From Pain To Gain: Understanding DOMS

If embarking on a workout routine is a recent new addition to your busy schedule, you may be experiencing a new muscle soreness that sets in several hours after exercise. The old adage reminds you that without pain, there is no gain, but you may find yourself asking if you pushed the intensity of your workout too far. It is important to understand the concept of delayed onset muscle soreness and how to cope with it to reap the benefits of increasing your muscle strength.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Whenever you challenge your muscles with new forms of exercise and work them out in ways to which they are not accustomed, soreness will likely result. While mild muscle soreness sets in immediately after a workout session and resolves within a couple of days, delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) rears its increasingly painful head 24 to 48 hours post workout. This is the result of microtrauma, or tiny tears in the muscle tissue fibers, coupled with the body's inflammatory response to these tears. This is a normal result from stressing your muscles to a point to which they have not been pushed for some time. As the microtrauma heals, the muscle strengthens, develops and becomes conditioned to further endure the exercise during their next workout.

In addition to localized soreness in the affected muscles, other common symptoms of DOMS may include:

  • Temporary reductions of strength and range of motion in the joints of the affected limbs
  • Tenderness when the affected area is palpated
  • Temporary swelling of the affected limbs

You're In Good Company

As your workout routine becomes easier, you will need to increase the intensity of the exercise to maximize your fitness, which will strain your muscles beyond their current limit once again. This means that newbies to the gym are not the only ones to suffer from DOMS. Athletes, fitness enthusiasts and bodybuilders who continually strive to increase endurance, strength and muscle mass can experience DOMS when they increase the intensities of their workouts.

Which Exercises Result in DOMS?

DOMS typically occurs as a result of any form of exercise that involves eccentric muscle action, or lengthening of a muscle during a phase of an exercise. When executing bicep curls, the lowering of the dumbbell requires eccentric muscle action. Such action takes place during a host of popular workout activities, including the following:

  • Weight training
  • Jogging
  • Step aerobics
  • Jumping
  • Walking down inclines

Keep Exercising? Yes and No

The discomfort of DOMS can repel those who are new to the workout scene away from the gym or jogging trails. Your muscles need at least two to three days to recover, and it is during this time that they are conditioning. Attempting to perform the same workout while these muscles are painful can alter how you exercise, which can increase your risk for injury. However, if you are able to switch up your workout routine to focus instead on other muscle groups during that recovery period, you should do so. Lighter exercise, such as a low impact cardio workout, can also serve to keep you in the routine of working out. Ideally, plan a permanent fitness regimen that does not work the same group of muscles on consecutive days.

Treatment for DOMS

The treatment for DOMS focuses on resting the affected muscles so that they can heal and on relieving the discomfort. This can be accomplished with over-the-counter nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen, heat therapy and stretching. Your discomfort should begin to subside within three days. If the pain persists beyond a week, consult with a physician at Adult & Pediatric Orthopedics SC to rule out the presence of a more serious injury. During every future workout, remember to engage in warm up and cool down periods when starting and concluding your workout to lessen the severity of DOMS.