurs directly during or after exercise, which, most likely, signals an injury to one or another part of the body (here only treatment comes to the rescue).
Follow some guidelines to avoid dyspnea.
- Do a warm-up to warm up the muscles before the main complex and to adapt to the subsequent load.
- Avoid feeling thirsty: Drink plenty of water, which will prevent overheating of the body, as well as micro-tears in muscle tissue.
- Stretch after exercise to relax your muscles and restore flexibility.
- Immerse yourself in an ice bath to cool the body and reduce swelling and inflammation in muscle tissue. Important: this will only make sense if you perform such a bath only immediately after training.
- Refuel on protein (to restore muscle tissue) and carbohydrates (to replenish glycogen levels).
How to get rid of muscle pain, or what relieves muscle pain
- Take a warm bath (not immediately after class, but a couple of days later when pain occurs).
- Choose a moderate workout for vigorous workouts, which will increase blood flow to the muscle tissue and thereby accelerate recovery.
- Take a massage course.
- Tackle myofascial release. This is a specific technique for performing exercises to relax muscle and fascial tissues.
How to relax your neck muscles
- A professional massage of the painful area is the best way to relieve muscle pain.
- Self-massage: first, work the back of the neck, starting from the top (from the hairline), gradually going down. Then go to the back of the head and move towards the ears using stroking circular motions. Gradually move to the front of the neck as well as the shoulders. At the end of the massage, go through the entire collar zone in a circle.
- A tennis ball massage can help relax the deep muscles in your neck. Place two balls in a sock and tie the free end so that the balls are tightly pressed together. Stand with your back to the wall and pinch the balls so that they are in the neck area, on the sides of the spine. Bending your knees, go down and rise up, actively massaging the muscles along the spine. You can also massage with one tennis ball. With your back to the wall, squeeze the ball in the area between your shoulder blade and spine. Bending your knees, go down and rise up, making additional circular movements in this area. Important: Avoid pressing the ball directly on the spine itself, so as not to injure its spinous processes.
- Doing exercises to relax your neck muscles is a great home workout option.
– Sitting or standing with your back straight, lower your chin to your chest, then stretch the back of your head towards your back (10 times in each direction).
– Stretching the top of the head up, make lateral tilts of the head towards one or the other shoulder. The shoulder remains motionless during the bend. Important: do not strive with the lower ear to the shoulder, but stretch the upper ear towards the ceiling, and with the crown, stretch towards the slope (10 times in each direction).
– Lower your head to the side of the right shoulder, then tilt it diagonally downward (at an angle of 45 degrees between the shoulder and the jugular fossa). Hold the position for up to 10 breaths (1 cycle – 1 inhalation and 1 exhalation).
– Lowering your chin to your chest, make semicircular movements from one shoulder to the other (10 rolls). It is believed that semicircular movements are the safest for the arteries located in this zone.
– Stretching the back of the head to the spine, make semicircular movements from one shoulder to the other (10 rolls).
– Stretching the top of the head up, make a raking motion with the chin to the chest, as if pulling an imaginary object to the neck (10 movements).
– Stretching the top of the head up, make pushing movements with the chin away from the chest, as if pushing an imaginary object away from the neck (10 movements).
– Lower your chin to your chest, put your hands, gathered in a lock, on the back of your head. Hold the position for 10 breaths.
– In a standing position, make circular movements with straight arms – swing (10 times in each direction).
– In a sitting position, collect your hands in the lock and, directing it away from you, rounding your back, stretch the lock forward, and with your hands – back.
How to relax your lower back
For relaxation of the lower back, such a pose as Marjariasana (Cat Pose) is widely known. But the dynamic ligament Cat – Cow will help relieve tension in the back even more effectively. Performance:
– Get on all fours: palms under your shoulders, knees hip-width apart. Take a breath.
– With an exhalation, begin to twist the tailbone under you, rounding the lower back and pushing the platform between the shoulder blades up. Lower your head down, chin into the jugular fossa.
– With an inhalation, direct the tailbone as much as possible upward, bending in the lower back, stretch the crown of the head up and back. Look at the ceiling.
– While inhaling, pull the rug / floor towards you, while exhaling – away from you. Complete up to 10 of these sets.
The following exercise will help you work your abs while relaxing your psoas.
- In a prone position, bend your knees, feet on the floor, under your knees.
- As you exhale, straighten your right leg and lift it at an angle of 45 degrees from the floor (toe towards you).
- On inhalation, the leg returns to its original position.
- Repeat the same on the other side (10 approaches each).
- During the exercise, the lower back should be firmly pressed to the floor!
- In conclusion, lower your pelvis to the floor (head and shoulders are also on the floor), hug your knees and press your hips tightly to your stomach. Hold the position for up to 1 min.
Performing Setu Bandhasana (yoga asana) in dynamics is a great way to relax your back by using stabilizing muscles, in this case the buttocks. Performance:
– In a prone position, bend your knees, feet on the floor, under your knees. Palms on the floor, along the body.
– With an exhalation, lift the pelvis up to the maximum upper point, strongly tensing the gluteal muscles.
– While inhaling, lower your pelvis down. Continue performing in dynamics up to 10 times.
Shallow, gentle twists can help relieve tension in your lower back.
– In a prone position, bend your knees, feet on the floor, at a distance wider than the pelvis: this time they are not located under the knees, but a little further from the pelvis. Hands are spread apart, palms down.
– With an exhalation, we lower the right knee down and inward (to the left knee) at an angle of 45 degrees (do not stretch to the floor, so as not to twist in the lower back!).
– On inhalation, lift to the starting position.
– Repeat the same on the other side. Complete 10 sets in total.
Performing Pavanamuktasana will help to relax the spasmodic muscles of the back.
– In a supine position, bend your knees (feet on the floor).
– Place your palms on the sides of your hips and, resting your elbows on the floor, raising your head and shoulders, release your lower back with stretching movements.
– Direct your straight arms towards your feet (parallel with the floor, palms towards each other), pull your knees to your forehead, and your forehead to your knees.
– Holding the position for up to 1 min, twist the pubic bone towards the hips. Try to raise your sacrum as high as possible above the floor.
This exercise involves the antagonist muscle of the lower back – the transverse abdominal muscle. During its active work, the psoas muscle is automatically relaxed.
Myths about muscle pain after exercise
- “If there is no pain after training, then it was inferior.”
– No, it doesn’t. It is likely that the training took place in the mode to which the body has already adapted, and the lack of leaving the comfort zone did not entail painful sensations.
- “If your muscles hurt after a workout, then the classes are going right.”
– Muscle pain after exercise only means that they received a load greater than that to which they have already adapted. And what will follow next is up to you. If you give your body rest after exertion (in the form of their absence or a decrease in their level), then, having time to recover, you will increase your endurance or strength level (possibly both). But if, with such painful sensations, you return to intense training, then the rate of destruction of muscle tissue will exceed the rate of its recovery, after which injury cannot be avoided.
The goals of the training process directly affect the well-being after it.
What does it mean? For example, if you decide to increase your endurance and strength indicators, you will have to train intensively in an increased mode, GRADUALLY increasing the load. The key word here is “gradually”. After an intense workout, you can plan something in an easy mode, or repurpose the lesson for a different muscle group. Thus, the “tired” muscles will rest and recover for the next intensive exercise.
If the goal of your training is to maintain a high level of health and performance, then training will be distinguished by a moderate regimen: after such exercises, you will feel fatigue of varying degrees, but not pain.
If you are a beginner and just accustom your body to physical activity, then for some time along with fatigue in the muscles soreness will be felt – this is the adaptation of the muscles to new types of stress or to stress in principle. Further, different scenarios are possible: 1) you continue to gradually increase the load, taking breaks for recovery; 2) having achieved the desired result, you choose the usual level of exercise to maintain health and good spirits.
To summarize, post-workout muscle pain can result from:
- accumulation of lactate (lactic acid) in muscle tissue. Typically, this pain goes away immediately after the end of the exercise / exercise;
- microbreaks of muscle fiber fibrils. The response of the immune system to such damage manifests itself in the form of inflammation of the damaged area. This is followed by swelling of the lymph accumulated in the muscles. Microdamage to the nerve endings of muscle tissue cannot be avoided either. Painful sensations, however, are caused precisely by the recovery process after all these injuries;
- injury as a violation of the integrity and normal capacity of the body.
The first two reasons are adaptive in nature: a gradually increasing load will increase the threshold of sensitivity to the concentration of lactate in the muscles, and then fatigue and soreness will appear only with excessive loads for our body; the same applies to dyspepsia.
With injuries, the situation is much more complicated: without a specialist, it is unlikely that it will be possible to avoid unpleasant consequences and correctly return to training.
Be attentive to your body, listen to your inner voice and do not forget about the golden mean in everything, including in the training process!