It’s not unusual for muscles to hurt after a workout, especially if you’re working muscles you don’t usually use or are working out more vigorously than usual. For some people, the sore muscles after a workout provide fantastic motivation: evidence that they’ve put in the hard yards. For others, it can be the opposite – a reason to stop exercising entirely. After all, why would you want to be in pain?
Muscular pain and stiffness after exercise are caused by a combination of factors. The first is lactic acid, a substance well-known for building up in the muscles as we work out. It’s a completely normal, natural response to oxygen deprivation in the muscles, but it can lead to pain and fatigue.
However, lactic acid soreness is usually gone within a few hours, as the acid is metabolized by the body. Muscle soreness is also caused by tiny microtears in the muscles, creating soreness that lasts longer – as much as a few days after your workout. It is this pain that we’re going to focus on.
You may also notice some swelling if you have really worked hard, but this is straightforward inflammation and will pass.
The problem is made temporarily worse by the flood of white blood cells, nutrients and prostaglandins that enter your muscles to help them heal. While these substances are useful, in the short term, they contribute to the stiffness and swelling.
We know that ‘muscle tears‘ sounds alarming, but you don’t need to worry; they really are microscopic, and you’ll be back to full speed in just a few days. In the meantime, you’re perfectly fine to continue exercising the area as long as you’re careful. You could also focus on another muscle group for a couple of days if you’re really sore.
You can help minimize the stiffness that comes with muscle soreness by stretching properly both before and after your workout. However, there is, unfortunately, no evidence that stretching prevents the soreness itself. Sorry!
If you are experiencing regular muscle soreness, you might want to start getting regular massages – massage can help work out that stiffness, swelling and soreness and get you back on an even keel much faster. It’s thought that massage works because it moves fluid build-up back out of the muscles.
You can also take an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen. Some people prefer to take these before they work out, and others afterwards. Which works best for you depends entirely on your body’s individual response, so you might want to try both and compare results.
If you are looking for a similar effect to anti-inflammatories but are keen to avoid taking pharmaceutical drugs regularly, you might want to consider CBD.
CBD for post-exercise pain management – does it work?
CBD is all over the news right now, heralded as a potential new pain reliever for several different conditions. However, our lack of knowledge about how it really works means we can’t use it for much right now – except to manage pain after exercising.
While many people use cannabidiol to relieve post-workout pain, much more research is needed before it can be determined whether it is safe. But what is CBD oil, and how might we use it?
Below, we’ll try to explain how cannabidiol might be used to relieve pain and stiffness and explore how to use it even as it remains unregulated.
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What is CBD?
Cannabidiol usually referred to as CBD, is a compound found in cannabis. There are more than 120 individual compounds that can be found in cannabis plants, but cannabidiol and tetrahydro cannabidiol (THC) is the best known. What is also not widely known is that several plants actually contain cannabinoids: they’re just most closely associated with cannabis.
CBD differs from THC in one major way; while THC is psychoactive (it is the cannabis compound that creates the feeling of being ‘high’), CBD is non-psychoactive. This is because it affects different endocannabinoid receptors than THC.
Endocannabinoid receptors are found in the body’s endocannabinoid system, an entire network of receptors that interact solely with cannabinoid compounds. This system also produces its own cannabinoids named endocannabinoids, which help to regulate everyday bodily functions such as pain, immune response and sleep.
While THC reacts with endocannabinoid receptors in the brain that produce ‘happy’ chemicals such as dopamine, CBD simply helps the body to use its natural endocannabinoids more effectively. Rather than having its own impact on the endocannabinoid system, it activates, or limits, the use of other endocannabinoids.
Let’s take an example.
Anandamide is a compound that regulates pain. CBD prevents the body from absorbing anandamide, which leads to higher levels remaining in the bloodstream. This reduces the amount of pain that we can feel. This means that CBD may be an effective alternative for pain associated with several medical conditions, although it cannot be used to treat the conditions themselves.
Making CBD products
How much CBD is in a cannabis plant is determined by the type of plant, and how it’s grown or cultivated. CBD is then extracted from the plant and added to a neutral carrier oil to create the CBD oils we see for sale.
Most CBD oils on the market are derived from industrial hemp plants, which contain higher levels of CBD than regular marijuana. They come in various strengths, and as there is no official regulation of these products as yet, it can be difficult to determine the correct dose. Do your research and speak to your doctor before taking anything.
While CBD is not a pharmaceutical medication, and most people can take it with no ill-effect, there is a small chance you will experience side effects. The most common side effects are extreme tiredness, diarrhea, changes in weight, and changes in appetite.
If you are taking other medications, adding CBD to your regimen may impact their effectiveness. If you discuss CBD with your doctor before you begin taking it, they will be able to make recommendations and monitor you for any side effects or changes.