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Muscle Soreness and DOMS

Have you ever gone to the gym one night and woke up the next morning not being able to lift your arms over your head or sit without feeling extreme soreness? Don’t worry, this is completely normal and actually there’s . This is a classic example of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which tends to kick in from as soon as six to eight hours post-exercise, and peaks around the 48 hour mark, though there is much individual variation of this timeline. DOMS can occur anywhere in the body that has recently been exposed to unfamiliar or intense physical activity. So what causes DOMS? How do I prevent DOMS? What’s the treatment for DOMS? Does DOMS lead to quicker/more gains? Hopefully this blog will help answer these questions.

What Causes DOMS

Any type of activity that places unaccustomed loads on muscle may lead to delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This type of soreness is different from acute soreness, which is pain that develops during the actual activity. Delayed soreness typically begins to develop 12-24 hours after the exercise has been performed and may produce the greatest pain between 24-72 hours after the exercise has been performed.While origins of the soreness and accompanying symptoms are complex, it is well-established that many types of physical activity can cause delayed soreness. Most believe soreness develops as a result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers involved the exercise. This type of damage likely results from novel 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. Some examples of activities that are known to cause DOMS include: strength training exercise, walking up/down inclines, jogging, step aerobics, jumping.

Prevention of DOMS

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, and participating in the same exercises on subsequent days should to be done judiciously. Proper warm up is also important in preparing the muscle for the types of forces that may cause damage, but there is little evidence that warm-up will be effective in preventing DOMS symptoms. Stretching is sometimes done before exercise, but it is better to stretch after the body is warmed up and after exercise. Overall, there is no definite prevention of DOMS, delayed onset of muscle soreness is something that is inevitable when you begin working out or start a rigorous training schedule.

Treatment for DOMS

There is little evidence that such treatment strategies will hasten recovery and return to normal function. If the primary goal is to reduce symptoms, then treatments such as ice pack application, massage, tenderpoint acupressure, and oral pain relief agents may be useful in easing pain. It is important to be aware that pain reduction does not represent recovery. Rather, these treatments may only be effective in reducing symptoms of pain, but underlying muscle damage and reduced function may persist.

Gains from DOMS

You don’t need to experience muscle soreness after a training session to build muscle, and you probably shouldn’t rely on it as an accurate indicator of productiveness. DOMS does not lead to bigger and quicker gains.


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