What Is DOMS?
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, often abbreviated as DOMS (see Fitness Acronym List), is a common physiological response experienced after engaging in exercise or physical activities, particularly activities that are new or significantly more strenuous than what the body is accustomed to.
This type of soreness typically develops 12-24 hours post-exercise, peaking between 24-72 hours, hence the term “delayed onset”.
While DOMS can be uncomfortable, it is generally harmless and is often seen as an indication of the body’s adaptation to increasing physical demands.
What Causes DOMS?
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a familiar experience for those who regularly engage in strenuous physical activity or have recently begun a new exercise regimen.
The exact cause of DOMS isn’t entirely proven, but it is widely believed to be a result of tiny microscopic tears in your muscle fibres incurred during workouts.
This is particularly likely after an exercise or intensity level that the body isn’t accustomed to.
DOMS is primarily attributed to eccentric, or lengthening contractions within the muscles after a large concentric contraction, which produces micro-tears in the muscle fibres and surrounding connective tissues.
This leads to inflammation, pain, and a temporarily reduced range of motion, among other symptoms such as stiffness for a short time. The pain isn’t immediate because it takes time for the body to process and respond to the micro-injuries.
Research suggests that lactic acid, initially thought to cause DOMS, is not the primary culprit as it is usually cleared from the muscles within an hour of heavy exertion.
Finally, while unpleasant, muscle soreness due to exercise itself isn’t harmful and is often seen as a sign of improving fitness levels.
Is It DOMS? How To Tell If You Have DOMS
Sometimes if the level of pain you are feeling in your muscles is to an extreme you may question if what you are feeling is even delayed-onset muscle soreness.
One sure way to rule out DOMS is if you have not done any kind of training or intense physical activity in the past 3 days then there is no way DOMS can be the source of this pain.
Another way to rule out DOMS is if this soreness or pain you are experiencing does not seem to be improving even after a day or two has passed.
Also if the DOMS recovery methods that will be talked about in this article seem to have no effect then you should start to think about ruling out regular muscle soreness and consider seeking medical attention.
Is DOMS a Sign of a “Good” Workout?
DOMS is often believed to be a gauge of the efficiency of your workout. However, that’s a common misconception.
Some muscle soreness post-workout can be expected and even beneficial, as it suggests that your muscles are growing stronger. On the other hand, severe or prolonged pain can suggest overwork and too much damage, leading to overtraining and potential injury.
While DOMS can indeed act as an indication that your muscles have experienced enough damage to adapt to new or more intense exercises, it is not a definitive sign of a good balanced workout.
It’s important to understand that good workouts aren’t only measured by how sore you are afterwards. Numerous other factors, such as an increase in strength, endurance, and overall fitness progression, are the real determiners and should not be overlooked for the sake of muscle soreness.
How Long Does It Take For Micro-Tears To Heal After a Workout?
The healing timeframe for micro-tears incurred during a workout differs widely, depending on the severity of the tear, the body’s healing ability, quality of nutrition, and adequate rest.
On average, it takes between two to seven days for most micro-tears to truly heal fully. A normal workout strain induces micro-tears, which are necessary for growing bigger and stronger muscles.
These micro-tears, caused by weight lifting or any form of resistance training, spearhead a process known as “muscle protein synthesis,” an increase which lasts approximately 48 hours after exercise.
After the boost in muscle protein synthesis, the body begins healing by reconstructing the damaged muscle tissues and fibres.
Nutrition plays an invaluable role in this phase, as proteins consumed are used in repairing and developing the affected muscles. Adequate rest also boosts the healing process since most of the muscle recovery and growth process occurs during sleep.
How Can I Speed Up My Micro Tear Recovery? How To Treat DOMS
Speeding up micro tear recovery and treating delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) requires a combination of adequate rest, a balanced diet, and targeted exercises.
Rest is crucial as it gives your body the time it needs to repair the micro tears in the muscles that are commonly caused by high-intensity workouts or weight lifting.
8 to 10 hours of sleep a night is necessary for a proper recovery rate. Incorporate as many proteins in your diet as possible, as they are critical for tissue repair and recovery.
Hydration also plays a surprisingly large part in the recovery process; stay well-hydrated to help reduce muscle inflammation and speed protein synthesis.
A gentle massage or a warm bath can also aid in recovery and reduce muscle soreness by increasing blood circulation, thus providing relief from DOMS. (see Benefits of Massage)
Low-intensity active recovery (LIAR) exercises, including light cardiovascular activities such as cycling or swimming, are another way to boost recovery by promoting blood flow to the aching muscles.
Lastly, products like compression garments or bandage wraps can provide support and decrease swelling.
Can You Prevent DOMS?
While it’s not always possible to prevent DOMS completely, several strategies can help mitigate its severity, such as the previously mentioned ones.
Starting a new exercise regimen gradually, instead of jumping into intense workouts, can also allow your muscles to adapt slower and thus reduce the onset of DOMS.
Meanwhile, appropriate warm-up and cool-down routines, as well as proper stretching before and after workouts, can significantly aid in muscle recovery and stiffness prevention.
Ultimately, it’s important to listen to your body and avoid pushing it beyond its limits, as doing so can lead to injury in addition to severe DOMS.
Does Muscle Soreness Mean Micro-Tears?
Muscle soreness usually means micro-tears, although there can also be numerous other reasons your muscles are sore. Other culprits of muscle soreness can include macro tears (large tears), extreme stress, extreme dehydration or a damaged nerve.
As you can tell any other reason your muscle may be sore beyond delayed onset soreness is not a good one and is very concerning.
When To Seek Medical Help
I think it was made pretty clear how concerning your muscle soreness should be if you don’t believe it to be DOMS or a result of physical activity. A whole section has been dedicated to how to determine if what you are experiencing is DOMS and if you believe it not to be then that is when you should seek medical help.
It’s essential to understand that pain beyond the usual level of discomfort associated with DOMS may indicate an injury and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional