What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

Posted by Nicole on June 22

Do you sometimes feel fine during exercise and immediately afterwards, only to find you later start to feel sore? If so, you have experienced what is called “delayed onset muscle soreness,” or “DOMS” for short.

Typically, DOMS pain sets in somewhere between half a day to a full day after you work out. From that point forward, the pain may be most significant for anywhere up to 3 days post-workout.

Why Does DOMS Happen?

When you work out, you actually may experience micro-tears in your muscle tissue. After you exercise, your body begins a repair process. As that repair process is taking place, you experience pain.

You are most likely to notice DOMS when you are relatively new to a particular exercise. As your body adjusts to doing that exercise on a regular basis, your instances of DOMS may increase in frequency or severity.

What Can You Do About DOMS?

Now that you know what delayed onset muscle soreness is, no doubt you are wondering if there is anything you can do to prevent it or help it go away more rapidly after your workouts.

ASCM.org explains, “Proper warmup 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.”

This resource continues, “Stretching is sometimes done before exercise, but it is better to stretch after the body is warmed up and after exercise. Stretching has not been shown to reduce or prevent symptoms of DOMS, but DOMS should last only a few days (usually 3-5 days) and the involved muscles will be better prepared for future bouts of the same type of exercise.”

The site also says that you might feel a little better when you are active than when you are at rest with DOMS. The site advises moderation, since going overboard with working out could make things worse again.

One thing that might help you to prevent DOMS is drinking plenty of fluids. This research says, “muscle microdamage, indirectly evidenced by DOMS, was exacerbated in hyperthermic participants dehydrated by exercise in a hot ambient environment.”

Another idea is simply not to push yourself too hard right away. Start with fewer reps in a workout and work your way gradually up to more reps in a workout, or start with lower intensity exercises and work your way up to higher intensity exercises.  

You could also try taking a supplement that promotes a healthy inflammatory response such as turmeric, boswellia, ginger root, quercetin, or a formula combining those ingredients.

DOMS is usually mild. Since it is a transitory experience that will pass on its own, you might just need to wait it out. Still in pain after a week? It could be that you have something more serious going on. At that point, it is time to contact your healthcare provider for a checkup.