Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

by in Fitness January 25, 2019

You schedule a day for your big workout and feel great after the session. You even feel amazingly fit and fabulous while striding out of the gym. But after a day, the real pain kicks in. Although at first, it seems like the most satisfying feeling, when the pain reaches its peak, all you want to do is terminate the plan of working out. So, what is it which pushes you to think that way? It is DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness!

What is DOMS?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), also known as Muscle fever, is an exercise-related muscle pain which sets on 24 to 48 hours after performing the unfamiliar, unaccustomed and excessive workout. The strongest trigger for DOMS is a lot of eccentric contractions (Contractions that happen whilst the muscles are elongating or lengthening such as downhill running, long distance running, etc.). More challenging the workout is, more will be the tiny muscle tears which could cause inflammation and thereby DOMS. It could be at a peak of up to 48 hours after the exercise.

What triggers DOMS:

The physical stress that is caused due to the exercises or workouts that your body is not familiar with (i.e. first-time workouts of any sort of extreme physical exercise), could lead to DOMS. The severity of the DOMS could be very fierce for the first time. But with subsequent sessions of workout, the muscles show Repeated bout effect by adapting quickly and responding less strongly as they are accustomed to the type of exercise.The intensity of the DOMS that could be experienced by each individual depends on many unknown factors. Although most of those factors are still a mystery to be solved, a few of those which are fairly certain are:

  • Eccentric Contractions:

    Causes intense DOMS compared to concentric contractions.

  • Genetics:

    Although DOMS could succumb highly experienced athletes as well, the intensity of DOMS could vary from one person to another. Genetics could be a reason for that.

  • External stress:

    Dehydration or lack of sleep or any significant physical or metabolic stress could cause the DOMS to worsen.



Causes of DOMS:

DOMS is caused by the muscle strain/myofibril tears which trigger the inflammation response with the necessary electrolyte fluid and intramuscular shifts. To explain it in details, the delayed onset of the muscle pain or soreness is the ramp-up process involved in the muscle repair. It takes a good amount of time to let the soreness kick in. In the first 24 hours after performing the strenuous, unfamiliar exercise, there would be a slow increase in blood flow to the damaged muscles. It is also supplied with the proteins and hormones which aid in repair and recovery. On the next day, after all the necessary components for the healing of the muscles have been accumulated, the muscle is supplied with excess blood and cellular fluid. This sort of inflammation creates the extra pressure at the affected muscles causing the pain or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. In other words, swelling, altered muscle patterns and pain are considered to be the reason for DOMS.

Symptoms of DOMS:

General muscle soreness or muscle ache which develope 24 to 48 hours after an intense workout or after performing a new or strenuous exercise/activity. DOMS is localized to the muscles which could cause the muscle stiffness as well as tenderness and it could be incredibly painful. Passive stretching of the muscles could increase the symptoms of DOMS.
An intense DOMS could cause short-term loss of the muscle strength, a reduced joint range of motion and also a possible swelling in the affected area.

What are the treatments for DOMS?

The sure-fire remedy for DOMS is Time. Time heals everything. But certainly, there are a few treatments which could ease the pain a bit while time does its job. Here is the list:

  1. Some light movements:

    Are you thinking of staying on the couch all day because of the muscle soreness? That is the worst thing you could do to your muscles during DOMS. Activity or light movements increases the blood circulation throughout the body thereby supplying the essential nutrients (such as amino acids) and oxygen which are required for repairing of the damaged muscles. The increase in the blood circulation could lead to faster accumulation of the required nutrients and pacing up the healing process while reducing DOMS at the earliest.

    Light movements could be a gentle activity like walking or hopping or a very light strength training or bodyweight exercises. Otherwise, the muscles might undergo more damages.

  2. Hydrate:

    As per the research, there is a correlation between dehydration and DOMS. So, researchers and practitioners are under an impression that if dehydration could increase soreness, hydrating the body could definitely decrease it.
    According to the theory, the water helps to flush out the waste products and toxins from the body. Wastes and muscles could be the by-products of muscle breakdown. Those could be associated with soreness. Hence, need to be filtered out and keeping yourself hydrated by drinking lots of water is its way.

  3. Light stretching:

    Stretching helps in releasing the tightness and this could make you feel better. But stretching the muscles during DOMS doesn’t heal the tears or speed up the recovery. Light stretching could be beneficial in combating the tightness of the muscles but overstretching could cause more harm than help. Light stretching could give some temporary relief but If stretching feels very painful, it is better to avoid it.

  4. Enough Protein for your body:

    Amino Acids are building blocks of proteins. These are critical in building and maintaining the broken down muscle. As important as it is to eat sufficient proteins all the time to avoid the recurring or long-lasting soreness from your training session, it is important to eat enough protein even after the damage is done. “Enough proteins” doesn’t mean consuming excessive proteins. The needs of each individual vary. Ideally, people who workout should aim to eat 1.4 to 2 g of protein per kg of their body weight.

  5. Heat or ice could ease the pain:

    Heat therapy or ice therapy – which is better for DOMS? It is an ongoing debate but it could be based on an individual’s response and what feels good to an individual. Ice therapy could reduce the swelling which could be caused due to soreness and thereby reduce the pain-causing tension. Heat therapy minimizes the tension and pain signals. Both types of therapies could reduce the pain in their ways but the effects of it could be temporary. But when you are in severe pain, even the temporary relief could be of great help.


Prevention of DOMS:

The severe pain of DOMS could be minimized by following the suggestions given below:

  • Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither do a bulky body. Take it as slow as possible and gradually increase the severity of the exercise.
  • Set, reps and weights are best if increased by only 10% per week.
  • Eccentric exercise is the main cause of the DOMS. So, be aware of the amount of such exercise in your training routine and don’t push yourself too far.
  • As mentioned in the previous blog (blog link of the importance of rest days), rest is crucial while building the muscles. So, ensure to allow yourself with a sufficient cooldown time before getting back to your training session.

On the brighter side, DOMS is temporary and it is needed to let your muscles adapt for the new exercise. But beware if the soreness doesn’t lessen in two or three days or you have discolored urine. Talk to your doctor immediately. It might be because of the rhabdomyolysis, a dangerous health condition. But nevertheless, DOMS is a step towards getting stronger and as it is said No pain, No gain!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *