You are new to exercise or you’ve just started back after a layoff. You’ve upped the load of your training, or stepped out of your routine and tried a new activity. You feel great — until you wake up the next morning, barely able to move.
This is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, better known as DOMS. DOMS becomes evident six-to-eight hours following activity, peaking around 24 to 48 hours post-training. While the symptoms will often start to diminish at about 72 hours, the precise time, course and extent of DOMS is variable person to person.
DOMS is most pronounced when you introduce a new training stimulus — a new activity, increased intensity or volume — or if you are new to physical activity in general.
While all kinds of muscular contraction can cause soreness, eccentric contraction — where the muscle lengthens as it contracts — is most often associated with DOMS. A study in Clinics in Sports Medicine found that DOMS is the result of microtrauma in the muscles and surrounding connective tissues, which causes inflammation. The reason that eccentric muscle contraction (think lowering a dumbbell back down in a biceps curl) is more likely to be the culprit is because it places a higher load on your muscles compared to concentric contraction.
The good news is, if you keep doing that certain activity, your body will make adaptations to better prepare your muscles to do that activity again. So as you continue on, you won’t be so sore.
So do we need to feel crippling DOMS after every time we workout? Some people think if they don’t feel sore they are not doing enough during workouts. In general, if after 3 days you try doing the same exercise and you can’t because your muscles fail you, then you have done too much.
So how can we relieve the effects of DOMS? Having a massage will move fluid and blood around the body which can help heal the microtrauma in your muscles. Other ways to treat DOMS include foam rolling, contrast showers (alternating between hot and cold water), Epsom salt baths, increased protein intake (to increase protein synthesis) , magnesium & omega-3 supplementation (to reduce inflammation), and sleep.