Delayed-onset muscle syndrome, otherwise known as DOMS, is a very common phrase in the exercise industry. Most people experience an uncomfortable tenderness 12-72 hours after a strenuous exercise session, causing the muscles to feel sore, tired and painful.
What causes DOMS?
The truth is there isn't a particular type of exercise that triggers DOMS, any activity that places unaccustomed strain on muscles can increase the chance of soreness. DOMS develop as a result of microscopic damage to muscle fibers involved in the exercise. Therefore, muscle soreness is part of the repair process to restore microscopic muscle damage. It’s a common misconception that a build-up of lactic acid causes DOMS, but it is actually not involved in the process.
While prevention is the key, sometimes you will experience DOMS no matter what you do. Here are what the fitness professionals do to combat tender muscles.
Whether it’s incorporating dynamic stretches, or a simple routine of static stretches into your exercise routine, this will help to alleviate the tenderness of sore muscles.
Although Epsom salts are a well-known cure for muscle soreness, there is no scientific evidence that Epsom salts reduce muscle soreness. It could just be the combination of the warm water and the salts that create a more soothing atmosphere where your muscles naturally relax. Although after a particularly grueling session, soaking in a warm bath filled with salts certainly won’t do you any harm.
Post exercise nutrition, and nutrition in general, is vital for progress, aim to eat a meal that includes a good balance of carbohydrates, protein and healthy fats in order to feel fully restored the next day. Minor muscle tears which occur during your workout need to be repaired through protein synthesis, a process which transports amino acids and energy to your muscles to rebuild them and make them stronger.
Using Foam Roller / Massage Ball / Rolling Pin
Self-Soft Tissue Massage (either with foam roller, massage ball or rolling pin) is one of the most effective way to reduce the tenderness of DOMS. Use it to warm up muscles and increase circulation/blood flow at the beginning of your workout, and once you’ve finished the session during cool down.
It’s not a good thing when a person who does an intense workout, especially if they haven’t exercised for a while, rest the next day. An active recovery facilitates the reduction of creatine kinase in the muscle. Creatine Kinase is the physiological indication of DOM’s in your body's creatine kinase. Active recovery, ice baths, massage and self-massage have all been proven to facilitate the reduction of creatine kinase in the muscles. In other words, if you know you have done a pretty tough session in the gym, the best thing you can do the next day is exercise again. Needless to say, not at the same intensity. Try either going for a walk, a light session on the bike or if you have access to a gym that has a pool to facilitate your recovery versus enduring the pain.
Once destined only for seasoned athletes, the ice bath is now becoming a favorite of many amateur gym-goers. Plunging into cold water provides light compression for the muscles, which helps to circulate blood around the body and reduce inflammation. With this said, it’s best that this is left to athletes. Sometimes topical and local ice helps (placing it on a sore muscle or joint for 10-15 minutes once or twice a day), especially for most of us who are not pro athletes.
Get plenty of sleep
Sleep is your body’s natural recovery process, if you’re getting up at the crack of dawn and losing valuable sleep you are putting your body under stress and hindering your progress. If you’ve suddenly increased your training but haven’t altered your sleep, then this could be the cause of your DOMS.
No matter what your questions are, please feel free to reach out to one of our VanCity Physio professionals for answers. We can schedule you in for either a virtual appointment, or see you in person. Whatever your preference is, we’re here at your service so please don’t hesitate to reach out.