Facts About Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness is a problem faced by many athletes and sports professionals, but it can affect the rest of us too. This is particularly true as we start to work out more regularly and build our workouts to greater lengths.  For those of us who aren’t experienced with this type of issue, it can seem to come out of nowhere and feel as though something is wrong.  Fortunately, it is normal and, in many ways, avoidable with the right techniques.  Still, even when it happens, it’s best to know about it, what to expect, and what you can do about it.

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

Delayed onset muscle soreness is also known as DOMS. Delayed onset muscle soreness is caused by lengthened exercise. Many symptoms are associated with DOMS. Generally, the symptoms go away after 72 hours. There are ways to treat the pain this condition causes to your muscles. Many times, people try to stretch extensively to fix the damage however this does not work.

Some of the facts about this painful condition can help you prevent and treat your DOMS. Being that the cause of delayed onset muscle soreness is lengthened exercise or pushing yourself too hard too soon. One of the ways to prevent this is by gradually increasing the intensity of the workout. The way DOMS or muscle fever happens is by extensive exercise that causes microtrauma to the muscle fibers. Overstretching can also cause soreness.

Common Signs and Symptoms of DOMS

There are some signs and symptoms to tell if you have delayed onset muscle soreness. Your pain will be strongest in the first 24-72 hours. You will experience muscle pain and stiffness. You will feel very sore, and it will be hard to repeat the same workout. After the first 72 hours you may have some mild dull pain. The affected muscles will remain slightly tender.

Soreness and tenderness due to delayed onset muscle soreness is called muscular mechanical hyperalgesia. You can treat many of the symptoms of muscular mechanical hyperalgesia sometimes by repeating the workout at a lower intensity. The muscles are sore because the muscles repair rapidly to prevent muscle damage.

Preventing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

To start, it’s important to know that delayed onset muscle soreness is perfectly normal. While there are ways to prevent it or minimize the symptoms, this doesn’t mean that it is always avoidable. Sometimes, you’ll just need to experience it. Still, it’s definitely worthwhile to use these tips to prevent DOMS when possible.

When the muscles rapidly adapt to prevent future damage, it is known as the ‘repeated-bout effect’. You can help along the repeated-bout effect by performing the same unaccustomed eccentric exercise. Some fitness experts believe staying hydrated and keeping electrolyte levels up will prevent DOMS, though it is not a fact.

Overall, the commonly accepted steps for helping to prevent DOMS when possible are:

  1. Hydration (with electrolytes if needed)
  2. Massage (either giving them to yourself in the shower or when moisturizing, for example, or given professionally)
  3. Boosting blood circulation (this can be done through warmth such as cozy clothing, a warm – not hot – bath with Epsom salts, and compression clothing)
  4. Sleep (the ultimate recovery strategy)
  5. Active recovery (gently move those sore muscles with light exercise!)

Treating DOMS

You can treat DOMS with steps that loosen the muscles and increase blood circulation.  These include some of the same steps as preventing it in the first place, so these should look quite familiar. While many people believe in using saunas and hot tubs, take care as too much heat can work against your efforts.  Warmth is great, but only to a certain degree.

Gently moving through the soreness will help you to become accustomed to the feeling while treating the DOMS at the same time. This will help to encourage repair, avoid stiffness, and boost circulation and heat within the muscles.

Delayed onset muscle soreness is generally caused by overexerting the muscles or performing an exercise at too high of an intensity too quickly. DOMS can be prevented by slowly increasing intensity over time during the workout.

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