DOMS: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, what is it?

As you may already know DOMS it is an abbreviation for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) but the most common misconception of DOMS is that it occurs due to a build up of lactate, a waste product of excessive physical activity.

Lactate accumulation has no relevance when referring to dons however will correlatively increase with the likelihood of DOMS due to the stress of the exercise selection performed.
Any form of activity that may place unaccustomed stress or loads on a muscle group could lead to DOMS, this soreness is different to acute soreness, where the pain develops during the activity. DOMS however, typically begins 12-24 hours post-exercise although the greatest pain can be experienced 48-72 hours after the exercise has been performed.

Causes and symptoms

Although the origins of the soreness and correlative symptoms have some complexity, it is well established that many types of physical activity can cause delayed soreness.
It is believed that the soreness is an occurrence of micro damage to muscle fibers that are involved within exercise.
DOMS is understood to be a side effect of the repair process that occurs in response to microscopic muscle damage.

Some exercise examples that are known to cause DOMS include:

  • Jumping
  • Jogging
  • Walking downhill
  • Strength training exercises
  • Resistance training

More specifically, activities that consist of lengthening of the targeted muscle when force is applied, also known as eccentric loading, is the main cause of DOMS. The severity is highly dependent on the quantity of force applied through the muscle for example; running down hill will place much greater force through the lower extremities in comparison to walking down hill.
All individuals are susceptible to experiencing DOMS from novice to trained athletes, however the severity normally becomes less as your body adapts to regularly performed workloads.

In addition to the soreness there are other symptoms:

  • Swelling of the affected limb
  • Sensitivity to touch
  • Stiffness of the joint effected
  • Temporary reduction in strength
  • Elevation in Creatine Kinase (CK) enzymes in the blood (signaling muscle tissue damage)

How to prevent DOMS

Preventative measures can be taken, although, using these methods does not necessarily mean that DOMS will be avoided, yet potentially reduced or aid in the recovery process.  Firstly encouraging movement, with light loads and low intensity. For example if completing a collection heavy load or volume leg exercises, it is recommended to follow with the use of a cardiovascular exercise with Group Cycle, in addition doing so between sets has also been proven to encourage greater force production. Additionally appropriate nutritional consumption is necessary.Protein and carbohydrate stores are essential in the build and repair process of muscle fiber. For more information read our article on Protein Consumption.

In addition, stretching post-exercise and the use of compression garments have also been suggested to support the reduction in DOMS however the likelihood of avoiding the effects completely is unlikely.