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What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) and What Can You Do About It?

With many people returning to exercise in Melbourne, it is a great time to look at all things DOMS related and improve our ability to exercise pain free.

What is DOMS?

DOMS - 'Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness' is categorised by muscular stiffness and pain that typically begins 8-10 hours post exercise then peaks after 24-48 hours. When ever we exercise we do microtears inside muscles. Muscles that are not well trained or adapted to certain movements are more vulnerable to being damaged and therefore subsequent pain/DOMS feeling can occur.

When is it most likely to occur?

With a sudden return to exercise, a jump in training volume or intensity of physical activity that the bodies connective tissue, tendons and muscles are not adapted to can lead to DOMS. It is most commonly experienced post resistance training sessions that are very high intensity relative to the individual.

How to prevent DOMS?

  • Be cautious with intensity and volume when the exercise is new or being done after a long lay off period

  • Warm up well - aerobic exercise, dynamic stretching, light resistance before heavy weights

  • Warm down properly - eg 5-10min jog/walk, and gentle stretch

Is getting DOMS normal post exercise?

As discussed above, exercise causes microtears in muscles. Not to be confused with a muscular strain or tear, microtears are healthy and necessary for the continued cycle of adaptation to occur. Microtears lead to physical reactions in the body, sending blood and nutrients to the area where mild trauma has occurred. Broadly speaking adaptation is your bodies physiological changes in the muscles that allow you to cope with the volume/intensity of the exercise you need the muscles, ligaments and tendons to do. With that said, DOMS is beyond a normal amount of muscular stiffness and pain that is necessary for adaptation to occur.

Once you think you are experiencing DOMS what can you do?

  • Active rest including walking, swimming, and yoga. Low impact and very low resistance movement helps alleviate muscle soreness and promote healthy regeneration of tendons, and muscle tissue.

  • Remedial massage therapy can help to minimize the connective tissue dysfunction, help restore range of motion, reduce guarding/tension of muscles among other benefits resulting in less pain and a faster return to training.

  • Cold water therapy is effective in reducing inflammation and swelling. For lower extremity DOMS, an effective method is to fill a bath/tub with waist high cold water, add some ice to get the temperature to <15°C and take the plunge for up to 10min. Be slow with your movements getting out, and you will begin to notice the benefits 6 to 8 hours after the ice bath.

If you think you might be experiencing DOMS or would like help managing pain and discomfort from physical exercise we would love to hear from you to improve your recovery. Check out to get a remedial massage treatment with High Performance Bodywork