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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)


Have you ever exercised and found that you have been sore for days afterwards?  It’s actually not an injury but a common phenomenon known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS).  Read on to learn more.

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

Delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS is the muscle pain and soreness that is felt 12-48 hours after exercise.  It particularly occurs at the start of a new exercise program, after a change in activities, or after a dramatic increase in the duration or intensity of exercise.  This soreness is a normal response to unusual levels of exertion that are placed on the body, and is part of the process that the body undergoes in order to gain strength and stamina as the muscles recover and build.  DOMS is at its worst within the first two days following exercise or activity and will go away over the following days.

DOMS, while annoying, is actually quite common.  It is different to the acute pain of muscle strains or sprains, which are felt as an abrupt, specific and sudden pain that occurs during the activity and causes swelling or bruising.  DOMS is more of an ache that is felt within the muscles.

What Causes Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

DOMS is caused by microscopic tearing of the muscle fibres. The amount of tearing that occurs will depend on how long and how you exercise, and what type of exercise you undertake.  Any movements that you are not used to can cause DOMS but eccentric muscle contractions – or movements that cause the muscle to forcefully contract while it lengthens – apparently cause the most soreness.  Eccentric muscle contractions can be found in going down stairs, running downhill, and lowering weights, for example.


Treating Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

To deal with the soreness caused by DOMS, the following may be helpful:

• simply wait it out – pain often goes away within 3 to 7 days without any treatment
• avoid activity that will increase the pain felt
• use active recovery techniques such as low impact aerobic exercise
• use the RICE method of treating injuries
• try some gentle stretching
• gentle massage to the affected muscles
• yoga may be helpful to some people
• wait for the pain to go away completely before beginning exercise again
• warm up completely before beginning exercise
• contrast showers may be helpful – alternating between hot and cold water

Preventing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

even though DOMS is a common thing, there are ways to prevent it from occurring.  The following tips may be of help to you:

• warm up and cool down properly when undergoing exercise
• whenever you start a new activity, start gradually and build up the time spent doing it and the intensity of the exercise by 10 percent per week
• hire a personal trainer to show you how to exercise safely and effectively
• new weight lifting routines should be started with light weights and high repetitions
• avoid making sudden changes in your exercise regime
• avoid drastic changes in the time you spend exercising 


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