January – the month of renewed dedication to creating that beach body. Or maybe more realistically, the month dedicated to working off the excess of December.
Whether you’ve launched yourself into an active lifestyle for the first time ever or just upped the intensity of your regular training, hopefully you finish your workout feeling justifiably smug at your achievements. That is until you wake up the next morning, barely able to hobble to the bathroom and regretting every one of those squats from the day before.
Enter delayed onset muscle soreness - or DOMS for short - that post workout muscle soreness that makes the average flight of stairs look like your own personal Everest.
But what is DOMS?
The exact mechanism that causes DOMS isn’t well understood; however, it appears to be the result of micro-trauma in the muscle and connective tissue causing inflammation. And while any exercise can induce DOMS, exercise with greater emphasis on the eccentric phase (the lengthening movement – think of lowering the dumbbell during a bicep curl) plays a significant role.
So is DOMS bad for you?
Put simply, no. Painful, limiting and often embarrassing while you waddle like a duck, but not harmful. However, DOMS can reduce muscle efficiency and reduce your range of motion so it is important to remember that your overall effectiveness will be reduced in subsequent workouts/sporting sessions. Due to the increased injury risk this can pose, it's important to allow your body to rest and recover.
Tips for dealing with DOMS:
- Warm up and cool down properly every workout. Focus on the warm up, as evidence has shown that taking time to prepare the body for the upcoming activity can reduce DOMS. Spend 5-10 minutes doing light aerobic activity to increase blood flow/body temperature, 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretches of any involved body parts and some simple agility work if appropriate. Your cool down should be 5-10 minutes of light aerobic activity to reduce your heart rate and remove waste products, and 5-10 minutes of static stretching
- Foam roll – if you don’t know what a foam roller is, have a read of our previous blog on foam rolling and its benefits
- Active recovery – lightly exercising the area the day after a heavy session can reduce recovery time. For example a gentle cycle after a heavy leg day
- Consider a sports massage – massage increases blood flow and therefore helps the body remove waste products that can increase pain. It also helps to reduce muscle tension and stiffness
- Allow the soreness to subside thoroughly before performing vigorous activity involving the same muscle groups
- Advance slowly with a new workout allowing your muscles to adapt and recover
Don’t be scared by DOMS and don’t use it as a reason to stay away from the gym. However, if you have any concerns – or your pain has lasted longer than 7 days – consult a friendly physiotherapist for advice and reassurance.
Problems with hamstring injuries?
Thanks for reading!
This post has been written by PhysioActive physiotherapist Lisa Gold.
Thoughts or questions?