DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Many of us have experienced the distinct feeling of muscle soreness after exercise. This is a normal feeling to have after starting something new or increasing the intensity of something you already do regularly, called DOMS – delayed onset muscle soreness. It can affect anyone regardless of their fitness levels. In this article we’ll explain what DOMS is, why you may get it and how you can help reduce the level of discomfort and the length of time you may suffer with it for.

What is DOMS?

DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) is a term often used to describe the muscle soreness sometimes experienced after activity. It typically last for 2 to 5 days with the first 1 to 2 days being the most intense of the discomfort. It is caused by small microtrauma to muscle fibres when muscles are pushed harder than they are used to. The activity doesn’t have to be exclusive to playing a sport or a gym routine, it could be anything that involves any type of increased physical exertion such as gardening or work around the house. That means anyone could potentially suffer from DOMS.

It is important to differentiate DOMS from an acute muscle injury. DOMS is felt post exercise (for up to 5 days) as a muscular ache or stiffness rather than a sharp sudden pain that you would get if you were to suddenly injure a muscle during activity.

How to minimise the effect of DOMS

Starting any new activity program gradually, allowing the body to slowly adapt to it is a key point in helping to minimise the effects of DOMS. Therefore carefully planning how you are going to increase your time spent in the gym (or the garden or doing any other physical activity for that matter) each week is crucial. However do remember that DOMS is just your body’s natural way of adapting to exercise and a little muscle soreness after exercise is normal and it’s your body’s natural way of adapting.

Active rest is a key component in trying to reduce DOMS. Active rest means any low level activity such as gentle walking or mobility exercises that gets the muscles and joints moving. This is said to aid blood flow around the body which can help with speeding up muscle repair. During active rest it is not uncommon to see athletes wearing compression garments to help further with the effects of muscle soreness.

Can massage, foam rolling and stretching help?

Your first instinct if you feel the effects of DOMS may be to stretch. While this may be of some benefit, it should be kept gentle and light especially in the first 1-2 days of soreness.

Massaging has been shown to help with muscle soreness in a similar way to active rest by again aiding in blood flow. It is important that any massage is done gently, especially in the early stages.

Foam Rolling can achieve similar post exercise benefits and can be a useful tool to have at home. There is no standardised protocol in terms of how long to foam roll for or when exactly to do it, but most people tend to use them conveniently straight after exercise.

We hope this information is useful, if you’d like any further advice or guidance please feel free to give us a call!