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Question
Posted by: charlie | 2004/01/08

muscle stiffness

Will bicarbonate of soda help the neutralise the acid in my muscles which is causing stiffness?

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Our expert says:
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Hi Charlie

no it won't and the reason is that muscle stiffness is not caused by any chemicals in the muscle after you exercise.

The feeling of pain, stiffness or discomfort in muscles that occurs a day or so after a work out is known in the scientific community as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Because nobody wants to go around saying that mouthful, most usually just call it "DOMS" for short. Even though DOMS has been under scientific scrutiny since the turn of the century, at the present time, the actual biological process behind it remains a mystery. What is known is that DOMS is a complex process, and every piece of the puzzle uncovered, makes it all the more mysterious.

Many theories exist to explain the occurrence of DOMS. Some of the more plausible of theories include:
The torn tissue theory states that microscopic tears in the muscles themselves are the cause of DOMS.
The connective tissue theory advocates that damage to the connective tissue attached to muscle is the cause of DOMS.
The Inflammation theory states that the pain felt during DOMS is simply a by-product of our bodies attempt to fix the damage that has been caused by a workout.

The following is a quick run down of what we do know about DOMS.
1. The pain of DOMS is said to occur within the first 24 to 48 hours following exercise. Peak intensity of discomfort occurs somewhere between 24 to 72 hours following exercise. The soreness usually subsides within 7 to 10 days after the initial damage has occurred.
2. Of the three types of muscle in our bodies, cardiac (heart muscle), smooth (which lines our blood vessels) and skeletal (which is attached to our skeletons, for example, you're biceps muscle), DOMS effects only skeletal muscle. What's more, DOMS can occur in any skeletal muscle in the body and can occur regardless of the person's fitness level.
3. DOMS does not result in any long-term damage to muscle. This makes sense; if it did, we would expect to see great declines in the abilities of professional athletes during the course of their careers.
4. Studies have shown that the vast majority of damage associated with DOMS is attributed to eccentric muscle contractions, in which the muscle fibers are lengthened as force is applied to them. Eccentric muscle contractions occur, for example, when you run downhill, or as you are lower a weight (such as during a squat or an arm curl).

Now that you know more about DOMS, you're probably wondering how to prevent it. That's a good question and is one that's under scientific investigation as you read these words. While for the moment, there is no magic bullet which can seek out and stop the pain associated with DOMS, there are some things you can do to minimize the development of DOMS and its pain.
1. Stretch slowly. Studies linking DOMS to stretching have been conducted and have mixed results-some say stretching causes DOMS and others say it doesn't. To be on the safe side, warm up before exercising by doing something light and easy (only you know for yourself what is easy for you). This will warm the muscles and prepare them for what is to come and will in fact make them more efficient at doing the actual exercise. When you do stretch after the exercise, do so slowly, especially if you are new to stretching. Stretch only to the point at which you feel slight discomfort and hold the stretch for anywhere between 10 -30 seconds (start with 10 seconds or less if you are a beginner).
2. If the pain is really bad, try using something like aspirin or ibuprofen to ease your discomfort. Take only what is prescribed on the bottle and if you are watching your vitamin intake, be aware, aspirin increases vitamin C excretion, and vitamin C is needed to make connective tissue (which is damaged in DOMS), and bone. So, to be on the safe side, don't take your vitamins at the same time as you take aspirin; in other words, separate them by a couple of hours.


In the end, this feeling of stiffness will just go away, as the muscle gets stronger, and for now, you just have to stick it out, and know that it's a sign of the training. Provided you rest enough between sessions, you will recover and the muscle will get stronger.

GOod luck

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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