Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common result of physical activity that stresses the muscle tissue beyond what it is accustomed to. DOMS develop after excessive exercise and is particularly prevalent if the exercises performed have a lengthening factor (Eccentric Nordic Hamstring curls).



What causes DOMS?

DOMS is caused by myofibril tears (muscle strains). When performing any physical exercise you cause micro muscle strains within your muscles. These muscle strains are vital to enable your muscles to grow and become stronger.  Muscle strains cause an inflammatory response within the muscle, instigating a dull ache within the muscles, this is known as DOMS.



What are the Symptoms of DOMS?

The classic DOMS sufferer describes a dull muscle ache that develops 24 to 48 hours after exercise, in particular strenuous exercise. The dull ache is localised to the involved muscles and will result in muscle stiffness plus tenderness.

DOMS can result in a short-term loss of muscle strength, reduced joint range of motion and possibly swelling of the affected muscle groups.



How to treat DOMS?

The good news is that once you start moving your sore muscles they will start to feel less sore. However, it is suggested that active rest and anti-inflammatory measures such as ice, should be used as initial forms of treatment.

A gentle massage and pressure garments have been shown in research studies to provide a reduction in the duration and severity of DOMS (Valle et al 2014, Hill et al 2013, Nelson N. 2014). Additionally, deep tissue massage should be avoided during the first 24 hours. Excessive muscle stretching in the early stages should also be avoided.

It is always a good idea to avoid aggressive exercise during the recovery phase. This is due to your muscles reduced capacity to cope with shock absorption, in-coordination, altered muscle recruitment patterns, reduced strength balance and contraction intensity. Alternatively, you could train a different muscle group to allow for optimal muscle recovery.



How can you prevent DOMS?

To minimise the development of DOMS the following points can be used:

– Take it slow and gradually build up the amount of exercise you do in your program

– Only increase your sets, reps and weights by 10% per week

– Be aware of the amount of lengthening exercises (eccentric exercises) you are including in your workouts

– Ensure you incorporate a thorough cool down following your workout

With the points mention above it is always important to remember that DOMS is a result of participating in physical activity and may not be able to be preventable, but may be reduced by incorporating the points above.



Prognosis of DOMS?

Most cases of DOMS gradually subside within one to three days and have no last effects. However, is any of the following applies to you, then it is best to seek advice from your physiotherapist.

– The pain is still present and not resolving more than 48 hours post-exercise

– Pain came on during the exercise (not the day after) and was a sudden onset

– The pain is located in and around the joints and not just limited to muscles

– There is swelling and discomfort in and around the joints




Is Soreness an indicator of a good workout?

It’s a common belief among exercisers that muscle soreness and quality of workout exist in a linear relationship. That the sorer you get from a workout, the better it is! I disagree with this as soreness from a workout is NOT always a sign of a good workout.

The amount of soreness varies for everyone. Current research shows that 33% of individual so not experience DOMS when heavy lengthening-based lifting protocols are followed, but they still experience training adaptations (muscle growth, strength, muscle endurance).

Not only does excessive soreness not equal a better workout, it could delay you from reaching your goals. If you are so sore that you can’t work out for 3 days and have a hard time performing activities of daily life, your energy expenditure will be significantly less and any benefit gained during the workout will be cancelled out.

There is very little evidence to show that muscle soreness is a reliable indicator of muscle damage, muscle growth, or that lack of soreness means that your workout wasn’t effective. Numerous studies have been completed to assess the levels of muscle soreness in relation to muscle damage/muscle growth. All studies reported much the same thing, with only moderate level of soreness associated with a high degree of damage. In short, you can’t reply on muscle soreness to gauge the extent to which a particular workout has damaged your muscles.



In Conclusion

DOMS are the result of strenuous exercise or completing exercises you are no accustomed to.

DOMS are not needed for a successful work out.

There are several things you can do to help prevent the intensity of your DOMS.

Movement is the best policy to help relieve DOMS.

A massage is always beneficial.

Contact your physiotherapist if you need any help.



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