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Due to the hamstrings' key role in squats, soreness is common afterward.
Whether you're an exercise beginner or have been doing fitness routines for a while, soreness is actually a good sign that your muscles are rebuilding and getting a good workout. However, it might be too painful to move when your hamstrings are sore, and it could limit what you can do when you return to the gym or continue with your workouts. If you're not in extreme pain, you can proceed with your regular fitness routines despite the soreness, but take precautions or get guidance from a trainer to avoid further injuries.
Understand the Injury
Your hamstrings feel sore because the muscles are slightly torn. While that might sound like a bad thing, it shouldn't be a cause for concern in most cases. Torn muscles can develop when you do squats after not working out for a long time. It can also happen if your hamstrings have been stretched with force beyond their normal range.
According to Harvard Medical School, muscle tearing or straining can be classified into three types. Pain and tenderness occur with a normal force (grade I strain), while some swelling and bruises, along with the pain, might develop with a moderate force (grade II strain).
If a muscle tear comes with a popping sensation and presents a noticeable gap on the skin apart from the pain, swelling and bruises, you'll need to get this checked and treated as a severe injury (a grade III strain). The muscles might have been separated from the tendon in this case, and you could require a surgical repair.
Recover from Sore Muscles
It's important to realize that muscle rebuilding takes time, so you're likely going to feel sore for one to four weeks, depending on the extent of the tearing. Unless you have a grade III strain, you can temporarily get relief from massages, pain relievers and light stretching exercises.
Athletes and bodybuilders who experience soreness all the time are known to immerse themselves in ice water baths to help their muscles recover. However, a 2015 study in The Journal of Physiology stated that an ice-cold treatment could suppress muscle rebuilding and lead to its weakening. Another study, published two years later in the same journal, supported the previous findings that ice-water baths are not as effective as once thought.
Instead, the experts recommended active recovery as the best way to manage sore muscles. In other words, you have to keep exercising to minimize muscle soreness. By adjusting the intensity of your squats, you can keep your bloodstream clearer and regulate the acidity around your muscles, which will improve healing.