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Have you ever felt pain and stiffness in your muscles just a few hours or even days after your first exercise regimen in the gymnasium, or your workout routine, or jumping onto the football pitch or athletics track?
The pain and stiffness felt is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

DOMS is thought to be caused by eccentric (lengthening) exercises, which causes small-scale damage (microtrauma) to the muscle fibers. The soreness reaches a peak after 24-48 hours then subsides and disappears up to seven days after exercise.

Symptoms

The soreness is perceived as a dull, aching pain in the affected muscle, often combined with tenderness and stiffness. The pain is typically felt only when the muscle is stretched, contracted or put under pressure, not when it is at rest.

The pain is usually felt when the muscles are stretched
The pain is usually felt when the muscles are stretched

Prevention

DOMS can be prevented by carrying out your exercise regimen from a comfortable or minimal intensity and then gradually increasing the exercise intensity as you become more comfortable with the exercise routine thereby taking advantage of the repeated-bout effect.

Anti-inflammatory medications, massage, compression garments, and some supplements can reduce the duration of DOMS.

Static stretching or warming up the muscles before or after exercise does not prevent soreness. Overstretching can by itself cause soreness. However, static stretching is very useful in increasing joint range of motion and also joint flexibility.

In general, it appears that static stretching is most beneficial for athletes requiring flexibility for their sports e.g. gymnastics, dance, etc.

Stretching before exercise helps
Stretching before exercise helps

The use of correctly fitted, medical-grade, graduated compression garments such as socks and calf sleeves during the workout can reduce muscle oscillation and thus some of the micro-tears that contribute to DOMS.

Proper nutrition to manage electrolytes and glycogen before and after exertion is also a way to ease soreness.

Treatment

Basically, any intervention that allows for local increase of blood flow around the muscle group such as low-intensity exercises, application of heat packs, hot baths, foam rolling, and massage can help relieve the soreness.

However, DOMS usually disappears after 72 hours of appearing and most times don’t need to be treated.

You should also avoid aggressive exercise during the recovery phase. This is due to your muscles reduced capacity to cope with shock absorption, in-coordination, altered muscle recruitment patterns, reduced strength balance, and contraction intensity. Cycling has also been shown to temporarily ease DOMS pain.

Sources

  • Herbert, Robert D.; de Noronha, Marcos; Kamper, Steven J. (2011-07-06). “Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise”. The Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews (7): CD004577. doi:10.1002/14651858.CD004577.pub3. ISSN 1469-493X. PMID 21735398.
  • Phil Page (2012). Currents concepts in muscle stretching for exercise and rehabilitation. International Journal of Sports Physical Therapy 7(1): 109-119.
  • Petrofsky, Jerrold, JD; Berk, Lee DPH; Bains, Gurinder MD; Khowailed, Iman Akef DSc; Lee, Haneul DSc; Laymon, Michael DS (2017). The Efficacy of Sustained Heat Treatment on Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. Clinical Journal of Sport Medicine: 27 (4): 329–337.
  • https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Delayed_onset_muscle_soreness assessed on 24th October, 2018.
  • https://www.physio-pedia.com/Delayed_onset_muscle_soreness_(DOMS) assessed on 24th October, 2018.
  • https://physioworks.com.au/injuries-conditions-1/doms-delayed-onset-muscle-soreness assessed on 16th November, 2018.
  • https://i1.wp.com/thebellyrinadiaries.com/wp-content/uploads/2017/12/Blog-Banner-DOMS.png?fit=900%2C600&ssl=1 assessed on 16th November, 2018.
  • http://totaltennis.com.sg/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/DOMS-pic-1.png assessed on 16th November, 2018.