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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Why do I not feel pain while working out? What is the sharp pain I feel, a day or two after exercising? DOMS is the answer – delayed-onset muscle soreness. DOMS is usually experienced 24-48 hours after a workout and can last for 2-4 days, and in extreme conditions, up to 5 days.

Muscle Soreness is quite different from DOMS, as well as muscle sprains or muscle strains, they all differ from DOMS. As the name implies DOMS is always delayed, hence if you feel pain around your muscles during or after a workout (less than 12 hours), it is not DOMS, rather acute muscle soreness.

Muscle soreness – not DOMS – may be felt as a result of the accumulation of lactic acid, but whether it is DOMS or muscle soreness, both can be prevented using a massage gun. The belief that lactic acid causes DOMS is inaccurate, as scientific research has shown.

Why do I experience DOMS?

High-intensity workouts. A lengthy period of inactivity of the muscles before a workout can also lead to DOMS. Muscle fibers can be over-stretched during a workout, leading to fiber tears, and/or inflammation that culminates in DOMS. Trying out new exercises that the body has not become used to can also lead to DOMS, as when you usually push yourself beyond previous limits your muscles have now become acclimatized to, or set entirely new limits in these exercises.

You may also experience DOMS when you begin a new exercise routine or fitness training program. An increase in the amount of time you spend on a particular drill or workout can result in you experiencing DOMS, as well as an increase in intensity. So, you can imagine DOMS as some “access denied” or “facial recognition failed” initial response for new workout routine or timings to the body muscles.

However, DOMS is not for amateurs alone, regardless of your expertise, skill, and fitness level, you can experience DOMS after a workout. This does not necessarily mean that you had a bad workout, it may mean that your muscle is acclimatizing or it has just been over-stretched.

DOMS is caused by a type of contraction, commonly called an eccentric contraction. These contractions are termed so because the muscle lengthens against a load or a force, for instance, running down a slope. Eccentric contractions cause muscle cell damages such as fiber tears.


Is DOMS a sign of a Good Workout?

It is common folklore amongst fitness enthusiasts that if your exercise or workout session was good, you should feel some measure of pain, or the more the workout, the more the sore. Some say unless it was painful to sit on a toilet seat after a lower body workout, then you did workout enough. Did you ever believe that though? Well, it was wrong. Studies have shown that DOMS – nor the lack of it – is not a parameter or a yardstick for quality workouts, neither is soreness – nor the lack of it – an indicator of a bad workout.

DOMS is sometimes a sign of adaptation. A sig that your body is adapting to the new routine or timing you are engaging in. The severity and length of DOMS you may experience are also dependent on the nature of the muscles involved, your fitness level, and sometimes genetics.


How to Manage and/or Prevent DOMS

Although time may be the most effective way to manage DOMS, there are other ways of ensuring that your DOMS is managed.

  • Massage Therapy. Massage plays a critical role in relieving DOMs. A good massage also reduces inflammation in the muscles as well as eases soreness of the muscles. Recent studies showed that after a high-intensity workout, people who received a massage after 24 hours or more had far less soreness than does who didn’t.
  • Stay hydrated. Muscles demand more oxygen than normal when working out. This means there is a need to pump more blood around, since water is the major component of blood (80-90%), hydration will be effective to help against soreness.
  • Take it gradually. Slowly ease into your new exercise routine or fitness training programs. Give your muscles time to adapt to the new workload.
  • A cold bath. Taking a cold bath can reduce the severity of DOMS, this is very common in sportsmen and women. Recent studies have shown that a full-body bath in cold water is effective in the reduction of DOMS severity.
  • The use of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, celecoxib, indomethacin, etc. can help in relieving the pains, although there is no scientific evidence that they can cure DOMS.
  • Drink coffee. A caffeine-ingestion study found that weightlifters who drank about 5mg of caffeine per kg (double espresso) lifted more weight compared to a placebo group, but also reported reduced soreness in the days after.
  • Keep moving. Do not stop moving. Except your DOMS is acute or severe, sitting down hen experiencing DOMS is not a good idea. Try to increase the blood flow by walking about doing mild exercises, to ensure you are not static.
  • Topical analgesics. Research has shown that topical analgesics can help relieve the pain of DOMS. You can apply it to the area you are experiencing soreness. Always follow the instructions of usage and/or seek the help of qualified medical personnel.

Getting a massage is arguably the most effective way of dealing with DOMS. Massage guns make it even faster and easier, as you can be relieved of DOMS from the comfort of your home. So next time you experience DOMS after changing your workout routine or timeframe, don’t get all worked up, as it’s simply a result of your muscular transition and adaptation.

However, if your DOMS persists after 4-5 days, please seek medical attention.

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