DOMS – which stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – is the stiffness you feel a number of hours or days after you’ve trained if you’ve introduced a new element into your workout routine. Commonly mistaken as lactic acid build-up, DOMS can affect anyone who performs some sort of exercise, no matter how fit you are or for how many years you’ve been training. Much research has been done into how DOMS symptoms can be alleviated but unfortunately, a universal ‘cure’ hasn’t been found as of yet.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine, delayed onset muscle soreness usually occurs after you’ve performed a physical activity that causes your muscles to lengthen (eccentric contraction) and, as a result, microscopic damage to these muscles occurs. (An example of such activities is cardiovascular training.) What we recognise as the pain associated with ‘DOMS’ is when these muscles are repairing themselves. Some people associate delayed onset muscle soreness with lactic acid build-up, however this isn’t involved in the process.
Are there other symptoms related to DOMS?
Besides stiffness and soreness, sufferers of delayed onset muscle soreness have reported having:
- Swelling of limbs that were involved in the exercise,
- Joint stiffness as well as a temporary reduction in the range of movement of the joint, and
- A temporary reduction of strength in the muscles that were involved in the exercise.
How can you prevent delayed onset muscle soreness happening to you?
In an article entitled Why Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is a Good Thing on the Runner’s World magazine website, Mackenzie Lobby says that methods such as massage, microtherapy, icing, hyperbaric oxygen treatment, fish oil and i.Tonic have all been shown to help reduce the painful symptoms of DOMS.
The best method of preventing DOMS is to start any new physical training programme slowly so that your muscles get used to performing the particular activity. Being properly warmed up also ensures that you stay clear of DOMS. In her article, Lobby quotes Dr David J. Szymanski, assistant professor and the director of the Applied Physiology Laboratory at Louisiana Tech University: “If you already have the muscle warmed up and prepared, it is better able to handle the activity.”
So if you’re suffering from DOMS after having started up a new exercise programme, don’t give up because of the pain: the first time you experience DOMS symptoms is the worst and from then on, you’ll feel less and less pain because you’re getting stronger and your stamina is increasing!