What Is Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness?
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) describes a phenomenon of muscle pain, muscle soreness or muscle stiffness that occurs in the day or two after exercise. This muscle soreness is most frequently felt when you begin a new exercise program, change your exercise routine, or dramatically increase the duration or intensity of your exercise routine.
What Causes Muscle Soreness After Exercise?
Most believe soreness develops as a result of microscopic damage (tearing) to muscle fibers involved the exercise. This type of damage likely results from new stresses that were experienced during the exercise. One common misconception about DOMS is that it is due to lactic acid accumulation, but lactic acid is not a component of this process. DOMS appears to be a side effect of the repair process that develops in response to microscopic muscle damage.
Everyone is susceptible to DOMS, even those who have been exercising for years. However, the severity of soreness normally becomes less as your body becomes adapted to work it regularly performs. Just one bout of soreness- producing exercise actually develops a partial protective effect that reduces the chance of developing soreness in that same activity for weeks or months into the future.
One of the best ways to reduce the severity of DOMS is to progress slowly in a new program. Allowing the muscle time to adapt to new stress should help to minimize the severity of symptoms, but it is unlikely that soreness can be avoided altogether. It is also important to allow the muscle time to recover from work that produces soreness. DOMS should last only a few days (usually 2-3 days). By allowing the the involved muscles to recover, they will be better prepared for future bouts of the same type of exercise.
Stretching is sometimes done before exercise, but it is better to stretch after the body is warmed up and after exercise. Stretching has not been shown to reduce or prevent symptoms of DOMS.
Tips for Dealing with Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness After Exercise
If you do find yourself sore after a tough workout or competition, try these methods to deal with your discomfort. There are a number of ways to alleviate those can’t-make-it-up-the-stairs symptoms.
1. Use Active Recovery
This strategy does have support in the research. Performing easy low-impact aerobic exercise increasing blood flow and is linked with diminished muscle soreness. After an intense workout or competition, use this technique as a part of your cool down.
2. Rest and Recover
If you simply wait it out, soreness will go away in 3 to 5 days with no special treatment.
3. Try Yoga
There is growing support that performing Yoga may reduce DOMS.
4. Get a Sports Massage
Some research has found that sports massage may help reduce reported muscle soreness and reduce swelling, although it had no effects on muscle function.
Other common ways to treat DOMS include foam rolling, contrast showers (alternating between hot and cold water), Epsom salt baths, increased protein intake (to increase protein synthesis) and omega-3 supplementation (to reduce inflammation), and sleep.
Seeking Medical Treatment
DOMS symptoms do not typically necessitate the need for medical intervention. If the pain level becomes debilitating, if limbs experience heavy swelling or if urine becomes dark, then a medical consultation is advised.
The biology of pain is never really straightforward, even when it appears to be. ~Unknown