Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is the muscle pain and weakness that comes on after exercise – particularly unfamiliarly intense exercise – and usually peaks two days later. DOMs is the reason you’ll be able to spot a London marathon runner a mile off as they waddle down the stairs to the tube tomorrow morning.
DOMs is common to all sports but you’ll be more prone to it if your exercise is new to you or it involves lots of eccentric contractions. This is where the muscles are lengthening whilst they’re contracting, e.g. weighted squats or running downhill. To add to the fun it’s not just about pain! Soreness is just one symptom of DOMS. Local swelling, tenderness, reduced muscle strength and joint stiffness are all part of the experience.
But why does it occur? Is DOMS all to do with the infamous Lactic Acid?
No! A study in Clinics in Sports Medicine showed that DOMS is the result of microtrauma occurring in your muscles and connective tissue during exercise. This microdamage causes inflammation which leads to pain. Don’t panic though… a certain amount of microtrauma is an important part of your muscle development. Its the reparation and remodelling of your muscles after exercise that helps their growth.
Stretching is NOT the best way to prevent and treat DOMS.
A Cochrane Review looking at the effects of stretching before or after exercise evaluated that stretching didn’t reduce the effect of DOMS in healthy adults. In fact, static stretching before exercise is thought to actually have a negative effect on your power and strength. Your best bet is to warm-up thoroughly with dynamic stretching and ensure you’ve done a proper cool-down at the end. Moreover, when starting a new exercise routine progress slowly and cautiously.
So how can I recover best?
A sports massage helps to flush your aching muscles with fresh blood which can speed up the recovery process. A study in the Journal of Exercise Rehab found that a massage helps with getting normal movement back as well as reducing soreness.
Some people also use foam rolling and contrast showers (alternating between hot and cold) to help with DOMS. Your diet is also important – Omega-3 supplements can help with inflammation and a new study in the Clinical Journal of Sports Medicine has suggested that taking saffron as a preventative measure can reduce the effects.
Congratulations to all those who ran the marathon today – we’re wishing you a speedy recovery!