In order to get to accomplish your goals, pushing through your workouts is key. It’s part of the overload principle which states that to make changes in the body, the individual must continually increase the demands placed on the appropriate muscles. Whether you are trying to increase flexibility by strengthening those tight muscles or just trying to get stronger, addressing sore muscles and recovery techniques should be part of the program.
Delayed onset muscle soreness, known as DOMS, occurs when one overloads the muscles and adaptation occurs. The soreness occurs from microscopic tears in the muscles that create inflammation. In the simplest terms, the inflammation irritates the nerves and the muscles feel sore. There is some irritation caused by lactic acid buildup in the tissues as well. However, the biggest factor related to the soreness, is inflammation.
For this reason, it is important to use techniques to decrease inflammation. Two of the most effective ways to relieve DOMS is with cryotherapy and massage.
Cryotherapy uses cold therapy to the surface of the muscles to constrict blood vessels. This helps decrease inflammation almost instantly, but it is the cooling and temperature regulation of the body back to normal that helps the muscles recover and improve faster. Cryotherapy typically uses ice or a cold surface. The problems inherent with using ice are the melting, dripping water around the area. Cryotherapy balls are just as effective and a more convenient method of cooling the muscles. There are three ways to use a cryotherapy ball:
- Apply direct pressure to the sore muscle tissue. Holding the cryotherapy ball directly aids in cooling the surface and can provide immediate relief. Be certain not to hold the cryotherapy in place for more than 2 minutes at a time alternating with pressure to another area of the muscle. This allows for the heating /cooling to occur.
- Cryotherapy massage is another way to use a cryotherapy ball. The slick, smooth surface of the ball rolls easily over the body. This allows for a larger surface area to be addressed.
- Massage and direct pressure with the cryotherapy ball is another effective pattern of relief. This allows for the best combination of cooling and heating.
Although cold therapies are very effective, deep tissue massage techniques can also be very helpful in relieving sore muscles and improving muscle recovery. While cryotherapy uses temperature to minimize blood flow to the area to aid in reducing inflammation, deep tissue massage increases blood flow to the affected areas. This improves circulation and aids in removing waste products like lactic acid mentioned above, but also brings fresh blood flow and nutrients to heal the muscles.
Deep tissue massage uses a firm ball surface and works by placing the ball on tender spots on your muscles. Unlike cryotherapy, the pressure using a deep tissue massage uses your own body weight to apply pressure. It can be done by leaning against the wall with your body when massaging the shoulders or by laying on the massage ball when rolling out the lower body. The massage brings blood flow to the area to help aid in healing the micro tears from the workouts. Using the deep tissue ball by massaging the tender spot rolling up and down and sideways; sometimes it may be necessary to turn the body all the way to the side so that the ball is pressing into the muscle firmly.
Doing nothing for sore muscles is an option, but that may delay your progress and results in the short and long term. Knowing how to get the most out of your training will improve your results and help your body feel its best.