Although exercise offers numerous benefits, anyone who's ever started a workout routine knows that physical fitness is not easy. Muscle soreness, exhaustion and time constraints are common barriers, and extreme soreness can make it seem like working out isn't worth it, no matter how many calories you're burning. But soreness doesn't necessarily mean there's anything wrong, and muscle soreness often goes away after a few weeks of exercise. While water retention is one potential cause of muscle soreness, sore muscles do not necessarily indicate water retention.
Delayed Muscle Soreness
One of the most common causes of muscle soreness after exercise is delayed onset muscle soreness. This mild to moderate pain occurs 12 to 72 hours after exercise and can last a few hours to a few days. It's caused by minor inflammation in muscle tissue and can cause you to retain water for a few days. However, this kind of water retention goes away fairly quickly, although it might cause you to gain a pound or two when it's happening. This kind of soreness is most common in people just beginning a fitness routine and will usually stop on its own after a few weeks of exercise.
Although delayed onset muscle soreness is one of the most common causes of muscle pain, if you experience severe pain you should consult your doctor. You might have a sprain or strain, particularly if you fell while working out. Chronic pain could also be a symptom of arthritis, fibromyalgia and a number of other conditions. Your doctor can help you develop a treatment plan if you have a chronic condition or an injury.
Preventing Water Retention
If you're new to a fitness routine, it's very likely that you'll end up with water retention-induced delayed onset muscle soreness. However, you can take a few steps to reduce the severity. Drinking plenty of water before and after your workout can help flush out excess fluids. Excess sodium consumption can also cause you to retain water, so cut back on sodium for a few days before beginning a workout routine. A proper warm-up and stretching before exercise won't prevent water retention, but they will reduce the soreness it can cause and help you avoid workout-induced injuries.
Treating Water Retention
When delayed onset muscle soreness hits, it can be tempting to lie in bed until symptoms go away. But by staying active, you can help reduce the length of your pain. Avoid exercising until symptoms go away, but stretch and engage in your normal daily activities. Alternating cold and hot packs can also increase circulation to the area and help speed up recovery.
Van Thompson is an attorney and writer. A former martial arts instructor, he holds bachelor's degrees in music and computer science from Westchester University, and a juris doctor from Georgia State University. He is the recipient of numerous writing awards, including a 2009 CALI Legal Writing Award.