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What is DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
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What is DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)

What is DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)

DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It refers to the muscle pain and stiffness that often occurs after engaging in strenuous physical activity or unfamiliar exercise. DOMS typically manifests 24 to 72 hours after the activity and is caused by microscopic damage to muscle fibers. 

It is a common occurrence, especially if you are starting a new exercise routine, increasing the intensity of your workouts, or trying different types of exercises. DOMS usually resolves on its own within a few days and can be alleviated with rest, gentle stretching, hydration, and over-the-counter pain relievers if necessary.

In This Article

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Key Takeaways

DOMS Overview: DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, arises after intense exercise, typically appearing 24 to 72 hours later due to muscle fiber damage.

Recognizing DOMS: Symptoms include reduced range of motion, muscle tenderness, fatigue, swelling, and temporary loss of strength.

Managing and Preventing DOMS: Treatments such as massage, cold or hot baths, and preventive measures like proper warm-up, cool-down, and hydration can help alleviate and prevent DOMS.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Woman Feeling DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness)
Woman Feeling DOMS Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

If you work out and exercise often you must have experienced DOMS. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the pain experienced in the muscles after a moderately high intense physical activity. You may feel DOMS from a gym session, a hot yoga class, an aerobics routine or intense jogging. DOMS begins a day or two after the workout session, not during the workout itself.

Do not confuse DOMS with acute muscle soreness, which can be felt immediately after a workout.

Signs of DOMS

If you are experiencing DOMS, the following symptoms may show up:

  • Reduction in the range of bodily motion due to stiffness and pain
  • Tenderness in the muscles when touched
  • Fatigue in the muscles
  • Some swelling in the affected areas of the body
  • Loss of strength in the muscles (temporary)

Causes of DOMS

When you perform an intense exercise or workout, microscopic tears occur in the fiber of your muscles. In response to this tearing, your body increases the amount of inflammation in that damaged area. This process triggers a delayed onset of muscle soreness in the body. In earlier times, the muscle soreness was attributed to lactic acid build up. That has now been debunked.

There are some myths around DOMS that should be cleared. First, people of different levels of fitness can experience DOMS. It does not matter if you are a beginner or a professional athlete. Any exercise which is new to your body and involves rigorous training can result in soreness. Second, you do not need to feel sore after a workout to reap the benefits of exercise. 

Some people think that if you are not sore after a session, you aren’t working hard enough. This is not true as your body adapts to repeated training. Over a period of time you will experience less DOMS. But do not worry, you are still benefiting from the workout.

Treating DOMS

Some soreness should not deter you from continuing your exercise routine. But there are ways to alleviate the pain caused by DOMS.

  • A Good Massage

It is advisable to undergo a massage treatment a day or two after an intense workout. This will relieve the tension in your muscles and reduce the intensity of DOMS. You may also massage certain areas of your body yourself using a good massage oil or lotion. Target important muscle regions like thighs, calves, arms, buttocks and shoulders.

  • Take a Cold Bath or Warm Bath

If you immerse your entire body in cold water between 10 and 15 minutes, you greatly reduce the degree of DOMS. Even a cold shower can benefit you. Conversely, taking a hot bath also relieves tension in the muscles and relaxes your body.

  • Prevention is Better than Cure

You can reduce the chances of suffering from DOMS by taking some precautionary measures. For example, warm up properly before the workout and take time to cool down and stretch after the workout. You should also drink plenty of water to prevent dehydration.

Dealing with DOMS

Courtesy of David Orr. Aurora Buffington & ClarkCountyNV

In Conclusion

While Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a common discomfort following intense physical activity, it’s essential to understand its nature and adopt strategies to manage it effectively. If DOMS persists beyond a week or is accompanied by unusual symptoms like bruising, consulting a healthcare professional is advisable.

Proper warm-up, cool-down, hydration, and adding recovery techniques like massage and baths, you can ensure a safer and more enjoyable exercise experience. Staying informed and proactive is key to sustaining a healthy and active lifestyle.

If your DOMS persists for more than a week or you notice bruises on your skin, then you should visit a doctor. Stay safe and enjoy your workouts. 

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