DOMS is something everyone has most likely experienced, is perceived as a dull aching pain in the affected muscle, and often combined with tenderness and stiffness. The pain is typically felt only when the muscle is stretched, contracted or put under pressure. DOMS tends to kick in from as soon as six to eight hours post-exercise, and peaks around the 48 hour mark, though there is much individual variation of this timeline. While lower body soreness tends to be more inhibiting and memorable, the phenomenon certainly isn’t restricted to the legs.
DOMS can occur anywhere in the body that has recently been exposed to unfamiliar or intense physical activity.
What causes DOMS?
Although the mechanism is not completely understood, the pain is thought to be a result of contractile tissue micro trauma (mechanical damage to the muscle on a very small scale). DOMS is increased with eccentric exercise where the muscles are contracting whilst lengthening – e.g. downhill running, longer distance running, plyometric exercises, and landing drills. As this is thought to create more micro trauma to the muscle.
It’s not Lactic Acid. Lactic acid is a by-product of cellular metabolism and normally clears within one hour of exercise. Despite the inconvenience of a significant bout of DOMS, a commonly held belief among trainees is that this soreness translates to progress, however there is a point of diminishing returns, and extreme muscle soreness can be counterproductive. First, severe soreness can significantly decrease force-producing capacity, which will be detrimental to performance in subsequent workouts. Second, motivation levels can take a hit when you’re hindered by severe muscle soreness. Neither of these will be beneficial for your long-term muscle building prospects.
One of the best ways to reduce the severity of DOMS is to progress slowly into a new program. Allowing the muscle time to adapt to new stress should help to minimise the severity of symptoms, but it is unlikely that soreness can be avoided altogether. It is also important to allow the muscle time to recover from work that produces soreness, and participating in the same exercises on subsequent days should to be well thought-out.
If the main goal is to reduce symptoms, then treatments such as ice pack application, soft tissue therapy, and pain killers may be useful in easing pain. It is important to be aware that the reduction of pain does not represent recovery. Rather, these treatments may only be effective in reducing symptoms of pain, but underlying muscle damage and reduced function may persist. However soft tissue therapy can be a beneficial treatment when implemented into a training programme. Throughout intense and regular training DOMS can prevent training due to muscle soreness and stiffness.
Soft tissue work can help assist reduce the symptoms felts by DOMS. Helping reduce inflammation, reduce pain restore flexibility. Conclusively, soft tissue therapy can increase recovery time and ultimately allow a quicker return to training.