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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Updated: Aug 22, 2020

Have you ever done something a little bit different, longer or harder than usual in your training or racing, felt fine during the session, but then later that day or even the next day found yourself hobbling?

This is what is called DOMS and is a distinctive muscle pain that nearly everyone experiences to some degree after intense or unfamiliar exercise. DOMS often peaks a day or even two days after the session - and in some cases can be severe enough to be mistaken for a muscle strain or an injury.

How Delayed is it? It can come on as early as later that evening, but typically is at its worst the day after the activity that causes it - ie why its called DELAYED. It can also vary from person to person.

What causes it exactly? Triggered by an exercise/activity that is new or outside of your current fitness/strength level -the exact cause of DOMS is relatively unknown. Usually described as the consequence of mechanical and or metabolic stress - from working a muscle outside of its current range of activity. For the most part you will get this feeling in your muscles from:

  • Eccentric contractions - ie controlled elongation. Example is downhill running, lunges and deadlift (the way back down)

  • Genetics - varies from person to person

  • Dehydration can make it worse, or any other physical or metabolic stress

Can you treat it? There is no known cure all for DOMS - except time, and your body's ability to adapt to the stressor. Other than waiting there are a few things you can do during the 24-72 hour time period that you have DOMS that might make you feel better while you wait it out:

  • Compression

  • Epson Salts

  • Protein intake (BCAA's in particular)

  • Light exercise with a good warm up

  • Light Stretching of the muscle affected.

  • NSAIDs - but not recommended unless severe

  • Massage/vibration

  • Heat

But as mentioned these aren't known to help for certain - but at a minimum will make you more comfortable while you take the time to recover.

Have you ever had DOMS? What activity/exercises did you do that caused it. For me downhill running and technical trail running without adequate preparation is the biggest culprit for DOMS in my quads!

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