Why do muscles hurt after hiking?

Why do muscles hurt after hiking?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Hiking is a physically demanding activity that engages multiple muscle groups in the body, including legs, back, and arms. It’s common to experience muscle soreness or pain after hiking, which is usually referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). This occurs when the muscles are subjected to unusual or increased physical stress and can be felt anywhere from 24 to 72 hours after exercise.

The Causes of DOMS

There are several factors that contribute to DOMS, including:

  1. Microtrauma: The repeated contractions and stress on the muscle fibers can lead to microscopic damage, which triggers an inflammatory response.
  2. Lactic Acid Buildup: During intense physical activity, the muscles produce lactic acid as a byproduct, leading to a buildup in the muscles that can cause discomfort and pain.
  3. Dehydration: Dehydration can lead to muscle cramping and soreness, which can be compounded after a day of hiking when water is lost through sweating and breathing.
  4. Improper Warm-Up: Skipping a warm-up before hiking or doing a poor warm-up can lead to increased muscle strain, making you more susceptible to DOMS.

Preventing and Treating DOMS

Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to minimize or prevent DOMS:

  1. Warm-Up Properly: Start with a light warm-up such as a 5-minute walk to get the blood flowing and loosen the muscles.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Ensure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after your hike to avoid dehydration.
  3. Gradually Increase Intensity: Gradually increase the intensity and duration of your hikes to give your muscles time to adapt to the new stress.
  4. Stretch and Foam Roll: Stretching and foam rolling can help reduce muscle tension and prevent DOMS.
  5. Take an Anti-Inflammatory: Over-the-counter anti-inflammatory medications such as ibuprofen can help reduce pain and swelling.

If you do experience DOMS, the good news is that it’s usually temporary and should go away within a few days to a week with proper care and treatment.

In conclusion, DOMS is a common experience after hiking, caused by factors such as microtrauma, lactic acid buildup, dehydration, and improper warm-up. Preventing and treating DOMS involves proper warm-up, staying hydrated, gradually increasing intensity, stretching, foam rolling, and taking an anti-inflammatory. With proper care and treatment, DOMS should go away within a few days to a week.

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