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Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness

What is DOMS?

Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a term used to describe muscle pain and tenderness that develops several hours after exercising. Some refer to it as “muscle fever” which is a pretty accurate description of what DOMS feels like. Delayed-onset muscle soreness typically starts 1-2 days after eccentric exercise, and it’s especially common when the type of exercise is new for you.

What causes DOMS?

Contrary to popular belief, lactic acid is NOT to blame for delayed-onset muscle soreness. Lactic acid levels increase while you’re actively using your muscles, but start to decrease immediately after you’ve stopped. Your lactic acid levels return to baseline after just one hour post workout. So, why are we sore two whole days after our workout?

The current belief is that micro-tears are to blame for DOMS. Micro-tears in our muscle fibers lead to inflammation, swelling, and changes in fluid levels near the affected muscles. This causes the tight, achy feeling we have for two to four days after our workout.

How can I prevent DOMS?

  • Schedule 10-15 minutes before your workout to do a gentile warm up with dynamic stretching
  • Be sure to ramp up your intensity slowly
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Do some gentile stretching after your workout
  • Keep up your circulation in the days following your workout with low intensity exercise like walking, swimming, or Pilates
  • Get a massage *See how massage helps DOMS in this study.

Delayed-onset muscle soreness can happen to anyone, even highly trained athletes. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but it also not something you should aim for in every workout. 

Author’s note:

Hi guys,

Today’s post is inspired by recent events. I’m embarrassed to admit that I recently experienced a serious case of DOMS after playing….. laser tag! For someone who prides myself on being in shape, I was humbled by the experience. Before you think too poorly of me, you should know this was serious laser tag! We were in a large, two story arena and played a total of six games. Apparently, I’m surprisingly competitive once I get the chance to shoot my close friends and family. Haha. The moral of the story is, it’s great to switch up your workout regiment to keep things fun and work your body differently. Just know that your body may have a hard time adjusting so you should take good care of it to avoid DOMS.

– Rachael Turner, LMT, Pilates instructor & Founder of Inertia6