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Published: November 15, 2019

What is DOMS?

Delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is the pain and soreness felt in your muscles in the hours and days following strenuous or unaccustomed exercise. It occurs as a result of inflammation from microscopic tears in connective tissue or muscles and usually peaks around 48 hours post-exercise.

DOMS can also result in a short-term loss of muscle strength, a reduced joint range of motion and possibly swelling of the affected muscle groups. The good news is that once you start moving your sore muscles they will actually start to feel less sore. You will find some tasks like walking downstairs or opening jars more troublesome than usual.

How can I reduce DOMS?

To minimise the development of DOMS the following suggestions need to be followed:

  • If you are starting a new or unfamiliar exercise start slowly, with short bouts of effort and monitor your DOMS over the next 48 hours, then progress accordingly next session.
  • Slowly increase your running speed, distance, sets, reps or weights by no more than 10% per week.
  • Be aware of the amount of eccentric exercises you are including in your workouts.
  • Ensure you perform a cool down following routine after your workout. This can involve a slow jog or walk if you have been running, stretching if you have been lifting weights or a slow, low resistance cycle if you have been riding.

But I’m not always sore after a workout?

One of the biggest myths with exercise is that you NEED to be sore the next day in order to have had a good workout - otherwise, you're not making progress or working hard enough.
DOMS may be experienced after you do a new exercise (or one you haven't done in a while), if you are concentrating on eccentric (or the lowering phase) of an exercise, or after you perform an exercise that stretches and strengthens your muscle at length (such as deadlifts).

Muscle damage is a component of hypertrophy (muscle gain), as is mechanical tension and metabolic stress. However, it is unclear whether DOMS is the best measure that muscle damage has occurred. Of the three mechanisms of hypertrophy, muscle damage is considered to be the least important by measure behind mechanical tension and even metabolic stress.

Don't use soreness as an indicator of an effective workout. Instead, track your sessions and log your performance in the gym over time. Are you getting stronger? Doing more reps at the same weight? And are you seeing the changes you want in your pain, function or even in the mirror?


How do I know if it’s DOMS and not an injury?

The good news is that most cases of DOMS gradually subside and have no lasting effects, mostly resolving within 1-3 days. However if the following applies to you then it is best to seek the advice of a physiotherapist:

  • The pain is still present and not resolving more than 48 hours post-exercise. 
  • The pain came on during the exercise (not the day after) and was more sudden in onset.
  • The pain is located in and around the joints and not just limited to muscles.
  • There is swelling and discomfort in and around the joints.

If you are experiencing pain after a bout of exercise and are concerned it may be more than DOMS, or if you want to fast track you recovery, book in to see a Physiotherapist or Exercise Physiologist at Back in Motion Aspendale Gardens by calling 9580 1985 or online.