Roughly eight hours after a challenging workout, while you are getting out of the bed or putting on your clothes, you experience an epic burning pain in your legs, shoulders or other parts of the body. This post-exercise soreness is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or simply abbreviated to ‘DOMS’.
Usually starting after 6-8 hours and reaching its peak intensity 48-72 hours after the initial workout, DOMS is characterised by mild pain, burning sensation and muscle soreness. Although it tends to be more common in the lower region, it can affect any muscle group in the body that you’ve exposed to extensive stretching or an intense muscular workout.
What causes DOMS?
Originally it was thought that DOMS was caused due to the accumulation of lactic acid, in the muscles, and other degenerative metabolic products. However this has largely been rejected by a recent research papers published by Bard Schoenfeld and Bret Contreras. According to this research, the underlying cause of DOMS is the activation and stimulation of nociceptors (pain receptors) followed by an acute inflammation. This inflammation is caused due to microscopic tears in the connective tissue that sensitize the pain receptors and thereby heighten the sensations of pain. Every type of exercise can induce DOMS, the harder you push your body the more you’ll feel it.
So the actual cause of DOMS is the microscopic tearing of muscle fibre.
Is DOMS good or bad?
First off, let’s clear this up. DOMS is the soreness or pain only related to muscles, tendons or ligaments while the pain felt in the joints or in the bones do not come under the heading of DOMS. Remember! Joint pain is always BAD. Pain with sudden onset, sharp quality or in the form of bolts is also bad and indicates towards a serious muscle injury or a major trauma. While on the other hand, pain of DOMS is of delayed onset (take 4-6 hours to appear), of relatively mild type and deviates toward prolonged soreness.
The phrase “no pain, no gain” is certainly catchy and is often used by gym trainees to realize newbie’s that greater the pain you felt, greater will be the muscle strength and progress. There is another commonly held belief among athletes and trainees that the post-workout soreness and pain in the muscles is often associated with a job well done, muscular strength, enhanced progress and a quick turnout. However, there has never been a scientific research which proves that DOMS pain is directly proportional to muscular hypertrophy (increase in the size of the muscle).
Many people have got muscular growth and a perfect body without ever experiencing any soreness. Onset of muscle soreness varies from person to person and may have some genetic predisposition (yet to be experimented), so don’t despair if you won’t get sore during exercise.
In my experience, not preparing yourself for exercise and most vigorous workout will lead to DOMS while constant workout with same intensity seems to correlate with muscular hypertrophy and strength.
How to prevent DOMS soreness?
Following are the suggestions from the top trainees to prevent or reduce DOMS.
- Always warm up yourself before starting exercise
- Lack of electrolytes and water can make muscle sore. So stay well hydrated
- Try considering cardio exercise as it will increase blood flow (oxygen, nutrients, proteins, ions etc.) to the muscles.