What is Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness?

Soniya
Delayed onset of muscle soreness is caused by micro-tears. (Image via Pexels / Ketut Subiyanto)
Delayed onset of muscle soreness is caused by microtears. (Image via Pexels/Ketut Subiyanto)

Delayed onset of muscle soreness, or DOMS, is a normal and healthy part of many workouts.

It’s caused by microtears in the muscle fibers that build up during exercise and take time to heal. The pain usually peaks 24-72 hours after workout but can last longer if you continue to push yourself physically during this period.

While DOMS doesn’t restrict your ability to move around or do everyday tasks like work or cleaning the house, it can be quite painful if left untreated. So treating sore muscles before they start feeling better is essential.


What Causes Muscle Soreness?

DOMS is caused by increasing the intensity of your workout. (Image via Pexels/Dinielle De Veyra)
DOMS is caused by increasing the intensity of your workout. (Image via Pexels/Dinielle De Veyra)

DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) tends to occur after a bout of eccentric muscle contractions.

When the muscles are under tension, they need to generate force to pull against the weight you're lifting. That's called a concentric contraction, and it happens when you raise weights or push against something.

Eccentric muscle contractions are when the muscles lengthen as they resist gravity, as opposed to contracting when lifting weights, as in the above example. For example, if you lower weights slowly rather than raising them quickly during an exercise like bench press or bicep curls, this could be an eccentric movement that could cause DOMS.

Another factor that can contribute to DOMS is the mismatch between how much weight is lifted vis-a-vis the muscle mass used. For example, if someone who has never worked out tries bench pressing 100 pounds (45 kg) their muscles will not have enough time to adapt and grow before having to lift that much again.

The same goes if someone who has been exercising regularly suddenly increases their workout frequency without increasing their intensity


Who can experience DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness)?

Warm-up is essential before every workout. (Image via Pexels/Genaro Servin)
Warm-up is essential before every workout. (Image via Pexels/Genaro Servin)

Delayed onset of muscle soreness can happen to anyone who exercises, but it's more likely to occur when you're new to exercise or haven't worked out in a while. If you haven't warmed up adequately before your workout, DOMS is more likely to occur.

When you start a new exercise programme, your muscles will be sore for the first few weeks due to muscle breakdown and tissue repair. However, if the soreness continues beyond two weeks of consistent training and becomes more severe or chronic over time (longer than three days), there may be something else going on with your body: Delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS).

People who're not used to intense workouts are also at risk for DOMS symptoms, as they haven't developed the strength needed for their chosen activity yet. So they may be prone to injury when performing these activities at high intensity.


Is DOMS a sign of good workout?

The short answer is yes: delayed onset of muscle soreness is a sign of a “good” workout.

That means if you experience more intense soreness after your workout, it may be due to greater increases in muscle strength. However, it can also mean you did not recover fully between each exercise session or that you're pushing yourself too hard for your fitness level.

It’s important not only for athletes but also for exercisers who wish to get stronger or more fit through resistance training sessions, as this type of training often requires several days before full recovery occurs.


How to Get Rid of Muscle Soreness?

Applying ice pack can help with the muscle soreness. (Image via Unsplash/Scott Rodgerson)
Applying ice pack can help with the muscle soreness. (Image via Unsplash/Scott Rodgerson)

The best treatment for delayed onset of muscle soreness is rest and ice. If you're experiencing some pain, the first thing to do is to take a break from exercise and let the muscle heal.

As soon as you notice pain in the area, it's important to stop working out and start using ice on it as soon as possible — the sooner you treat it, the better off you will be. Applying ice can help reduce swelling and speed up recovery time by decreasing blood flow around an injured or sore muscle.

If you have access to a doctor or physical therapist who specializes in sports injuries, they may recommend anti-inflammatory medicine such as ibuprofen (Advil) or naproxen (Aleve).

It's always best if this type of medication can be avoided, if at all possible, though. Most people find that natural remedies work just as well without side effects such as stomach upset and drowsiness.

If you have Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness, you can try stretching and light exercise to relieve the pain. You might also want to avoid intense workouts involving muscle groups that hurt till your muscles feel better.

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Edited by Bhargav