Post exercise soreness…why does it happen?
It’s the harsh reality that follows a hard workout or the first intense workout after a long period of relatively more mellow activity…DOMS: delayed onset muscle soreness.
It’s cruel! It’s makes you want to lie on the couch for a few days, but oh, the agony when it comes to getting OFF that couch, or the toilet…you know what I’m talking about!
DOMS is also called “muscle fever” and is the pain and stiffness felt in muscles hours to days after a bout of unaccustomed or strenuous exercise. Eccentric exercise is the culprit. It is use of the muscle in a way that loads it while it is lengthening. It is the lengthening factor that causes the micro-tearing. It is typically the worst at 24 to 72 hours after the activity. It can last up to 5-7 days.
What is it? DOMS is micro-tearing of muscle tissue that unleashes an inflammatory response. Previously, it was believed that DOMS was a build up of lactic acid but it seems that it is damage on a deep level within the muscle and the connective tissue. The torn tissues become mechanically sensitive, ie. they don’t like to be stretched, activated or even touched! Inflammation takes a little while to set in, which may explain why the pain and stiffness don’t set in immediately.
The good news!
- It can be prevented by introducing exercise in a more gradual/less intense fashion, by building up over a long period of time.
- Lack of stretching and/or warming up don’t seem to prevent DOMS so if you skip these things
- Eccentric exercise, which is the type of contraction that produces the most DOMS is one of the best ways of gaining strength quickly (albeit harshly) so you’ll see results!
- Subsequent bouts of this type of exercise are less painful and continued challenges of this type cause a training effect (meaning you eventually get stronger as your body rebuilds itself!)
When you are in the midst of DOMS, what should you do?
Treatment constitutes INCREASING blood flow to the area, which, counter intuitively means EXERCISING (lighter cardio seems to work well) along with some massage therapy to help the body in flushing the products of inflammation, ice or heat.