22 Aug

What is that, you ask? 

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. The soreness that shows up anywhere from 12-24 hours after engaging in physical activity that works muscles in a way they are not accustomed to. The worst pain may be experienced 24-72 after exercising.

If you’ve ever started a new form of exercise, did a tough workout, strength-trained, walked a bunch of stairs, ran some hill repeats, raced in a long distance event, helped move a friend into their new place, or any activity that works untrained muscles, chances are you’ve experienced DOMS.


Why, oh WHY?!

“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.

– Info sheet from the American College of Sports Medicine.

But, why ME?!

Turns out, even all-star athletes are susceptible. Of course, soreness becomes less prominent once we get used to an exercise (say, the more our endurance for running increases), but any novel movement can create soreness.

There’s good news!

Exercise that produces soreness creates a partially protective effect that reduces the chance of soreness in that same activity weeks or months into the future.

Can we prevent it?

Not completely, but easing into a new exercise and warming up properly can help reduce the level of impending soreness. Some say stretching after exercise doesn’t really prevent DOMS, but I say it sure does provide some relief. Other things that can help are icing, massage, accupuncture, NSAIDs, and foods that are natural anti-inflammatories (like blueberries). Mostly, you just have to let it pass on its own.

Are DOMS an indicator of a good workout?

Not necessarily. DOMS can certainly mean you worked your muscles in a new way that will increase strength and endurance. However, “No pain, no gain” is generally a myth. Not having pain after a workout does not mean you didn’t go hard enough. You are still getting benefits and increasing fitness even if you aren’t climbing into an ice bath or clutching a walker afterward. As always, acute pain during exercise is a signal from your body to STOP.

Dealing with DOMS?

There are many, many articles available offering tips for relief using static stretching and handy tools like foam rollers. I will be following up this post with some of those suggestions!


One Response to “The DOMS.”

  1. lhadsell August 23, 2013 at 4:49 pm #

    hilarious and so true! lunges yesterday almost killed me- but as a runner it is so important to cross train, even if it hurts more than running!

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