Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

What is DOMS and How to Resolve It?

Staying fit is very important and working out is one great way to get your muscles working. But your greatest enemy after every workout? The soreness that comes after. You might not experience it directly after moving your muscles, but this can be felt at least 12 to 24 hours after your workout. It’s definitely common to experience from everyone who works out, but there are some steps you can take to avoid this and find relief completely.

Also, in that period, you might be experiencing DOMS. If you are new to the fitness world, you might haven’t heard this before. And, this post is dedicated to you, discovering what is DOMS and how you can resolve it.

What is DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

Let’s first define DOMS. DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is what you call the muscle pain you feel after a workout, a high-intensity work-out, a physical activity, or any type of activity that places unaccustomed loads on muscle. You may feel delayed soreness after 12 to 24 hours. The greatest pain can be felt after 24-72 hours.  It can be described as a dull and aching pain in particular areas you’ve put much tension on during the workout, often accompanied by tenderness and stiffness.

By the way, if you felt muscle pain immediately after you’ve worked out, that is different. It is called acute muscle soreness.

One common misconception about this is that it’s caused by a build-up of lactic acid, but actually, it is caused by the lengthening of such muscles that cause trauma to the muscle fibers. This is why this often happens after a strenuous and unaccustomed workout, and this is somehow how your muscles adapt to the new tensions it was introduced to.

What causes DOMS?

One type of exercise, called eccentric exercise, refers to the lengthening of particular muscles. This refers to workouts that cause you to contract or put much tension in a particular muscle area to achieve a form or movement. These are often experienced in high-intensity workouts, which in turn causes microscopic tears in your muscle fibers. 

This usually happens when the muscles are given a type of workout and are put on so much stress which they’re not used to. The body then responds by increasing inflammation, later on causing the Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. 

Based on the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), there are many types of physical activity that can cause DOMS . Below are the examples of activities that may cause DOMS:

High Intensity Work Out

  • Strength Training Exercises
  • Jogging
  • Walking down the hills
  • Step Aerobics
  • Jumping

As mentioned earlier, these activities cause the muscle to lengthen each time the force is applied or known as eccentric muscle action. The severity of the soreness will depend on the force applied to the muscles.

What are the signs and symptoms of DOMS?

The signs and symptoms of DOMS may begin to occur after 12 to 24 hours of work-out and pain intensifies after 24 to 72 hours. Based on an article from the Journal of Athletic training, DOMS can have the following signs and symptoms:

  • Dull, diffuse pain and tenderness on the exercised muscle
  • Stiffness on the exercised muscle
  • Swelling within the affected muscles
  • Decreased strength on the exercised muscles

These signs and symptoms may last about 1 to 4 days. The soreness will depend on the intensity and duration of the exercise.

Who May Experience DOMS?

From beginners to expert athletes, or simply people who have not worked out in a long time, DOMS can impact just about everyone.

So no matter your fitness level, if you turn up your workout speed, perform eccentric exercises, or try a new style of exercise that your body is not used to, DOMS will strike.

Is DOMS a Good Sign?

You’re more likely to get sore when you begin a new workout routine or test your limits. Yet the body adapts as you keep working out. Some people believe that only when you get sore after every workout, that’s how you determine if the workout is working. 

But actually, since your body adapts eventually, DOMS is not the particular sign to look for, it’s how your body feels and is toned soon after many sessions of workout. So to speak, when you don’t feel as sore as when you first started, that doesn’t mean your workout is not enough or you’re missing out from the fitness gains.

Can DOMS be prevented?

While being sore after a workout may seem like a common outcome, DOMS can be prevented by doing some activities before and after a high-intensity workout. One way to prevent it is to start your workout with a light warmup routine. This can reduce the chance of a DOMS occurring and when it does, it can help reduce the pain. 

After your workout, take some time to cool down and stretch for a few minutes to also reduce the possibility of having DOMS. Another good tip is to contrast the temperature of your shower after a workout, this is to alternate vasodilation and vasoconstriction of the muscles’ blood supply to guarantee that nutrients from the blood flow are transferred to the muscles.

How to Relieve Yourself from DOMS? 

Rehydrate or Stay Hydrated

Electrolyte imbalance may lead to muscle discomforts such as spasms, weakness, twitching, cramps, or convulsion. This is the reason why you need to stay hydrated throughout your exercise. One simple way to keep your hydration rate up is to keep a water bottle with you when you are exercising and take a drink of water for every finished set or every five minutes of cardio you do, such as on a treadmill.

Getting a Massage

In order to minimize discomfort in the body, massage has been shown to play a vital function. Many of your own muscles can even be massaged, such as when you are moisturizing after a shower, or also when showering, just rub your calves, hamstrings, quads, biceps, and so on to help relieve DOMS.

In a study, although it had no effects on muscle function, massage therapy is seen as effective to relieve DOMS by about 30% and with the reduction of swelling.

In addition, a 2018 study shows that massage is seen to be the most effective method for reducing DOMS and perceived fatigue.

Topical Analgesics

Products intended to help alleviate pain are topical analgesics. Topical analgesics based on menthol and those with arnica can help ease the pain of DOMS. It is possible to apply these products topically to the region that is sore. Often follow packaging guidelines as to how much to add and how often.

In a randomized control trial, suggest that topical analgesic can help in reducing the pain which is then accompanied by the increase in corticospinal inhibition.


Sleep is a very powerful tool for preventing DOMS and building muscles and is also important for a lifestyle of wellness. In the deep phases of sleep, muscle-building chemicals such as Human Growth Hormone are naturally released by your body. To really help the body to heal from exercise, strive for a minimum of 7 hours of sleep.

Cold Bath 

In a 2016 Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis, it was discovered that Cold Water Immersion is slightly better than passive recovery when it comes to managing muscle soreness. Also, having a water temperature of 11 and 15 °C and immersion for about 11-15 minutes can provide better. This is the reason why you can observe athletes having some cold baths.

Heat Therapy

In a 2017 randomized controlled trial, it was found out that there is a reduction in muscle soreness with the application of low-level temperature heat wraps left for about 8 hours. Those heat wraps were applied immediately after a heavy exercise. Also, it was found that there is a benefit with the application of heat for 24 hours – but just a smaller extent.

Light Exercise

Light exercise, like stretching and small warm-up routines, can also help relieve DOMS and reduce muscle pain. 

A 2011 study, shows that light concentric exercise has a temporarily analgesic effect on DOMS. However, it has no direct effect on recovery from eccentric exercise.

When Should I Seek Medical Help?

DOMS rarely requires you to have a quick trip to the hospital. However, like any other condition, you need to seek medical assistance. Medical help is a must especially when the pain is starting to stop you from doing your daily activities. 

Also, if your DOMS has:

  • exceeded 7 days
  • caused your urine to go abnormally dark
  • caused abnormal swelling in muscle areas

then you should seek medical help right away. It is important to consult a medical professional to make sure that your body is still healthy. This is also to keep you on track.

Need some help with DOMS?

We know how annoying if you experience pain especially when it affects your daily life. But, don’t worry, we are here to help you.

At Evergreen Rehab and Wellness, we have skilled and experienced practitioners that can help you be back on track. As recommended earlier getting massage therapy can help you relieve the soreness, but before that, a thorough analysis will be done to check the real cause of your muscle pain if it is really DOMS.

Our goal is always to empower you to live a healthy, natural, and pain-free life.  Let’s help you bring out the best self.

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