Tony Gentilcore discusses muscle soreness after exercise (in an article in Active.com) known by both physiologists and athletes alike as delayed onset of muscle soreness, or DOMS, and whether it is a desirable end-result of workouts or an outcome to be avoided.
This soreness is thought to be the caused by exercise-induced muscle damage (EIMD) and the resulting inflammatory response, which can exacerbate the damage. The extent of EIMD depends on factors that include type, intensity, and duration of exercise as well as the athlete’s “habitutation” or tolerance to that exercise (there would be little habituation to the performance of new exercises or those done infrequently.
The effects of EIMD include temporary decreases in muscle strength, rate of force development, and range of motion, accompanied by swelling and the sensation of soreness. Certain cell proteins will leak into the blood from damaged tissues and can be measured; the most well known are lactic acid and creatine kinase. Although these effects may last only a few days, anyone who has experienced them knows they can interfere with continued enthusiastic participation in training or top performance in competition that is scheduled in those days.
Thus, there are many reasons to find and apply “cures” for DOMS! Commonly used “treatments” include foam rolling, massage, intake of nutritional supplements, and the wearing of compression garments like tights, socks, or sleeves (during and/or after exercise). I looked to the medical literature to find out if foam rolling or the wearing of compression garments are scientifically proven to be of help in reducing DOMS. (See the links below)
The findings are not entirely clear. Mostly this is because research protocols can use a variety of subjects, methods, and analyses to measure an outcome. Another reason, which we all know by viewing numerous YouTube video demonstrations of routines online, is that there are different ways for athletes to apply the “treatments”; thus exactly “what” is studied can also vary. To help get around the difficulty of research differences that make comparison difficult, the scientific literature on a given topic can be assessed for a common outcome (does it work or not) by the performance of a review or meta-analysis. All the articles that have been published on a subject, which can be fairly compared to one another (like an “apples to apples” comparison), are assembled and the results examined.
In evaluating methods to speed recovery from or reduce DOMS, the reviews of foam rolling and the wearing of compression garments showed no harmful affects and some positive measurable benefits as well as perceived benefits. It is difficult to remove the placebo effect from the studies on foam rolling (either you foam roll or don’t foam roll) so perception with this routine can be tricky to assess.
THE BOTTOM LINE: You must try these methods yourself to determine whether they work for you, and the specific conditions under which you seem to be helped. There is a good chance you will experience a positive benefit. Even if you only perceive a benefit, that perception can work to help you persevere in a reasonable and safe training plan, and achieve your running goals.
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26618062 (foam roller) Cheatham SW et al. 2015
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25968853 (foam roller) Schroeder AN, Best TM. 2015
http://bjsm.bmj.com/content/48/18/1340.abstract (compression garments) Hill J, et al. 2013
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26522739 (compression garments) Marqués-Jiménez D et al. 2015
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EARNED RUNS is edited and authored by me, runner and founder. I began participating in road races before 5Ks were common. I've been a dietitian, practiced and taught clinical pathology, and been involved with research that utilized pathology. I am fascinated with understanding the origins of disease as well as health.
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