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Ep. 10 – Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness

Do you wake up with stiff joints and sore muscles for what seems like no particular reason at all? It could be Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. Find out what it is and what you can do about it on this edition of the Straight Talk on Health podcast with Dr. Chet Zelasko

Welcome to Straight Talk on Health and your host Dr. Chet Zelasko. Together with WGVU in Grand Rapids, Michigan I examined the latest and greatest in the world of health. Whether it's research that makes headlines, another miracle diet, new supplement or an exercise trend. A look at the science behind these things and let you know whether it's real or not. You can check out other things I do on my website: drchet.com. And please sign up for my free emails.

Now as I record this, fall is here in Michigan and those wonderful multi-colored leaves everyone seems to love so much are making their appearance here in Michigan. While, they can be stunning to look at, they will need to be raked and recycled and that's going to lead people waking up the next day or days because what people don't seem to get about leaves they don't all fall at once. So this could happen over a period of weeks. They may feel like they've been run over by a truck, sore, fatigued, hard to move.

Now, you may think that I'm talking about something that only happens in the fall, but it's not limited to that. Shoveling snow in the winter - the first time that you do that, and even if you live in the north and you have a snowblower, when you start moving that puppy around and making sharp turns, see what you feel like the next day. In the spring it's spreading mulch and doing gardening. Here's the granddaddy of all the source of muscle soreness: helping someone move. Ever do that? Remember how you felt the next day, especially those thighs of yours- walking up and down stairs? Or just walking for some people. You ask yourself: what did I do? Anything that involves repetitive movements. Usually weight bearing that involves movements you're not used to, that is something that can cause muscle soreness and sometimes it waits a day to show up. But look, these movements don't have to be all that strenuous.

My wife Paula was on a mission to find a specific item. So we went to 6 different big box stores in one afternoon, which is something we hadn't done since before COVID. Now, one thing you have to understand is that Paula may be able to make it through two stores, but she has severe arthritis in her feet. So she has to have the right shoes and prepare herself to be able to do something like that. So six stores? Miracle. But she felt fine through that day but was completely wiped out the next day. Just after that, I spent a weekend in St. Louis with a few thousand of my closest friends talking and answering questions. both days - wiped out. I went to bed early and talking like 8 o'clock Eastern Time.

So what am I talking about here? I got this big, big buildup. Well, the technical term is called delayed onset muscle soreness. I think it's really more than just muscles involved. Because don't forget joints, you're bending, you're lifting, your doing things you may not typically be used to. So the question is why? Raking leaves and walk through stores isn’t strenuous. Neither is standing in talking so what gives here? Any time a task requires repetitive movement you're not used to doing, you're at risk for delayed onset muscle soreness. And that's the technical term, again, for those sore muscles.

Now, generally speaking, most people can experience this after they start a new workout routine or, more than likely, begin a workout routine. I remember when I first started running, but you don't do anymore after a knee replacement. But for the first 6 months my calves ached each and every day. And I had determined at that point I was going to run or walk three miles a day every day. This was a long, long time ago. The thing is, most of the time, what caused or contributed to the muscle soreness is what we call eccentric contractions.

Now without a visual, the simplest way to explain it, it is resisting a movement. So, for example, if you're doing a bicep curl, you exert the effort when you bring the weight from your side, upwards toward your chest, the eccentric part of it…that's called the concentric part. The eccentric part of it is when you let the weight back down to your side. That’s typically where muscle damage occurs. And I’m going to give you an example of that little bit later. So what causes it? I've said this repeatedly - movements that are repetitive that lasts for hours that aren't part of your normal routine.

These are likely to cause most delayed onset muscle soreness and it doesn't seem to matter how fit are how strong you are. Look, fitness and strength are going to help, but it's still going to happen occasionally. When you perform movements, even if they're simply standing and answering questions, like I did, there are stresses on the ligaments, the tendons and within those joints as well as the muscles. Minute after minute, hour after hour, micro tears can occur in multiple types of tissues and that causes what? Inflammation and pain. And what you feel the next day, is actually the repair process in progress. But I shouldn't gloss over intense weight training because most often that's the cause for most people who lift weights, heavyweights that are causing severe damage resulting in the inflammation and swelling,

Let me tell you story. This is over 30 years ago, but it's one of those things you never forget. I was at Ball State University and I was assisting in a study that was looking at delayed onset muscle soreness. And what they wanted to do was to damage the muscle. So how do you intentionally do that? Well, you find individuals, one repetition, max, that's the most amount of weight that they can do in any one movement and in this case, we're doing leg extensions. So you’ve all seen those leg extension machines in the gym somewhere. So what we did was find the one repetition max and then put 150% of it on the machine. But we lifted the weight off so that all the individual had to do, because they couldn’t movie it, of course, was resist on the way down. Find the one rep Max, let's say it's 100. So we put 150 pounds on it. We lift the weight with the individual and all they have to do is resist it on the way down. Well, what happened for one particular person is his leg swelled up. I mean, it was when you look at it was almost twice as big as it should have been and almost had to do surgery for something like that. Well, the connective tissue causes compartment syndrome. In other words, the covering of your skin, the connective tissue is very tough. And there are some places in the body where it doesn't stretch very much. And it happened for this young person.

And fortunately, it turned the corner very quickly. So that made me look at it in a little more detail and this is gross -so get ready to be grossed out. The worst thing that I ever saw in photographs of delayed onset muscle soreness was a bodybuilder who did a chest routine and got delayed onset muscle soreness to the point where his urine turned black, which means a severe muscle damage. So to relieve the pressure, they had to cut him from one shoulder, all the way across his chest, to the other to relieve it just for a couple days, the they had to sew him back up. But it was like a sausage that burst open. Okay. And over time that allowed the blood to flow. Now, I know how gross that is and I don't expect anybody raking leaves to be like that. But that sort of what happens.

So, what can you do to prevent it? Probably not a thing. Because it's caused by something that you do infrequently, like raking leaves or shoveling snow. But, what could help is stretching on a regular basis. If you ever stand up, take a deep breath and reach over your head to stretch every muscle in your body. Do that a couple times a day, which will help keep your body limber. And of course, yoga would be great. But whatever it is, it has to be consistent to be effective. Infrequent events like this are going to happen.

I don't think there is a need to specifically train for them, other than stretching on a regular basis. You can take nutrients, such as glucosamine and Vitamin C, to help the repair process. You may even take them preventively, before the event if you know you're going help someone move. But together with the Tylenol and ibuprofen, that's probably your best bet in getting over it. So that's all about delayed onset muscle soreness. Hopefully, it doesn't happen very often, but when it does now, you know how to deal with it.

That's all the time for the show, but until next time, this is Dr. Chet Zelasko saying Health is a choice, people choose wisely today and every day.

Straight Talk on Health with Dr. Chet Zelasko was recorded in the studios of WGVU Public Radio in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The views and opinions expressed on Straight Talk on Health are not necessarily those of WGVU, its underwriters, or Grand Valley State University. Episodes are found at wgvunews.org and wherever you get your podcasts, please rate and subscribe.

Dr. Chet Zelasko is a scientist, speaker, and author. Dr. Chet has a Ph.D. and MA in Exercise Physiology and Health Education from Michigan State University and a BS in Physical Education from Canisius College. He’s certified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a Health and Fitness Specialist, belongs to the American Society of Nutrition, and has conducted research and been published in peer-reviewed journals. You can find him online at drchet.com.
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