19 September 2019

DOMS: What is it and what causes it?

November 10, 2016

We all know the feeling. When you return to exercise after a few weeks off or when you’ve pushed yourself harder or further than usual. It’s not the feeling that day, so much as the feeling the next day, and worse still, the day after that – where stairs are absolutely out of the question! Introducing… Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).


First let’s take a look at what actually defines DOMS.

The onset of DOMS usually begins around 24 hours following exercise and can last anywhere up to five or even seven days, although this is exceptionally long. Symptoms generally peak around the 72 hour point, and are characterised by localised soreness, reduced range of movement and reduced muscle function. These symptoms are generally worse with beginners and will reduce the more trained a person becomes.

What causes DOMS?
It is well established that DOMS occurs mostly after unfamiliar exercise such as running or weight training for the first time. This is due to an increase in exercise-induced muscle damage, although contrary to popular belief, the level of soreness experienced is not directly linked to the amount of muscle damage resulting from exercise.

Dealing with DOMS
Due to the uncomfortable nature of DOMS, many strategies have emerged to help alleviate the symptoms, including compression garments, cryotherapy, massage and anti-inflammatory drugs. It is important to remember that you can’t significantly reduce the initial damage without changing the exercise done in the first place!

The most effective way to deal with it is simply adaptation. The repeated bout effect (RBE) makes the muscle more resistant to damage during future exercise bouts.

DOMS is a sometimes unavoidable issue, however avoiding sudden increases in unfamiliar, exercise will help prevent excessive soreness. Recovery strategies do exist to help alleviate symptoms, however rest and adaptation appears to be the most effective method for reducing DOMS in subsequent training sessions.

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