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Four Science-Approved Methods that Alleviate Muscle Soreness

Posted by Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES on 21 March 2017
Four Science-Approved Methods that Alleviate Muscle Soreness

'This is going to hurt in the morning'.

You've probably heard this phrase in many life situations, from staying for that one, last round at the bar, to getting an impulsive tattoo thanks to that aforementioned last round.

It's maybe most commonly heard post-exercise, where a punishing workout or a disappointing return to the gym after a long hiatus can have you anticipating the worst.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the muscular pain & stiffness that you feel after a heavy workout. As the name suggests, the effects are delayed the pain peaks about 24-48 hours after leaving the gym.

Fitness pundits aren't entirely sure what the 'delay' is attributed to, they do know it's an inflammatory response caused by a breakdown in muscles tissue.

That muscles tissue breakdown isn't a bad thing, however.

For an active person that regularly exercises, the occasional onset of DOMS is a good thing. That's simply the body acknowledging an elevation of exercise intensity, or the inclusion of novel movements to the workout regimen both of which are welcomed in a dynamic, efficient training program.

Remember, for muscles to develop in strength and efficiency, they need to repair, grow, and become stronger so there has to be something to repair initially. That's right: those small muscle tears that have you wobbling in the morning are actually beneficial.

But no one likes pain, despite the gain. Here are a few (scientifically proven) ways you can lessen muscular pain without lessening performance.

Eat tart cherries.

The science: A study published in in the Scandinavian Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports discovered marathoners who consumed tart cherry juice a few days before, on the day of, and two days after their races, enjoyed reduced muscle soreness.

The athletes also experienced improved muscle recovery & functions that's what we'd call the cherry on top.

Incorporate it: Good nutrition delivers enough antioxidants to fuel regular training sessions, but for that extra boost, work tart cherries into your regular diet. Having a few servings throughout the week is usually enough, but if you're amping up for a race, one serving a day is ideal.

And if you hate cherries, red raspberries are a fine alternative.

Drink coffee.

The science: Various studies suggest pre-workout caffeine intake can reduce future muscle soreness & fatigue. A study published in the Journal of Pain showed exercisers enjoying a 48% drop in DOMS due to coffee.

There seems to be some truth to the theory that coffee truly makes everything better.

Incorporate it: An hour before a brutal workout, drink two cups of coffee. And don't sweat hydration: a 2014 PLOS ONE study found coffee hydrates on par with H2O. Hydration is important; dehydration can significantly worsen DOMS symptoms.

Get a massage.

The science: There's finally a better reason to justify a massage than, 'because I feel like it'. A 2014 study found that post-exercise massages not only drastically reduces muscular pain, but helps the body fight off DOMS long term. Another study learned massaged muscles contain more blood vessels than unmassaged ones, which boosts recovery.

Incorporate it: Schedule a sports massage immediately following a grueling workout (we offer this service at our SEMI clinics!). Immediate massage is more effective in facilitating tissue regeneration & reducing fibrosis, rather than a massage a couple days later.

Book your sports massage with our SEMI therapists now!

Get a foam roller.

The science: Like a massage, foam rolling is all about that myofascial release, relieving built-up tension in our muscle's connective tissue. Like coffee, foam rolling your muscles like dough can reduce the dreaded DOMS. 

Oh, and you may notice improved performance in subsequent workouts, too.

Incorporate it: Pick up a foam roller, and work with it for 10-15 minutes a day on any tender spots. Incorporate your foam flattening any way you can in your warm-up, cool-down, or on recovery days.

And if anyone questions your usage of foam at the gym, tell them that's just how you roll.


If you're having rough mornings after every gym session, SEMI's sports massage therapy can alleviate persistent DOMS symptoms, helping your body repair, recover, and grow. 

To learn more about our sports massage therapy services, or to work with our personal trainers in Toronto, contact us today!

Author: Douglas W. Stoddard MD, M Sp Med, Dip Sport Med, ES
About: Dr. Douglas Stoddard is a sports medicine physician and is the Medical Director of the Sports & Exercise Medicine Institute (SEMI). After receiving his medical degree from the University of Toronto, he trained in Australia at the Australian Institute of Sport in Canberra, obtaining his Master Degree in Sports Medicine. He is also a diplomat of the Canadian Academy of Sport and Exercise Medicine and has his focussed practice designation in Sport Medicine from the Ontario Medical Association. Dr. Stoddard is a consultant to the Canadian Military and has consulted with well over 30,000 unique patients in his career. Dr. Stoddard is constantly searching for new and promising therapies to help SEMI patients, and is responsible for developing the RegenerVate Medical Injection Therapy Program. He is married and the proud father of two boys, is an avid triathlete and occasional guitar player.
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