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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Why do I get sore?

As a physical therapist, this is a question I get asked alot. My response after some  questioning of the person’s recent activity is usually delayed onset muscle soreness. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is something that most likely everyone reading this has experienced one time or another. DOMS are usually felt at their worst or heaviest at approximately 24 hours after a workout, whereas others may experience DOMS almost 2 days later. Both are normal responses to exercise.

What is DOMS?

Several working theories exist behind DOMS, each attempting to explain the mechanism at a cellular level which include the presence of histamines, inflammation, prostaglandins, and other cellular markers of pain. The characteristic symptom of DOMS is significant muscle tenderness which is also referred to as “muscular mechanical hyperalgesia.” Muscular mechanical hyperalgesia is perceived as a dull, aching pain in the affected muscle, often combined with tenderness and stiffness. The pain is typically felt only when the muscle is stretched, contracted, or put under pressure, not when it is at rest.

What causes DOMS?

DOMS pain is perceived to be caused by contractile tissue microtrauma which is essentially mechanical damage to the muscle on a very small scale. The types of exercises you are doing also attributes to DOMS as eccentric exercises are thought to create more microtrauma to muscles than concentric. Eccentric exercise is the motion of an active muscle while it is lengthening under load (example: lowering the arm back down slowly after performing a biceps curl), while concentric exercises is the motion of active muscle while it is shortening under the load (example: the bending of the elbow or flexing during  bicep curl).

What doesn’t cause DOMS?

DOMS is a result of exploring new movements or range of motion for your body. As these movements are repeated in workouts DOMS decreases. This specific adaptation to imposed demands is the cornerstone of a sound training program. A common myth or misconception is that Lactic Acid being released from the body is causing DOMS. On the contrary,  Lactic Acid is a byproduct of cellular metabolism and it typically clears within 1 hour of exercise.

How do I help DOMS?

There are many ways to combat or reduce DOMS which include stretching, myofascial work (RockBlading or foam rolling),  or simple light cardio. If your legs are toast 2 days after a workout, don’t let that stop you from exercising again. It’s OK to exercise when you’re sore, just understand you might be limited and make sure to get a good warm-up beforehand.

How Can Lift PT help?

If you are experiencing high/intense levels of DOMS after transitioning or beginning new workouts please reach out to discuss or schedule an appointment to allow me to help get you back into your next workout with greater ease. Some of treatments used are myofascial release w/ RockBlading or cupping, deep tissue massage using Hypervolt or manual therapy, muscle energy techniques, stretching of specific muscle groups, home program for stretching which is individualized to your specific needs.