For most people a few hours spent taking part in recreational sport at the weekend is something we look forward to for the entire week. Whether it is football, rugby, combat sport, skiing, or climbing, the list goes on, however regardless of what the sport is – many of us consider it our ‘light at the end of the tunnel’ that gives us hope when caught in the midweek work slump. However have you ever wondered why despite taking part in the same activity on a weekly basis sometimes for many years you still get the feeling that your muscles have never quite gotten used to it?
This is because for many of us the luxury of being able to play sport throughout the week is somewhat of a dream and even for those lucky enough to squeeze it in a couple of nights each week, your unlikely to find them playing 5 sets of tennis each night. In turn, come the weekend we usually have several days’ worth of energy built up and like a line from the film Gladiator we “unleash hell” when we finally start playing.
It is this unaccustomed and strenuous exercise which causes the deep aching sensation in our muscles that greet us when our alarms ring out on Monday mornings. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS as it’s commonly known is not to be confused with Acute Muscle Soreness and is not felt immediately after the muscles have been exercised. It can take up to 72 hours after exercise for the pain to peak and even longer for it to disappear completely. Mostly this pain is a dull aching sensation and is stiff and tender to the touch. The actual body mechanics behind DOMS remain quite the mystery however it is widely acknowledged that it is related to muscle tissue damage on a microscopic level; whereby the fibers are torn, tangled or bunched and saturated with waste products.
There are a number of ways in which DOMS can be prevented; one is to gradually increase the duration and intensity of exercise over a period of time however as we have already established this is not always practical for the weekend athlete. Also contrary to popular belief static stretching and light exercise does not prevent DOMS but can help to alleviate the pain for short periods. In fact deep tissue massage is the only form of treatment that has been shown to significantly reduce the intensity and duration of DOMS as it helps to untangle and realign the muscle fibers.
Ideally you should undergo such treatment both before and after exercise however this is often not practical nor is everyone aware of the techniques they should be using to massage certain muscle groups. Use of a foam roller and tennis ball is a very effective alternative when you’re stuck for what to do however to properly ensure you’re not struggling to sit up in bed on Monday morning then it would probably be wise to book an appointment with a sports therapist for a post exercise massage. This may seem a bit extreme and is often viewed as something professional athletes would undergo; this could not be further from the truth and with each session usually taking around 30-45min, a weekend sports massage is the perfect way to set you up for the week to come and keep you on top of your game.