Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is the pain and stiffness that you feel in your muscles after a hard workout. It is caused by micro-tears in the muscles sustained from training.
Experiencing DOMS is completely normal after a hard training session and it can serve as an indicator that you have ‘trained properly’. But can the pain mean something more, like a potential injury?
The pain caused by DOMS can be extremely inconvenient and reduce your muscular strength, as well as your range of motion (ROM). It can sometimes be hard to tell if you have suffered a training injury or if it is just regular DOMS.
The most basic way to tell if the pain is caused by DOMS is by looking at the timescale for soreness. DOMS usually appear between 2-24 hours after training and usually only last up to 36 hours, but in some cases the soreness can last up to 72 hours after training.
An injury is likely to cause the onset of pain almost immediately. Pay attention to these 5 signs of injury, since DOMS is unlikely to cause these symptoms:
- Heat (Caused by blood flow to the area, trying to bring chemical mediators to the injured area to begin the healing process.)
- Redness (These changes in blood flow result in the build of blood in the injured area, causing redness in the affected region.)
- Swelling (The build up of pressure due to increased blood flow causes fluid to be drawn out from blood vessels into other tissue.)
- Pain (Pain sensitive nerve endings are stimulated by the release of chemicals from the healing process.)
- Loss of Function (Pain serves as a protective mechanism, inhibiting muscular movement.)
How to prevent DOMS
Nutrition plays a big factor in the prevention and relief of DOMS. Since your muscles get “damaged” during training, repairing the damaged tissue requires plenty of nutrients, such as protein, carbohydrates, minerals and vitamins.
Stretching has also been shown to have a positive effect in preventing and relieving DOMS. It is recommended to do dynamic stretching (stretching that imitates similar movements to what exercise you are about to do, for example walking lunges before leg training) and static stretching (holding a stretch in a certain position for a period of time, for example bringing your arm across your body, then pulling it in tighter with your other arm) at the end of your training session.
Foam rolling is another method that has been proven to be effective in reducing DOMS. The sensation of DOMS can cause the feeling of built up tension deep within the muscle. Foam rolling is a great way to relieve muscle tension, called myofascial release.
There are some other forms of DOMS recovery methods, such as cold/hot compresses, ointments and others.
What to do if you’re injured
If it turns out that the pain is being caused by an injury, rather than just regular DOMS you should follow the 3 stages of injury repair:
- Inflammation (RICE principle – RICE is an acronym for Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation. Following this procedure is the first step in recovering from an injury.)
- Repair (Regaining ROM – Following a routine of passive ROM exercises will slowly build your strength progressively and increase ROM once your injury is healed.)
- Re-modelling (Getting back into strength training – Generally, remodeling begins about 21 days after an injury and can continue for a year or more.)
This article first appeared on GYMNASIUMPOST.com on 3rd May, 2020.