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What is Delayed Onset Soreness (DOMS)

By: Nazirah M. Jones, M.S., CPT-NASM

Did you know that the soreness you feel in your muscles after a workout has a name? It's called Delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS for short. DOMS usually starts a day or two after you've worked out and can last for several days. Interestingly, you won't feel DOMS during your workout, so don't be fooled into thinking you're not working hard enough. Instead, DOMS is a sign that your muscles are adapting to the demands you're placing on them, and will actually make you stronger over time. So, next time you feel that post-workout burn, know that it's a good thing!

Here are a few things you should do if you are dealing with DOMS:

  1. Start slowly: If you're new to exercise or returning to a workout routine after a break, start slowly and gradually increase the intensity and duration of your workouts to avoid overexertion and excessive muscle soreness.

  2. Stay hydrated: Drinking plenty of water before, during, and after your workout can help reduce muscle soreness and improve recovery time.

  3. Get enough rest: Your muscles need time to recover between workouts, so be sure to get plenty of rest and quality sleep to help your body heal and rebuild.

  4. Eat a balanced diet: Eating a balanced diet that includes plenty of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats can help support muscle recovery and reduce inflammation.

  5. Don't push through the pain: While some muscle soreness after a workout is normal, pushing through severe pain can increase the risk of injury and prolong recovery time. If you experience severe pain or muscle weakness, rest and seek medical advice if necessary.

  6. Rest: Give your muscles time to recover by taking a break from your workout routine.

  7. Ice: Apply ice to the affected area to reduce inflammation and pain.

  8. Heat: Use a warm compress or take a warm bath to help relax your muscles and increase blood flow.

  9. Stretching: Gentle stretching can help alleviate muscle soreness and improve flexibility.

  10. Massage: A gentle massage can help increase blood flow to the affected area and reduce muscle tension.

It's important to note that while these treatments can help alleviate DOMS symptoms, they won't necessarily speed up the healing process. DOMS is a natural part of the muscle-building process, and it's important to give your body time to recover before returning to your normal exercise routine.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What causes DOMS?

A: DOMS is caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibers that occur during exercise, especially when the muscles are worked harder than they're used to.

Q: Can I still exercise with DOMS?

A: While it's safe to exercise with DOMS, it's important to listen to your body and avoid overexerting yourself. Light exercise, such as walking or gentle yoga, may actually help alleviate muscle soreness and promote healing.

Q: Can I prevent DOMS?

A: While it's not always possible to prevent DOMS, gradually increasing the intensity and duration of your workouts, using proper form and technique, and incorporating rest days and recovery techniques can help reduce the risk of muscle soreness.


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