Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

We’ve all experienced the agony of trying to make it a flight of stairs the day after a long hard workout. There is a name for that post-workout soreness called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. Below are some key facts about DOMS you may find useful the next time you hit the gym.

What Causes DOMS?

Many people are under the misconception that muscle soreness is caused by a build-up of lactic acid. Although lactate is produced as a by-product of metabolic reactions during exercise, inflammation resulting from tiny microtears is the actual culprit behind muscle pain. Muscle tearing primarily happens during eccentric contractions because the muscles are being lengthened while trying to resist opposing forces. In addition, DOMS is most likely to occur after trying new exercises or increasing workout intensity.

How Long Does It Last?

DOMS can present itself as early as 6 hours after a workout. Soreness peaks 24-48 hours after exercise and typically fades away within 4 days. If your muscles are still tender 5 days later, you probably pushed yourself too hard.

Is Experiencing DOMS after Exercise a Good or Bad Thing?

Muscle damage isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but too much may hurt you rather that help you. Muscle damage is one of three components that allow muscles to grow. When the muscle is broken down, the body repairs itself growing back larger and stronger. On the other hand, extreme muscle soreness will be a set-back to those focusing on hypertrophy because it will hinder athletic performance and present motivational issues when still experiencing soreness. Many people believe that if your muscles aren’t sore, you didn’t have a good workout, but gains in strength can be made without causing such trauma to your body.

How to Manage DOMS?

The best way to prevent DOMS is to slowly progress into a new exercise program rather than diving in feet first. Giving your muscles time to adapt to your new workout should help reduce the severity of symptoms. The best way to manage symptoms once present is with ice, massaging, and over-the-counter drugs like ibuprofen. There is little supporting evidence, but some believe a proper warm-up along with stretching can help prevent muscle soreness as well. 

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