DOMS What is it and more importantly how will it affect my training and what is the best way to recover from this common pain.
DOMS is a condition not restricted to powerlifters, bodybuilders or professional athletes, If you have ever completed an unfamiliar workout or pushed a training session beyond you usual limits then the chances are you have felt the effects and sometimes debilitating pain.
When do you get DOMS ?
DOMS usually becomes noticeable around 8 hours post-workout and usually peaks 48-72 hours later.
What causes DOMS ?
DOMS is mainly caused by damage to the muscle fibres as a result of unaccustomed exercise. However severe pain does not correlate with more damage, just that there is damage to the fibres. Eccentric exercises are likely to cause more severe Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness than Concentric exercise.
Electron micrographs of ultrastructural changes (disrupted sarcomeres) observed in a myofiber from an exercised muscle (left; obtained 1 h after bout 1) and the intact structure of a control fiber (right)
Metabolic stress is another cause of DOMS, Metabolic stress during exercise can generate changes to the cell membrane on a structural level, this damage allows fluids and other factors to enter the cell causing inflammation.
NOTE: for those who are aiming to loose weight and are horrified when they gain instead of loosing after a workout, this fluid retention in the cells is the cause, you have not gained fat from training.
Lactic Acid does NOT cause DOMS, Researchers who have studied lactate levels immediately after exercise found little correlation with the level of muscle soreness felt a few days later.
How can I avoid or reduce DOMS ?
The best way to avoid DOMS is to make a slow entry into any new training program you choose to do. In the first two week, reduced volume and intensity is advised to allow the muscles to adapt to the new movement patterns.
Warming up prior to an exercise is an important factor in preventing major injuries, warming up. Stretching before exercise has not been shown to reduce or prevent DOMS.
Herbert RD, de Noronha M, Kamper SJ. Stretching to prevent or reduce muscle soreness after exercise. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2011;(7):CD004577
Foam Rolling, has in some studies been shown to assist with recovery and reduce muscle tenderness.
Massage has been shown decreases in pain associated with DOMS after a massage, however, massage does not effect muscle metabolites like glycogen or lactate. Massage can increased blood flow, reduced muscle tension, improve mood. Direct pressure from massage can increase ROM and reduce stiffness. These benefits assist athletes by enhancing performance and reducing injury risk.
Caffeine, has the ability to reduce DOMS, in this study a dose of 5mg/kg bodyweight found a beneficial effect of caffeine on soreness. Caffeine affects the activity of the central nervous system, blocking adenosine receptors, and resulting in decreased levels of soreness.
Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen have often been used as a treatment for DOMS. Despite a strong theoretical backing, research looking at the effectiveness these treatments have been mixed. It’s been shown in some studies that these drugs interfere with the rate of recovery from training by masking signals that begin the construction and repair process.
Does DOMS mean my muscles are growing ?
Muscles get sore because they are not adapted to exercising, not because they are growing.