It is clear that doing physical exercise is not only healthy but it is almost an essential activity to stay in good shape. However, this does not mean that sometimes, especially when we increase the intensity of our usual exercise, we may experience certain pains.
For example, the well-known stiffness. Also called delayed onset muscle soreness, they are familiar to all of us and we might think that they are unavoidable; but understanding the reason why they appear can give us clues on how to avoid and alleviate them.
Explanation of stiffness
The key is eccentric exercise. And no, it’s not that you’re training in a fancy way, but the term refers to any exercise that stretches a muscle when it’s under tension. For example, it happens when running or doing squats.
As explained in an article in the specialized medium Sports Medicine, this is a type 1 muscle injury, i.e., it is a micro-tearing of the muscle fibers.
This micro-tearing, which occurs because the muscle fibers are not strong enough to withstand that level of effort, then causes a small inflammatory reaction, which is responsible not only for the pain (because it stimulates the nerve fibers that generate it) but also for the characteristic stiffness of stiffness.
How to relieve stiffness?
Therefore, if we want to prevent the onset of stiffness, it is best to start exercising very gradually, and always increase the effort progressively, to give the muscles time to get used to it and gain strength. Even so, it is difficult not to experience them at times.
However, once they have appeared, there are also some things we can do to make them last and hurt less.
Specifically, as reported in a meta-analysis published in Frontiers in Physiology, a massage can help reduce inflammation and, with it, the unpleasant symptoms of stiffness. Curiously, it seems that this effect is better 48 hours after exercise and not immediately afterwards.
Something similar occurs when wearing compression garments, such as leg warmers, as explained in an article published in the Journal of Exercise Rehabilitation, since they also manage to reduce the intensity of the inflammatory response in the muscles.
Finally, research published in The BMJ found that consumption of dairy products after exercise, due to their high protein content, accelerates the recovery of muscle fibers and reduces the duration of stiffness.
Be that as it may, and although its symptoms can be minimized, it should be kept in mind that stiffness is a phenomenon that is difficult to avoid if one wants to increase the level of exercise one habitually does.