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10 Evidence Based Methods to Decrease Muscle Soreness

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

For the high level athletes, the crossfit "two a day" keeners, and the gym newbies muscle soreness can be a very real problem. We have all experienced that elated feeling after working out only to wake up the next morning to an awkward log roll out of bed, followed by a day of wobbling down the stairs.

What is muscle soreness?

We called it delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS for short. It occurs about 1-2 days after exercising due to micro trauma of the myofibrils (component of muscle fibres).

Here is the science bit. Fun fact: lactic acid doesn't actually cause muscle soreness. It's actually the acidic environment caused by hydrogen ions which stems from lactic acid breakdown. Metabolic byproducts, reactive oxygen species (ROS) and inflammation stimulate free nerve endings sending a pain signal to the brain (1). Great, so what can we do about this?

Physical Medicine & Self Care

1. Movement & recovery workouts

A cool down period after intense anaerobic exercise helps maintain continuous blood flow helps to remove waste products from the muscles and clears all the stimuli causing pain (2) . In addition, an aerobic warm up involving the intended muscle group to be used in a resistance exercise program may also reduce DOMS (3).

2. Foam rolling & releasing

This popular technique is a type of self-induced massage which decreases muscle tenderness, pain & inflammation due to its mechanism of increasing blood flow to the area being rolled out (4).


3. Anti-oxidants

A type of anti-oxidant called anthocyanin reduces free radicals & inflammation. Some research supports tart cherry juice due to its high content of anti-oxidants (5)

4. Caffeine

Acts as an analgesic (i.e a pain killer) which blocks pain receptors, therefore reducing muscles soreness (6)

5. Natural anti-inflammatories:

* Curcumin (7)

* Fish Oil i.e Omega-3 (8) (9)

6. BCAA's (Branched Chain Amino Acids)

Helps build protein & reduces muscle fiber micro trauma. Basically less strain = less pain (10) (11)

7. BCAA & Taurine

Taurine is a conditionally essential amino acid often synthesized naturally by our bodies & can be found in animal products. It acts as an anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidative agent to reduce DOMS (12)(13)

8. L-Glutamine

Exercise depletes glutamine & our bodies cannot synthesis this amino acid. Therefore we rely on our diets to get it's benefits including an immune system boost & synthesis of glycogen (which is food for our muscles) (14)


9. Massage

Simple & amazing. I don't think I need to explain this one. Go relax & enjoy getting all those knots worked out (15)

10. Contrast Water Therapy

Using a bath to submerge the affected area into hot water for 5 minutes, followed by a cold ice application for 1 minute, repeated multiple times. Evidence is still emerging, but the idea is that alternating hot & cold alters the blood flow, reducing edema, inflammation & ultimately pain (16,17)

Stay empowered & take care of your body,


(1) Close, G. L., Ashton, T., Cable, T., Doran, D., & MacLaren, D. P. (2004). Eccentric exercise, isokinetic muscle torque and delayed onset muscle soreness: the role of reactive oxygen species. European journal of applied physiology, 91(5-6), 615-621.

(2)Cheung K, Hume PA, Maxwell L. Delayed onset muscle soreness: Treatment strategies and performance factors. Sports Med. 2003;33:145–164

(3) Olsen, O., Sjøhaug, M., Van Beekvelt, M., & Mork, P. J. (2012). The effect of warm-up and cool-down exercise on delayed onset muscle soreness in the quadriceps muscle: a randomized controlled trial. Journal of human kinetics, 35(1), 59-68.

(4) Pearcey, G. E., Bradbury-Squires, D. J., Kawamoto, J. E., Drinkwater, E. J., Behm, D. G., & Button, D. C. (2015). Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. Journal of athletic training, 50(1), 5-13.

(5) Howatson, G., McHugh, M. P., Hill, J. A., Brouner, J., Jewell, A. P., Van Someren, K. A., ... & Howatson, S. A. (2010). Influence of tart cherry juice on indices of recovery following marathon running. Scandinavian journal of medicine & science in sports, 20(6), 843-852.

(6) Hurley, C. F., Hatfield, D. L., & Riebe, D. A. (2013). The effect of caffeine ingestion on delayed onset muscle soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 27(11), 3101-3109.

(7) Nicol, L. M., Rowlands, D. S., Fazakerly, R., & Kellett, J. (2015). Curcumin supplementation likely attenuates delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). European journal of applied physiology, 115(8), 1769-1777.

(8) Tinsley, G. M., Gann, J. J., Huber, S. R., Andre, T. L., La Bounty, P. M., Bowden, R. G., ... & Grandjean, P. W. (2017). Effects of fish oil supplementation on postresistance exercise muscle soreness. Journal of Dietary Supplements, 14(1), 89-100.

(9) Corder, K. E., Newsham, K. R., McDaniel, J. L., Ezekiel, U. R., & Weiss, E. P. (2016). Effects of short-term docosahexaenoic acid supplementation on markers of inflammation after eccentric strength exercise in women. Journal of sports science & medicine, 15(1), 176.

(10) Howatson, G., Hoad, M., Goodall, S., Tallent, J., Bell, P. G., & French, D. N. (2012). Exercise-induced muscle damage is reduced in resistance-trained males by branched chain amino acids: a randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 9(1), 20.

(11) Ra, S. G., Miyazaki, T., Kojima, R., Komine, S., Ishikura, K., Kawanaka, K., ... & Ohmori, H. (2018). Effect of BCAA supplement timing on exercise-induced muscle soreness and damage: a pilot placebo-controlled double-blind study. The Journal of sports medicine and physical fitness, 58(11), 1582.

(12) Ra, S. G., Miyazaki, T., Ishikura, K., Nagayama, H., Suzuki, T., Maeda, S., ... & Ohmori, H. (2013). Additional effects of taurine on the benefits of BCAA intake for the delayed-onset muscle soreness and muscle damage induced by high-intensity eccentric exercise. In Taurine 8 (pp. 179-187). Springer, New York, NY.

(13) Ra, S. G., Miyazaki, T., Ishikura, K., Nagayama, H., Komine, S., Nakata, Y., ... & Ohmori, H. (2013). Combined effect of branched-chain amino acids and taurine supplementation on delayed onset muscle soreness and muscle damage in high-intensity eccentric exercise. Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, 10(1), 1-11.

(14) Legault, Z., Bagnall, N., & Kimmerly, D. S. (2015). The influence of oral L-glutamine supplementation on muscle strength recovery and soreness following unilateral knee extension eccentric exercise. International journal of sport nutrition and exercise metabolism, 25(5), 417-426.

(15) Guo, J., Li, L., Gong, Y., Zhu, R., Xu, J., Zou, J., & Chen, X. (2017). Massage alleviates delayed onset muscle soreness after strenuous exercise: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Frontiers in physiology, 8, 747.

(16) Vaile, J. M., Gill, N. D., & Blazevich, A. J. (2007). The effect of contrast water therapy on symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 21(3), 697-702.

(17) Vaile, J. M., Gill, N. D., & Blazevich, A. J. (2007). The effect of contrast water therapy on symptoms of delayed onset muscle soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, 21(3), 697-702.

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