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DOMS- Why It Hurts After You Exercise & What You Can Do About It

So, yesterday saw all indoor pools and gyms reopen in England since we went into lockdown on March 23rd.

If you were at the front of the queue eagerly waiting to get back in, or perhaps becoming a gym junkie is one of your post lockdown resolutions, then this one's for you...


Who, or what, is DOMS I hear you cry! DOMS is a clever little acronym that stands for Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness. This basically describes that feeling of pain you get in your muscles a day or two after you've done a workout. The term was first coined way back in 1900 by an American Doctor called Theodore Hough.

If you get pain during, or immediately after, a workout this is not DOMS territory. This is actually something we call acute muscle soreness, and comes on as the result of lactic acid build up, more commonly known as a stitch.

Ok... So What Causes DOMS?

There is a reason why words such as "shredded", "ripped" and "cut" are associated with building muscle. When you perform a level of activity, that you're not already accustomed to, you create microscopic tears, or microtrauma, in your muscle fibers. Your body seeks to repair the damaged tissue causing inflammation in the associated areas. This results in symptoms such as limited range of movement, tenderness and temporary loss of muscle strength.

That Doesn't Sound Like Fun... Maybe I Should Avoid ALL Exercise!

Ahhhh... the old avoidance chestnut! Trust me, I FULLY hear you. Nobody likes to be in pain and many have a misguided mentality that DOMS is just part of getting active, aka... "no pain, no gain". In reality, this doesn't have to be the case at all. Here are my top 5 tips to prevent DOMS.

1. Embrace Your Inner Tortoise

Many of us know the Aesop fable involving a race between an arrogant Hare who mocked the slow-moving Tortoise. In his smugness the Hare took a nap only to wake up and find the tortoise had won. Rule number one: you MUST build up your level of activity gradually. Think, "slow and steady wins the race". By doing this you will lower the possibility of getting DOMS and avoid a whole heap of injury related ailments including stress fractures. Always remember that your personal fitness journey is no one else's business. It's important to increase your intensity, whether that be in reps, weight or time, by no more than 10% a week.

2. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate!

If I've said it once I've said it a gazillion times. Water is a MAJOR KEY! Your muscles are made from 79% water... 79! Having the slightest level of dehydration can make your DOMS worse and deprive your muscles of vital electrolytes, leading to cramps, lack of muscle strength and control. DRINK MORE WATER!

3. Book A Massage (You Knew This Was Coming!)

Well, of course I would put this on the list right? A shameless plug? Maybe. But, a systematic review and meta-analysis study clearly shows that muscle soreness ratings decrease significantly when participants receive massage intervention compared with no intervention at 24hrs, 48hrs and 72 hrs. Furthermore, the serum CK level, which is a biomarker for muscle damage, was reduced when participants received massage intervention vs. those who did not. All of the current evidence suggests that massage therapy following strenuous exercise could be effective for alleviating DOMS and improving muscle performance. FYI, avoid a deep tissue treatment post-workout otherwise you'll just be further traumatising your already damaged tissue. Instead, a book a Soft Tissue & Remedial treatment.

4. Catch Some Zzz's

Generally speaking, having good sleep hygiene is probably one of the best things you could do for your overall health and wellness. In terms of DOMS, muscle-building chemicals, like Human Growth Hormone, which is essential for healing and repairing your body, are produced naturally when you are in stages 3 and 4 of sleep. A minimum 7 hour post-workout snooze will help your body recover better and reduce the effects of DOMS.

5. Ice Ice Baby

It's getting cold in here, so take off all your clothes...anddddd calmly sit in freezing cold water. K? Thx. Bye. This is only for the gritty ones amongst us! Evidence suggests that cold water immersion (CWI) can effectively prevent and reduce the effects of DOMS and perceived fatigue post-workout. This study suggests 11–15°C over 11–15 min is optimal. Research has shown that taking an ice bath may reduce swelling, local inflammation and the feeling of pain. Given that ice usually creates a numbing effect, it's no surprise that this research found cold exposure has a direct analgesic impact, reducing the feeling of DOMS.

Have any of these worked for you? Do you have a different tactic that you swear by to reduce your DOMS? Got a question? Let me know in the comments below!

#SkynDeep #MissOnAMish #DOMS


My blog provides general information and discussions about health and related subjects. The information and other content provided in this blog, or in any linked materials, are not intended and should not be construed as medical advice, nor is the information a substitute for professional medical expertise or treatment.

If you or any other person has a medical concern, you should consult with your health care provider or seek other professional medical treatment. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something that you have read on this blog or in any linked materials. If you think you may have a medical emergency, call your doctor or emergency services immediately.

The opinions and views expressed on this blog and website have no relation to those of any academic, hospital, health practice or other institution.

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