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Soreness is a common complaint from martial arts students. There are two general kinds of exercise-related muscle soreness: acute and delayed.

Acute soreness

Muscle soreness during or immediately after a workout is often due to normal muscle fatigue. This feeling of discomfort is caused by chemical waste building up in the muscles during exercise.
The soreness normally disappears after a few minutes of rest. Once it is gone, you can usually go on training as usual. Note that there is a difference between soreness and pain. Acute pain could indicate an injury and requires medical attention.

Delayed soreness

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) usually appears later, approximately 12 hours after your workout. The symptoms usually peak between 24 to 48 hours and normally disappear within a few days. I call it the day after the day after. You train at a martial art one night for the first time. The next morning you are a little sore but no a big deal. As the day progresses, you feel sorer. The next morning, you need someone to help you get out of bed.

These symptoms of soreness and stiffness are a normal adaptation process, which will lead to greater strength once your muscles have recovered. That is why you must allow for adequate rest in your workout week.

Many people believe that DOMS is caused by lactic acid, which builds in the muscles during exercise. This is a myth. Although the topic remains controversial, most experts agree that DOMS is caused by microscopic tears in the muscle fibers, as well as some swelling.

There is no sure way to prevent DOMS unless you decide not to exercise at all! However, there are ways to minimize the amount of discomfort you will suffer:
  • Always do a proper warm-up before you start.
  • Change your program gradually.
  • Progress slowly over the weeks, allowing your body time to adjust to new challenges
  • Cool-down for a few minutes after strenuous sessions; lowering your heart rate gradually back to normal.
  • After every workout by doing long, static stretches for every muscle group.
If you do end up with a severe case of DOMS, try the following tips to get some relief and speed up the healing process:
  • Avoid exercising the sore muscles and allow time for healing.
  • Do some light static stretches.
  • Gently massage the affected muscles. Use form rollers.
  • Apply ice to the affected areas for a few minutes.
  • Anti-inflammatory medication, such as aspirin, ibuprofen, and some vitamin C may also help to alleviate discomfort.
However, if the acute or delayed muscle soreness us severe or persists, consult a medical expert for advice.

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