7 muscle ache myths – and what really helps against it

The biggest myths about sore muscles

What is sore muscles?

Causes for muscle ache

Is sore muscles dangerous?

How sore muscles go away faster

Training despite sore muscles

Prevent sore muscles

Training without sore muscles

The 7 biggest myths about sore muscles

1. “Muscle soreness comes from overacidified muscles”

For a long time it was assumed that muscle soreness is caused by an overacidification in the muscle by lactate (lactic acid). During intensive exercise, lactate is produced in the muscle, which must then be broken down.

However, the hangover is not hyperacidity but a product of unusual, eccentric muscle contractions. Overloading the motor units damages the muscle fibre structure and the smallest cracks appear. Result: During the healing process swellings in the connective tissue occur, which then leads to the typical pain in the muscles.

2. “Sore muscles can be trained away”

This is definitely not working. The healing process takes time. Those who continue to challenge the painful areas slow down this process and risk more serious muscle injuries.

3rd “Stretching helps against sore muscles”

Stretching is a great thing before and after sports, but it doesn’t help against the nasty pussycat. A study by the University of Sydney even found out. Regardless of how long the stretching program is applied – the test candidates in the study stretched between 40 seconds and ten minutes – the pain-relieving effects are minimal at less than one percent.

It also makes no difference whether athletes stretch before or after training, according to study leader Robert Herbert. Extensive stretching exercises before sport can even have the opposite effect and cause small strains in the muscle tissue. Therefore, a short warm-up unit should rather be planned before the sport. 10 minutes on the rowing machine or treadmill at a moderate pace stimulates the blood circulation. This prevents much more effectively than stretching.

3 mistakes that almost everyone makes when stretching

4. “Cooling helps against sore muscles”

Do not treat sore muscles with ice! According to a study printed in the “Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research”, too much cold can even hinder the regeneration process, because it slows down the metabolism in the muscle and impairs the transmission of stimuli in the nerves. Damn uncool!

5. “If you don’t have sore muscles, you’re not exercising properly”

While some people hardly ever get sore muscles despite hard training, others are already in pain as soon as you just look at a dumbbell. A connection between the extent of the pain and the lack of muscle growth cannot be established. The body adapts to the training load even without pain. Beginners get sore muscles relatively easily, whereas trained athletes rarely get sore.

Unfortunately, sore muscles cannot simply be trained away. © Leika production / shutterstock.com

6th “Massages relieve sore muscles”

As I said, it is injured tissue with fine tears. It is harmful to knead it. As long as it hurts, do not massage the muscles, just stroke them gently.

7. “Painkillers help”

Simple painkillers sometimes make the burning disappear for a short time. But: Researchers from the International Medical Research Partners GmbH in Gräfelfing have discovered that anti-inflammatory painkillers (so-called non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs) are quite powerless against sore muscles.

In fact, tablets can even carry the problem away: The test persons who took painkillers complained longer about muscular cat moaning. The result of the study: sore muscles are important so that the body can prepare itself for healing after the strain. Fighting the pain with medication is therefore not only in vain, but even counterproductive, according to the researchers.

Are you taking too many pills?

What is sore muscles and how does it develop?

Sore muscles develop after unusual or particularly strong strains on the muscles. “This is mainly due to eccentric muscle contractions, where the muscle is stretched despite tension,” explains Professor Stephan Geisler from the IST -University in Düsseldorf. So, when the muscle stops a movement. For example when running downhill – and not when you are climbing a mountain, according to the sports scientist.

The overload is usually caused by harder (i.e. longer or faster) training or an unusual training design (intervals, driving game, new exercises, different ground conditions, headwind). The result: tiny cracks in the muscle fibres, into which water slowly enters, causing painful tissue swelling down to the connective tissue. This can take up to a day, so sore muscles only develop with a delay. The affected muscles feel stiff and hard during the healing process and hurt when moving.

The 3 most common reasons for sore muscles

1. irregular training

If you have not done the pain-triggering exercise for too long, it makes sense to allow the body a longer regeneration phase and avoid the exercise for about a week.

2. load to the limit

If the exercise was particularly difficult or exhausting, for example during a competition, the sore muscles are quite normal afterwards.

3. unusual movements

When you start a new training program and thus make unusual movements, your body has to get used to the new stimulus first – it does this with sore muscles.

5 Signs of overtraining

Is sore muscles dangerous?

“Sore muscles are not dangerous. Enjoy it. It is a sign that you have trained hard,” explains Geisler. Muscles only grow if micro-cracks occur in the muscle during the workout. After all, the body not only repairs the slightly damaged fibres but also thickens them in order to be better prepared for the next use. But after 12 weeks at the latest, the fibres are so strong that your workout is no longer a challenge and the hangover is gone.

This means: your muscles have grown and it is time to increase your training level.

But: Even well-trained athletes can get sore muscles – if they learn unusual movement patterns, for example. It usually takes about a week for the repair processes in your muscles to be completed. If the pain remains, you should see your doctor to rule out a serious muscle injury as the cause. Once the hangover is gone, things can get better again.

Stretching does not help against sore muscles either. © Leika production / shutterstock.com

How sore muscles go away faster 8 tips

The bad news first: sore muscles cannot simply be trained away. Nor can the recovery process be significantly accelerated. If you do the same intensive exercises the next day that caused the pain, the process actually slows down. There is still quick help against the pain:

1st movement

Exercise does you good – as long as you don’t go full throttle. The reason: stress hormones that shoot into the blood temporarily relieve the pain. You get used to it and no longer feel the pain so strongly. “During a light workout you may feel that the pain is getting better. In principle, you just numb it,” explains sports scientist Geisler. Cycling, for example, promotes blood circulation. But: Do not overload the aching muscles! Do not exert force while you are in pain.

2. Observe regeneration phases

Give your muscles time to recover, otherwise they will suffer serious damage in the end. If you want to be on the safe side, stop training the corresponding muscle group or train only slightly until the hangover has subsided, which should be the case after 10 days at the latest.

How to regenerate properly

3. sports ointments

They promote blood circulation and can therefore help in the regeneration of the muscles. In addition, rubbing them in can act like a kind of lymph drainage. The advantage: the tissue fluid is better removed and the swelling is reduced. Example: The essential oil of arnica has an anti-inflammatory and relaxing effect.

4. alternating showers

They additionally support the blood circulation. But: water temperatures above 37 degrees make you weak and strain your heart and circulation. The cooler the water, the more invigorating it is. A cold bath numbs the nerves and so relieves the pain – but unfortunately only for a short time! Alternate showers are better. Alternating between warm and cold water hardens, promotes regeneration, prevents muscle ache, tightens the skin and protects against varicose veins.

5. sauna

Saunas are popular for pain relief, but their effectiveness has not yet been scientifically proven.

6. magnesium

Magnesium additionally takes tension from the muscles.

7. proteins

Drink plenty. A protein-containing diet is important. If you do not like to eat after exercise, a protein shake is also a good choice.

8. do not massage

Classic massages can even hinder regeneration, as the injured fibres are stressed again (exception: fascia or massage roll directly after training). And the musculature is supplied with enough blood by the body’s repair activity anyway.

Aching muscles is a good sign, because it signals that you have completed an intensive training. © Leika production / shutterstock.com

Training despite sore muscles

If you have sore muscles, you should not simply continue training. Sore muscles are the result of unaccustomed movement and overloading of the muscles. The muscle fibre structure is damaged, the smallest cracks appear, become inflamed, and water penetrates the muscle tissue. Further training could lead to injuries.

Take care of the affected muscle group until the pain subsides or do a light mobilisation training. Only then can the tissue heal. This also applies to female runners, by the way: You should skip intensive pace running. The right strategy is to pace yourself a little and not train quite as intensively until the hangover has subsided. So you may continue to run, but please be relaxed!

4 tips on how to prevent sore muscles

The best prevention is continuous training. Because trained athletes rarely have sore muscles. Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes before each workout. This promotes blood circulation and reduces the risk of injury. Further prevention tips:

1st Cool-Down

Just 10 minutes of cooling and relaxation are enough. Best with a massage roller, as researchers at the Canadian McMaster University in Hamilton have found out. The results show that even this lightning massage reduces the release of those inflammatory proteins that are responsible for muscle soreness.

2. cherry juice

The antioxidants and secondary plant compounds contained in cherries have anti-inflammatory effects and can reduce minor muscle damage, numerous studies have proven. It is best to drink the fruit juice twice a day, 1 glass each before and after your workout.

3. coffee

If you drink 1 to 2 cups of coffee before training, you will get less muscle ache. This is because caffeine improves the muscles’ ability to contract and relieves pain. However, you should not make a habit of taking a higher dose, because when the body gets used to the substance, the anti-hangover effect weakens, claims movement scientist Victor Maridakis from the University of Georgia in Athens, USA .

How healthy is coffee really?

4. ginger

Ginger improved according to a US -study the blood circulation in the muscles and supports the lactate breakdown in the muscle tissue. So you will quickly be fit again for the next training session. Tip: Rub some ginger into your salad dressing or pour a few slices of ginger tea with hot water. Preferably daily.

Is training without sore muscles a bad training?

Not necessarily. The first time you are free of hangovers, it is a sign of progress: your body can now easily cope with the workout routine you have chosen. But you’re not completely wrong: muscles only grow when you reach your performance limit during training and micro-cracks appear in the muscles. The body then thickens the stricken fibres to be better prepared for the next load. After 12 weeks at the latest, the fibres are so robust that the workout is now easy to manage – no hangover.

Beginners therefore get sore muscles relatively easily, trained athletes rather rarely. So you are on the right track!

Celebrate your aching muscles! It is a good sign, because it signals that you have completed an intensive training! The pain comes from tiny injuries or traumas within the musculature, especially in the area of the connective tissue. The body repairs these small damages so perfectly that they can withstand a higher level of stress afterwards. Sore muscles are therefore not dangerous, but good. Nevertheless, you should take care of the aching region.