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Stretching exercises promote flexibility, but don't really prevent and relieve muscle soreness.
Sore muscles from exercise often occur because of delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. There are things you can do to prevent and treat sore muscles; while stretching exercises are important for flexibility and less propensity to injury, they're not the most effective way to deal with sore muscles. It's valuable to understand the difference between muscle soreness and muscle pain, so you can see a doctor when it's warranted.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Delayed onset muscle soreness can occur within 24 to 48 hours following a strenuous or new type of workout. While DOMS does not cause acute muscle pain, it can leave you feeling unpleasantly stiff and sore. Once thought to be caused by a buildup of lactate, muscle soreness is actually caused by damage to the cell membranes that result in inflammation. This inflammation causes metabolic waste to form and stimulates your nerve endings, resulting in muscle soreness. DOMS-related soreness will usually resolve itself within 10 days.
Stretching and Muscle Soreness
Stretching exercises were once recommended as a method for relieving sore muscles. While it won't hurt to do them, you won't reap great benefits either. In a data collection gathered by the Musculoskeletal Division of The George Institute of Global Health, it was revealed that performing stretching exercises before and/or after an exercise routine doesn't reduce muscle soreness from DOMS.
The benefits of doing regular stretching exercises can help you avoid muscle injury, which will certainly eliminate soreness of a different kind. Doing stretching exercises two to three times per week for 10 to 20 minutes each session will also increase your flexibility, which can help reduce or eliminate muscle injury. Make sure your muscles are warmed up with a five- to 10-minute walk before you stretch. Each stretch should be held for 10 to 30 seconds without bouncing. Do stretches such as reaching for the sky, toe-touchers, the cat and cow poses, and arm stretches. One good arm and upper body stretch involves intertwining your fingers behind your lower back. Lean forward about 45 degrees while raising your arms toward the ceiling. Hold the position while feeling the stretch in your arms, chest and upper back.
Preventing and Treating Sore Muscles
Sore muscles from DOMS are best-relieved with an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medication and ice. Place an ice pack on the sore muscle for 10 to 15 minutes, three times per day for the first three days. After this time frame, any remaining muscle soreness can be treated with heat. As you repeat the same vigorous exercise routine, you'll be less likely to experience DOMS because your muscles will adapt.