If you’ve been working our regularly, but included new exercises into your normal workout and find you suddenly have pain a day or two after the workout, you may have delayed onset muscle soreness—DOMS. During workouts, your muscles contract, they shorten or lengthen when the muscle is producing force. Each phase has a name. When the muscle is shortening, it’s concentric, but during the lengthening phase it’s called eccentric. It’s believed that during the lengthening process—the eccentric phase—that the potential for DOMS occurs.
Why do you get DOMS?
When you stress your muscles in new ways, it often causes microscopic tears in the muscles. These tiny traumas sets of an inflammatory response. That causes electrolyte shifts and intramuscular fluid. The biochemical markers that occur with these small tears are lactic dehydrogenase and creatine kinase are found in the blood of people suffering from DOMS, making it a logical conclusion.
The symptoms of DOMS vary in degree.
Your muscles will have an achy feeling about one or two days after you injured them. It’s normally after a very strenuous, new-to-you type of exercise. Also, people first starting a program of regular exercise after a long delay of inactivity will often experience it. The affected area will be still and tender and even passive stretching causes pain to increase. The range of motion and muscle strength is reduced, with potential swelling in the area. Light exercise often helps with the pain.
You should exercise during this time, just not aggressively exercise the sore area.
Don’t give up your workout program just because of this pain. It goes away in three to five days. Instead, switch to a lighter exercise that doesn’t involve the sore muscle group. If your pain is in your arm, there’s no reason you can’t go walking or do exercises for the lower half of your body—within reason. Avoid a heavy workout that could exacerbate the pain and slow the mending process. Remember, even though the pain is uncomfortable, it’s a sign that you’re getting stronger and fitter.
- If the pain doesn’t go away in three to five days or is debilitating constant and severe, seek medical attention. It could be something more serious.
- Take aspirin or other over the counter pain remedy to help soothe the pain. Natural anti-inflammatory herbs and spices, such as turmeric, can be used on food or taken in capsule form.
- Alternating heat and cold on the affected area can also help bring relief. One study showed that the massaging warm bubbles of a hot tub helped, too. Consider hot showers or hot soaks in the tub as an alternative if you don’t have a hot tub available.
- Don’t get discouraged if you have muscle soreness or DOMS. It’s a sign that your muscles are getting back into shape.