You’ve gotten back into the gym after a little break, started a new program, or hit the weights with a little more intensity than usual and now Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) has gotten the best of you. There are a few options available to help alleviate this soreness, rather than sticking it out by side stepping down the stairs while white knuckle gripping the rail. Since most people head to the medicine cabinet to grab a bottle of over-the-counter (OTC) pain relievers, this is the golden ticket we will focus on.
The most common OTC pain relievers are nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) and acetaminophen. We will use the mechanism of action from these two different medications to help determine which is the most ideal for easing the symptoms of DOMS.
NSAIDs (ibuprofen, aspirin, and naproxen for example) work by non-selectively inhibiting the COX-1 and COX-2 enzymes. In short, these enzymes are responsible for creating the prostaglandins responsible for producing pain and inflammation. So it makes sense that using one of these products would help alleviate the pain associated with DOMS.
Acetaminophen (most popular brand name: Tylenol) is an analgesic and antipyretic. This means acetaminophen is a pain reliever and fever reducer but does not have the anti-inflammatory properties seen in NSAIDs. The actual mechanism of action for acetaminophen is still unknown to this point.
Now that we know a little bit about each type of medication, which is the most appropriate for treating the soreness associated with DOMS? NSAIDs seem like a decent choice, however inflammation is a body’s response to tissue damage and a key component in your ability to recovery. By inhibiting inflammation you may reduce your body’s ability to heal properly and prolong recovery. Also, NSAIDs come with another list of potential adverse reactions, including gastric issues and hypertension. Since we know the importance of the inflammatory response, we need a medication that can help alleviate soreness without inhibiting inflammation. This leaves acetaminophen as the drug of choice for short-term use in treating soreness associated with DOMS. Now you can get down the stairs a little easier by alleviated soreness, while still allowing your body to recover optimally through its own natural inflammatory response.
The FDA recommends not exceeding a daily limit of 4,000 mg of acetaminophen, due to liver toxicity. It is best to follow the directions provided with your OTC medication. Ensure other products you may be taking do not contain acetaminophen, as this could take you over the daily limit. Also, it is important to know the difference between DOMS and an injury. If your pain becomes worse or there is visible swelling, joint displacement, and/or discoloration you should follow up with your primary care provider.
Special thanks to Zachary D. for the post <3