Even well-trained floorball players can suffer from muscle soreness after a hard workout, especially in this period of demanding fitness training. The article is devoted to this familiar experience of soreness which often is a part of the recovery process.
There are several degrees of soreness that we need to be aware of:
Typical Mild Muscle Soreness
This type of soreness is usually experienced the day after a good workout and does not last long. While scientists are still unable to pinpoint the true cause of such soreness, it is generally accepted that it is caused by micro trauma caused at muscle fiber level and by an excess of lactic acid. This soreness is perceived positively because it indicates that you had a good workout the day before and you created the trauma necessary to trigger adaptation (e.g. muscle growth). Here the saying “No pain, no gain!” might be appropriate, although a good workout does not have to necessarily mean pain.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
As opposed to Typical Mild Muscle Soreness, which occurs the day after the workout, delayed soreness typically occurs 24-48 hours following intense exercise. It is deep muscular soreness which prevents the full muscular contraction of the muscle. This type of more severe soreness is caused when you either embark an exercise program for the first time or when you train a body part much harder than usual. This pain can last between a couple of days for an advanced well-conditioned athlete or as much as a week for a beginner. DOMS is probably caused by a combination of factors: microscopic damage to muscle fibers and specific damage of the inner cell environment.
Injury-Type Muscle Soreness
Injury-Type Muscle Soreness is very sharp and immobilizing. Depending on the nature of the injury, it may be experience constantly or only when the muscle is moved in a certain way. Sometimes these injuries become apparent as soon as they happen, other times but less often the day after.
How to deal with muscle soreness?
Typical Mild Muscle Soreness passes soon and there is no special need to deal with it as the body can do it on its own.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is very unpleasant and it is best to get rid of it as soon as possible so that it does not put any limits to the workout of the athlete. Even though there are many claims that the effects of DOMS can be reduced with various treatment modalities, like ice-pack application, massage, stretching or ultrasound, no method has any conclusive, empirical support. However, these methods can help the athlete to suppress the pain, for example, after a massage the athlete can feel less pain and partial relief.
One of the recommended methods of fighting the soreness is an active recovery. A light recovery training unit consisting of simple exercises of low intensity and duration (around 20 minutes), like light running, swimming, easy games, will not aggravate the muscle damage, on the contrary, it will help to speed up the muscle regeneration by supplying the muscles with blood and thus loading them with nutrient and washing away the waste substances. Again it has not been proved that these activities have any significant impact on the recovery of sore muscles. Nevertheless, they have the same effect as the above mentioned methods because motion helps to ease the pain and makes the athlete feel better. The advantage of this method is that the athlete does not skip trainings. One can achieve the same effect by stretching. However, active recovery is not recommended if it makes the pain worse.
The only method which thus really works is prevention – to work only as hard as and do activities of such intensity as to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness.
A whole chapter could be written about dealing with Injury-Type Muscle Soreness. Typical treatment of such soreness follows the RICE principle (Recovery, Ice, Compression and Elevation). Afterwards, medical consultation and possibly a physiotherapeutic treatment are required.