The dreaded post workout DOMS have become an ironic measure for many, of how successful their workout really was. DOMS are often linked to how hard you’ve pushed your body in the gym, for those who work out regularly, DOMS are usually a sign that you’ve surpassed your previous level of effort and exertion.
Though the pain for many is a satisfying gratification of effort, it’s still pain, and ultimately the areas of soreness will now need to recover before you can target them again. Thus the need for faster recovery from DOMS is a regular annoyance for many a serious gym goer.
What is DOMS?
DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, is sometimes confused with general muscle soreness. General muscle soreness is present in the short term lasting usually 24-36 hours max immediately after exercise and is normally fairly minor. DOMS typically sets in around 24 hours after a very tough workout and can last in some cases up to 7 days of relatively intense discomfort.
Let’s rewind for a moment and explain exactly what DOMS is. The DOMS phenomenon doesn’t have a precise scientific definitive cause, though the majority of experts and the overall most fitting explanation; is that DOMS are caused by the breaking of the tiny muscle fibres in your muscle tissue when you exert your muscles too long or too hard.
Like any area of tissue damage, these breakages cause small bleeds, bruising and ultimately inflammation deep within your tissue. Hence why DOMS can often be compared to the feeling of having been beaten up! The breakage of muscle fibres is also synonymous with weight training and hypertrophy, hence those on bodybuilding training plans which incorporate a combination of high reps and high weight movements, are those most likely to suffer from DOMS regularly.
DOMS and its severity are affected by:
- Your age
- Current muscle health
- Regularity of intense exercise
- Your natural inflammatory response
How Can I Prevent/Treat DOMS?
Preventing DOMS entirely is near to impossible, if you work out with enough intensity, particularly with a muscle building goal, they will come for you eventually. Though having a balanced diet with good fats, ample carbohydrates for recovery and high protein for tissue repair will keep them at bay. Ultimately the better prepared your body is for the stress of exercise, the better you will cope.
When it comes to treating DOMS, in essence it can be treated much like any soft tissue bruising and build-up of blood and toxins in the muscle. Try a combination of the following:
- Anti-Inflammatory Meds & Ice
The most common anti-inflammatory meds being Ibuprofen based. These drugs will encourage your body to lessen its inflammatory response thus reducing areas of bruising and at least provide short term pain relief. Though these drugs are linked to the slowed progression of muscle growth and long term heart and liver problems. I’d save these for rare extreme cases where possible. Alternative ways to reduce inflammation include the use of ice applied directly to affected muscles. This can also provide temporary relief, try this for 10-15 minutes at a time 3-4 times per day.
- Massage Therapy / Foam Rolling
If you’re investing in bettering your body you should be getting regular massage therapy in my opinion. Deep tissue massage stimulates blood flow and can release trapped blood and toxins including lactic acid that are trapped in the muscle. If you don’t have the time or spare cash for regular massages, you can always try foam rolling the affected area yourself.
- Low Intensity Cardio
One of my favourite solutions, particularly after a heavy legs day when I know the DOMS are coming to get me. I will take the time the next day to do a low intensity session on the bike for at least 30 minutes. Keeping the affected muscles moving and increasing blood flow will help disperse bruising and acid build up in the muscles naturally. Just don’t leave this too long or the DOMS will set in before you get a chance to tackle them!