Spring is here, and that means it’s time to get serious about your summer training. And since you’ve starting pushing your workouts harder, you’ve probably been feeling pretty good. Well, except for the time when you got a little too crazy and pushed yourself a little too hard.

Now your sore. Not just kinda sore. Like, super duper sore.

Don’t worry, unless you actually injured yourself, you are likely just experiencing delayed onset muscles soreness, or DOMS.

DOMS is the muscle soreness that occurs about 24-48 hours after your workout. As its name implies, this soreness doesn’t happen during or immediately following your workout, it is actually delayed. Generally, the soreness begins about 24 hours after your workout and peaks between 48 and 72 hours afterwards. It is commonly accepted that DOMS is associated with a harder, more intense workout. The end product (physiologically) is microscopic muscle disruption, or damage. Your body then goes to work to repair the damaged muscle cells, which makes them more resilient and stronger. Overall, this is how you body adapts to exercise. There is a lot of physiology at play here that I am intentionally leaving out, but just know that this process is how your muscles and nervous system respond and adapt to exercise.

Different types of muscle contractions and exercise:

  • Eccentric exercise is thought to be the primary contributing factor of DOMS. An eccentric exercise is when you are contracting a muscle while is lengthening. More specifically, it is a muscle that is lengthening while under load. An example of this is walking/running downhill versus flat or incline (you are eccentrically loading your quads MORE going downhill because they are lengthening and contracting at the same time to control you).

  • The two other types of muscle contractions are concentric (when your muscles contract and shorten at the same time) and isometric (when your muscles contract and stay the same length).   

Nerdy side-note: pain associated with DOMS has been widely believed to be lactic acid build-up. But that’s not true, as there is a significant difference between DOMS and acute muscle soreness. ACUTE muscle soreness generally occurs when you have increased blood-lactate levels during and immediately after a workout and it is thought be caused by the acidic hydrogen ions released when lactic acid gets buffered into lactate. This soreness goes away within a few hours. Delayed onset muscle soreness, however, is thought to be associated with increased blood levels of specific muscle enzymes. The presence of these specific enzymes, namely Creatine Kinase, signifies muscular damage. These enzyme levels can increase by anywhere from 2 to 10 times their normal levels following an intense bout of training. The level of increase is thought to be correlated with level of damage (higher levels = more damage). There also appears to be an association with DOMS and an inflammatory process. Suffice it to say that the inflammatory process that occurs following exercise is a normal response, as the main role of white blood cells is to protect the normal homeostatic balance of the body.

Ok, now you might be wondering how to mitigate the effects of DOMS. Below are the top 6 ways to keep DOMS at bay:

  • Active Recovery: performing low-intensity, full-ROM exercise after your high-intensity training.
  • Nutrition, Hydration, and herbs: fish oil, tart cherry juice, NSAID’s, water and electrolytes.
  • Sleep: Growth hormone is at it’s higher concentration when you sleep, which has been shown to be a major player in anabolic muscle growth and repair.
  • Soft-tissue and Manual Therapies: from rolling, massage, chiropractic, electrical stimulation, acupuncture, etc
  • Occlusion: intermittent muscle occlusion after intense exercise can augment recovery.
  • Ice and contrast therapy: both can decrease swelling and inflammation


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