Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a form of muscle soreness that occurs hours after an exercise routine. The workout that the individual performed is usually strenuous or too much than what his/her body is accustomed to.

Eccentric muscular contractions in which the muscles are lengthened while contraction such as during bounding, hopping, running, squatting, running downhill and the lower phase when lifting weight can lead to DOMS.

This condition typically occurs 12-48 hours after exercise. The muscle tightness and aching are the usual symptoms experienced, often resulting to a diminished range of motion.  Any discomfort must ease within 3 days after the exercise and return to normal within a week. In case the symptoms persist, it is best to consult a doctor for proper assessment of the condition.

Causes of DOMS


DOMS is believed to be caused by microscopic muscle tears that occur when the individual exercises more than usual.

DOMS is believed to be caused by microscopic muscle tears that occur when the individual exercises more than usual. This is considered as a normal process that is needed in order to achieve growth in the muscle strength and size. Nevertheless, if training is allowed to increase too quickly, extreme tearing can occur which leads to DOMS.

If the individual starts an exercise routine or sport that the body is not comfortable with, DOMS is likely to occur during the initial sessions. This is one of the reasons why training must be started lightly and gradually progress the intensity and length.

Treatment of DOMS

Always allow the muscles enough time to heal without stressing them. It is vital to wait at least one week and until all the symptoms cleared up before engaging in the same exercise again. If you want to learn how to manage and recognize the symptoms of DOMS, take a first aid course (to view available courses click here).

In most cases, massage can help minimize the effects of the condition. Light, non-weight bearing aerobic exercises and stretching are also beneficial in order to improve the flow of blood, warm-up the muscles and improve the range of motion of the individual.

Hydrotherapy and even spa baths can help minimize the effects of DOMS. The alternating hot and cold baths are often used by professional athletes due to its effectiveness but there is still no proven proof.

Preventive measures

Always bear in mind that prevention is the ideal way to avoid developing the effects of DOMS. It is important to note that DOMS can be prevented by taking into consideration the following:

  • The individual should perform proper warm-up exercises before engaging in any high-intensity exercise.
  • It is recommended to perform cooling-down and stretching exercises after a workout.
  • When starting a new activity, it is recommended that the individual will perform less and then steadily allow the muscles to become accustomed to the new strain placed on the body.
  • Whether the individual exercises regularly or still a beginner, he/she must gradually build-up the intensity and ensures that the body has enough time to recover in between the sessions.
  • As the general rule, the individual should not increase the intensity and length of the training by more than 10% in a week.


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