What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) And How To Prevent It

Image of a man rubbing his sore back and neck due to delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS.

Have you ever felt soreness in your muscles the day after an intense workout? This soreness is known as Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). DOMS is the pain and tightness felt in muscles several hours to a few days after unaccustomed or strenuous exercise.

Image of a man rubbing his neck because of delayed onset muscle soreness.

Depending on the individual's fitness level and strength, DOMS can be experienced by elite athletes or even elderly people who are embarking on a new physical therapy routine.

DOMS is considered a muscle strain injury with soreness usually increasing in intensity in the first 24 hours after exercise. The muscle soreness peaks between 24-72 hours. After that time, the soreness gradually subsides up to seven days after the exercise.

DOMS is thought to be caused by the eccentric part of the exercise, where the muscles lengthen or contracts. This causes micro tears in the muscle fibers, thereby causing pain and discomfort.

Image of an elderly couple jogging.

Having DOMS is usually a good sign post exercise. It means that the muscle is healing and getting stronger than it was before the activity and hence it is an indication that the training was indeed effective.

How to prevent DOMS

The best strategy to prevent DOMS is to progress slowly into a new exercise program. If you're doing strengthening exercises, that means starting with lighter weights and slowly progressing to heavier ones. You should also start with lower repetitions and increase reps only when your body has adapted well. Having a good warm up and warm down routine may also help prevent muscle injury and aches the day after the workout.

Treatment of DOMS

A good way to treat DOMS is any measure that increases blood flow to the muscle, such as massage. One good example is self massage - this can be in the form of foam rolling. Foam rolling between 1 to 6 hours after a workout can significantly reduce the severity of DOMS the next day.

Image of a man foam rolling after exercise.

Heat treatment, or hot compress therapy is also a great way of reducing DOMS symptoms. Heat helps to improve blood circulation and delivers more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles and simultaneously removes lactic acid, which is essential for muscle healing.

One very effective device for hot compress therapy is this electric heating pad. It comes with ten preset heat settings and can be used on various parts of the body to relieve pain and soreness. The heat generated from the pad improves blood circulation and delivers more oxygen and nutrients to your muscles, aiding in recovery.

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Image of woman resting on ThermaPad, an electric heating pad for hot compress therapy to prevent DOMS.

Sleep is also a key ingredient when it comes to recovery of DOMS. As the body recovers from your daily activities during sleep, it is essential to get plenty of sleep. Not getting enough sleep can impede recovery and cause DOMS to last longer than it should.

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