Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Proof you have pushed yourself

Can’t hold your arm up high enough to brush your teeth? Getting up off the couch and taking that first step a bit ‘ouchy’? Chances are you’ve pushed yourself a bit further than your body is accustomed to and you’re in a lot of pain, so congratulations on your workout and we wish you the best of luck walking down the stairs for the rest of the week!!

What is DOMS?

DOMS stands for delayed onset of muscle soreness and it’s got stealthy tactics.  Essentially 6-8 hours post exercise you’ll start feeling it and it will definitely be felt when it peaks around the 48 hours mark, even more so if you’ve performed anything eccentric.  “Eccentric” is when your muscle is contracting at the same time it is being lengthened. For example you walk up a steep hill and you have sore calves, or run downhill and your hammies and glutes are sore, leg day ‘can’t get off the toilet’ or after several bouts of lowering yourself slowly under control from a pull up, you pretty much feel sore everywhere! (let’s be honest).

Why does it happen?

Exercise places a large amount of stress on muscle tissue. Microscopically that stress has resulted in “micro tears” that is accompanied by inflammation (part of the healing process) which causes your pain.  

Should I be worried?

Not at all. The aches and pains you are experiencing should be minor. It is a tell-tale sign your muscles are adapting, so take it as encouragement you have had a good work out!!

Will I ever be at the stage where I will not get DOMS?

Yes – if you don’t challenge your body you won’t get any adaption in strength and fitness so you won’t suffer any pain but you will in plenty of other ways (that’s a different topic altogether).  We all want to be awesome, so really the answer is No.  No one is ‘immune’, it affects the weekend warriors to elite athletes.  I guess this is where the “no pain, no gain” comes from in exercise (not massage by the way) – essentially the stronger you get the more inclined you are to go harder, which will result in DOMS but that’s what you want.

Is there anything that can help me? What can I do?

There is nothing proven to stomp DOMS out, but here are some #topnotchtips to help alleviate that soreness.

1. Keep it up – regular exercise will diminish that soreness as your muscles will adapt and become stronger.  But there is a catch, if you challenge your muscles again or too soon you will experience DOMS.

2. Do a proper cool down – No I am serious do a proper cool down. 10 minutes max will do it, choose anything such as a light jog, or a walk and then finish with specific stretches targeting the muscles you have just used.

3. Active recovery – Do a lighter workout THE NEXT DAY, keep that bod’n’motion so to speak, and it is crucial you can talk and hold a conversation whilst you are doing this workout so that you keep it ‘light’. 

4. Get a sports massage. Come and see us at Top Notch, we regularly see people who are suffering from DOMS post exercise – we assist in the recovery process by reducing your pain.  Massage reduces soreness when performed 2 hours post exercise (Hilbert, Sforzo, & Swensen (2002) & Ernst. E. (1998)). 

1. Hilbert, J. E., Sforzo, G. A., & Swensen, T. (2002). The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness. British Journal of Sports Medicine (37) 72-75. doi: 10.1136/bjsm.37.1.72
2. Ernst. E. (1998). Does post-exercise massage treatment reduce delayed onset muscle soreness? A systemic review. British Journal of Sports Medicine (32) 212-214

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