Curcumin prevents post-exercise muscle soreness

For those of you that exercise on a regular basis, you know it takes commitment, discipline and mental strength to start and stick with a regime. One of the biggest challenges, aside from the time commitment, that people who are new to working out complain about is the muscle soreness experienced afterwards. This is especially true for beginners and is usually one of the reasons they don’t continue with their routines. If doing simple daily chores post workout is excruciatingly painful, it doesn’t matter how good you felt doing the workout, it’s likely you will skip going back to the gym.

The great news is there is a healthy and natural remedy to help ease the pain and muscle soreness, so you can stick to your workout routine and reap the benefits of an active lifestyle. As a Holistic Nutritionist I have faithfully used and prescribed to clients the use of Turmeric or Curcumin, also known as the as a “Miracle Herb” in the heath and wellness industry. Curcumin has been credited with helping prevent diseases such as cancer, atherosclerosis, and many neurodegenerative diseases because of its potent anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory effects. More specifically, it inhibits cyclooxygenase (COX-2), lipoxygenase (LOX) and inducible nitric oxide (iNOS). Why is this important? COX-2, LOX, and iNOS are enzymes that mediate inflammatory processes in the body. Curcumin also inhibits the production of the inflammatory cytokines tumor necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-a), interleukin (IL) -1, -2, -6, -8, and -12, monocyte chemoattractant protein (MCP), and migration inhibitory protein and down-regulates mitogen-activated and Janus kinases.

In layman’s terms, this essentially means, curcumin is pretty effective at helping decrease inflammation. The muscle soreness experienced 24-48 hours after exercise is an inflammatory response to stressing your muscles and is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).  Physiologically, when muscles are stressed during exercise you’re damaging the muscle fibers in them with microscopic tears. The damage then triggers inflammation in that region, which in turn makes you feel pain. If your body has too much inflammation, blood circulation is compromised and damaged muscle fibers can’t efficiently repair. To reduce pain you must increase healthy blood flow.

How does it work?

Curcumin is a naturally occurring compound found in the turmeric root that has been used for centuries in Ayurvedic medicine for it’s anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, cholesterol-lowering and digestion-enhancing properties. Turmeric with Curcumin is commonly used to treat ailments such as allergies, diabetes, and ulcers and help ease joint pain. It is a powerful antioxidant that can help fight inflammation and neutralize free radicals.

After a strenuous workout, muscle injury leads to the production of Free radicals. Free radicals are important for helping clear away damaged muscle tissue so they can be repaired, but too many can initiate further damage, leading to acute inflammatory response. Since curcumin acts as an anti-oxidant, it helps to the reduce free radicals, thereby decreasing the inflammatory response resulting in less pain.

Curcumin is also known to inhibit mediators like cyclooxygenase (COX-2), lipoxygenase (LOX) and inducible nitric oxide (iNOS)

These substances act as inflammatory mediators, and when they are blocked, pain and inflammation is reduced. Several studies suggest the ability of curcumin to block COX-2 is why it has similar results to its allopathic counterpart, NSAIDS (anti-inflammatories), but with lesser side effects.


In this small study conducted by the Australian Institute of Sport and the European Journal of Applied Physiology, supplementation with curcumin helped reduce delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) in otherwise healthy individuals.

The study involved 17 healthy and active men who were asked to perform a series of single-leg presses on a leg-press machine – an exercise they would not usually perform.

The men were also given either placebo or 5g per day of curcumin supplements 2.5 days prior to as well as following the test exercise. The men took the supplements in two divided doses. To determine whether supplement had any significant effect on reducing DOMS, participants were assessed on measures of muscle pain, muscle tenderness, muscle swelling, jump performance. The scientists also tested the participants’ blood before and after exercise for markers of inflammation.

The tests showed that pain was greatly reduced during and post exercise in the curcumin groups. Curcumin was also shown to somewhat reduce the biological markers of inflammation and muscle damage.