The cause of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and what you can do about it.
It’s a New Year and maybe you thought this is my time. You’ve gone New Year, New Me! This is the year I’m gonna get in shape. This year I want to be healthier, fitter and happier. Then GREAT! Those are brilliant goals to have but you’ve just done your first few sessions in the gym and you’ve felt like you’ve been hit by a bus or steam rolled by Henry Tuilagi (if you don’t know him, then have a quick google and look at the size of him and his brothers!) Your muscles are sore, you didn’t realise how difficult it was to sit down on the toilet, even going up and down the stairs you notice the pain.
Trust me when I say this, we’ve all been there. The DOMS don’t lie! But luckily for you i’m here to tell you they won’t last and it gets better the more you stick with it.
What are DOMS?
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), can be referred to as muscle fever is an aching/sore feeling in the targeted muscles after unaccustomed and/or intense exercise. It is from temporary muscle damage (small tears in the muscle fibres) and inflammation.
A big contributor to DOMS is the eccentric portion of the exercise. As this contraction recruits fewer motor units and the force generated is distributed over a smaller cross sectional area of the muscle.
The increased tension causes greater stress to the tissues. DOMS is considered to be a type 1 muscle strain (there are 3 types) You generally get DOMS from the 12 hour mark and it can last up to several days if it’s intense. The first 12-24 hours are considered the pain free period. The next 24-72 hours is when it hits it’s peak pain…You’ve been warned!
Muscles feel tender to touch
Reduced range of motion (ROM)
Loss of strength (short term)
I don’t blame you. You want to be able to walk normally, sit on the toilet with ease again and live a pain free life. That’s probably one of the reasons why you started to train is to improve the quality of life not make it harder! Well TIME is your best bet honestly.
Take the time to recover and let the body do it’s thing and adapt to this new stress you are putting it through. Generally it gets better within 3 days or up to a week. For me personally is ALWAYS worse on the second day and by the third I feel pretty good again.
But I understand you still want to train and do things so try these: Train different muscle groups and movement patterns that aren’t sore or stiff. Include and keep gentle WALKS, regular MOVEMENT and light STRETCHING on a daily basis as this helps with blood flow which will speed up the whole recovery process as the blood will deliver essential vitamins, minerals and proteins to the muscles.
The more you sit down, the more you stiffen and seize up. Movement is medicine here, it’ll get the blood flowing!
There are other ways to help too but then these will cost money. Things like manual therapy (physiotherapy, sports/deep tissue massage etc), compression tools, anti-inflammatories and even some supplements could be useful.
Will it get Better?
ABSOLUTELY! it’s only a temporary thing and will last a few days at a time but the more you get accustomed to training and the longer you train for it really does it get easier. It’s always worse starting out. Especially as a beginner, but it’s just because it’s a new stress and stimulus you are putting through your body.
Once it’s adapted to it you’ll be golden. The only real time when I get DOMS now is if I haven’t done certain movement for a while or if I focus specifically on a long eccentric with some tempo work.
Our aim with clients isn’t to make them hurt and suffer during the session or the next couple of days after, I find that counter-productive. The aim is get them healthier, happier, learn some new skills and enjoy the process along the way. Which is why a proper training plan and structure is essential to this but being sore isn’t a sign of a good workout and you most certainly don’t need to have DOMS to make progress.