Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS): What it is, Why it Happens, How to get rid of it

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS): What it is, Why it Happens, How to get rid of it

Do you really know what DOMS are and why they appear?

I’m sure you’ve all suffered many times from muscle pain after a demanding training session.

The dreaded discomfort that are commonly known as DOMS…

In this entry we will try to shed light on everything related to DOMS. We will talk about those who can suffer from this uncomfortable muscle pain and how we can treat them to reduce or minimize their symptoms

What are DOMS really and when do they appear?

DOMS, more technically known as delayed-onset muscle pain, are mainly characterized by intense pain located in a muscular area resulting from a previous over-exertion, with an intensity higher than that which we usually work with normally.

Although the degree of muscular pain and its duration may depend on different individual factors such as the physical form of the individual or the intensity and duration of the exercise carried out, the fact is that the common reason for suffering from such pain is a loss of flexibility in the worked muscle.

Muscle fibre

Structure of the Muscle Fibre

As a response to overexertion to which the muscle is not accustomed, certain structural alterations appear in the connective and muscular tissue, which lead to micro tears in the tissue, what we generally call myofibrils, thus forcing our body to begin a process of reconstruction and recovery to face new exertion

Who is affected by DOMS?

As a general rule, DOMS are associated with beginners or those who do not start out in good physical shape, which is certainly why it is easier to suffer from them.

Especially if you are doing exercises that require muscle contraction, the truth is that even the most expert are not exempt from suffering from it

Even if you are a fit person and train regularly, the very exigency and the increase in the intensity of the training that requires an optimal progression to evolve, will make the dreaded stiffness appear again because fibrillary micro tears typical of overexertion will be created again.

Although in both cases we will suffer from muscular pain for a few days, this will be synonymous with having practiced intense and quality training which is the fundamental objective that we pursue.

With proper rest we will be more than ready to tackle another training.

Is it advisable to train if you are suffering from a muscle ache?

There are no impediments to training if you have a muscle ache, except for the discomfort you suffer.

Obviously, the ideal is that on the most intense day of pain, which is usually the second, you opt for rest and return to your routine for the rest of the lighter days in terms of pain.

When we return, we will try to approach the training with exercises at lower intensity and not so long lasting until we reach full recovery. Generally, after four or five days all the discomfort will subside.

Let us clarify that although we still have discomfort, our body is perfectly prepared for a new training since we are neither weaker nor have we lost strength

Muscular ailment

We only suffer from a muscular ailment that is typical of inflammation and which, generally, tends to be more intense in somewhat weaker areas such as the muscular joints and tendons near the joints

In addition to this, returning to training once the epicentre of pain has passed will do us good to increase the blood supply to the affected muscular area, thus facilitating recovery and eliminating waste from the tissue affected by micro tears

Theories and myths about the appearance of DOMS

As they are mysterious, DOMS have also had many theories and myths that tried to explain the reasons for their appearance. Some of them have become vaguely outdated, obsolete or forgotten, as for example the case of the theory of electrical discharges.

However, there are others, such as the theory of the appearance of lactic acid-based doms, which is still very important. But what is true about it?

Lactic acid theory

One theory has been propagated for many years and is still echoed by many today.

According to this theory, muscle soreness is the result of an accumulation of lactic acid in the muscle, due to previous overexertion, which eventually crystallises.

This theory has now been discarded as the muscle biopsies carried out have not shown any presence of lactic crystals. Moreover, the thermal conditions for the phenomenon of crystallization to occur should fall below -5°C, a temperature that is obviously not reached by the human body

Fibrillary micro-crack theory

This is the current theory that gives meaning to the appearance of the DOMS.

As mentioned above, muscle pain arises as a response to an over-exertion of intensity or duration to which we are not adapted, giving rise to the appearance of fibrillary micro-tears that lead to slight inflammation.

Fibrillary micro-crack

How to prevent or minimise muscle pain

As general advice to prevent muscle soreness, it is important not to forget to do proper stretching and warmups before physical activity.

We should always try to make an adequate progression and not to be too abrupt, both in daily training and in the first days if you are starting to exercise for the first time.


Try loosening up your muscles from time to time while you are exercising, this way we can ensure good blood flow

Don’t forget to finish the training session with a small amount of muscle stretching to facilitate recovery

DOMS, how to get rid of them?

It goes without saying, drinking water with sugar will not help you in this purpose

However, there are some aids that can minimise the symptoms or muscle pain caused by DOMS. A good option is to resort to physical therapies such as massage or in more acute cases ultrasound or electrostimulation, although this is not usually necessary.

If the pain is very persistent or becomes excessively severe in the days that follow, we can also help ourselves by taking an anti-inflammatory painkiller, because let’s remember that in the end what really happens to our muscle fibres is that they have suffered a rupture that leads to a small amount of inflammation

Active Recuperation

And of course, the best thing is to exercise again.

But it will depend on the level of muscle pain that the muscle spasms cause. But it will always be good for us because it will increase blood circulation and help oxygenate the muscles.

Active recuperation

If the pain is mild or moderate

We can do an exercise at a moderate pace of about 20 minutes initially and gradually increase its intensity.

On many occasions, with those 20 minutes, the mild or moderate pain will subside and we will be able to carry out the training session we had planned without any major problem.

Cool down

It is essential that at the end of the training session we carry out a downtime or cool down phase so that the muscles return to a calm state, with a session of stretching that will make our muscles recover better from the intensity of the training

If pain is elevated

The ideal would be not to train at high intensity, we could do it at low intensity or do an active rest session with a LISS type cardiovascular exercise, such as a walk or low activity in a swimming pool.

I am not in favour of taking oral anti-inflammatories, except for exceptional cases and occasional use

Cardio liss

Failing that, one of the latest investigations reveals that the use of Turmeric could have even better effects than these drugs, and of course, without the side effects

Apply ice

We can also apply ice, as cryotherapy has been shown to be very effective in reducing pain and inflammation.

Presumably, by limiting inflammation through vasoconstriction of the capillaries and arterioles in the affected area, as well as temporarily cushioning the nerve endings, which temporarily relieves the pain.

Apply ice

Ice is most effective when the ice pack is rubbed gently back and forth over the affected area for no more than ten minutes

Compression Bandages

We also have to mention the use of compression bandages, as one study found that compression bandages on the legs was more effective than massage.

Compression bandages

Moderate pressure, releasing frequent dressing to encourage blood circulation, can help prevent swelling and pain

Myofascial Release Techniques

The Benefits of Moving contribute to reducing muscle pain after training.

Foam roller

Also, we can use instruments like Foam Roller through which it will be easy to apply these self-inflicted massages

Supplementing for DOMS


Turmeric extract is a powerful anti-inflammatory that works thanks to the presence of polyphenols characteristic of the plant’s roots, called curcuminoids.

They have been shown to modulate numerous molecular pathways of inflammation (TNF-alpha, NF-kb, IL-6 cytokine, IL-1alpha), which thanks to the presence of bioperine increase their activity by up to 2000%.

The addition of bromelain, a natural complex of proteolytic enzymes from NAC, a powerful thiol donor and glutathione precursor, makes Turmeric Extract (50:1) and Bromelain Plus a great supplement for:

  • Improving muscle function;
  • Reducing inflammation and oxidation;
  • Mitigate pain induced by muscle damage.


And as a supplement we recommend the use of Magnesium.

It plays a fundamental role in practically all cells (the second most important element) and is vital in over 300 chemical processes that support basic human health and function.

Its functionality in relation to physical exercise allows the maintenance of the correct process of muscular contraction, the improvement in the capture and use of oxygen and the production of energy.

It also contributes to regulate the electrolyte balance, so it will be a key tool to prevent possible muscle cramps, involved with risk of injury


Another supplement we can use is the Branched Amino Acids or BCAAs.

One of their benefits is the shortening of the recovery time between sports sessions


It has been shown that caffeine can have a positive influence on reducing late-onset muscle damage, as indicated by certain studies.

One of the reasons for this seems to be that the receptors of the nervous system involved with the sensation of muscle pain are blocked.

Effect of caffeine on muscle cramps

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About David Diaz Gil
David Diaz Gil
David Díaz Gil contributes with excellent articles in which he deposits the essence of his experience as well as scientific rigor.
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