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About Muscle Soreness

DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) Explained

© 2016 ; all rights reserved; content may not be copied, rewritten, or republished without author’s written permission. Author’s Google profile

A skeletal muscle fiber; image courtesy of

We’ve all been there at one time or another; you raise your training load, added something different to your tried and true routine or tried a new activity. You’re feeling awesome until you greet the next morning and it hurts to get out of bed.

This condition is also called DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness). That’s an acronym that your doctor will use but you can use it to impress your running buddies.

As Jon Mike, CSCS, NSCA-CPT and PhD candidate in Exercise Science at the University of New Mexico puts it, “DOMS is muscle soreness that becomes evident six-to-eight hours following activity, peaking around 24 to 48 hours post-training. While the symptoms will often start to diminish at about 72 hours, the precise time course and extent of DOMS is highly variable.”

The condition is most often encountered when introducing a new training regimen, be it a new activity, heightened intensity, or training volume. It also rears its ugly head with folks who are new to physical activity in general as many a New Years resolutioner will tell you.

Lauren Haythe, certified Kinesis Myofascial Integration Practitioner and yoga teacher reports, “Your body is making adaptations to better prepare your muscles to do that activity again. But, as you continue on, you can build up from there, and you won’t be so sore.”

Causes and Symptoms of Muscle Soreness

Even though virtually all kinds of muscle contraction are known to result in soreness, eccentric muscle contraction is the type that’s most often associated with DOMS. This is when your muscle lengthens at the same time that it contracts.

A few examples of these activities are running down hills, lowering weights, and moving down into a squat or push-up position. Mike says, “There is also some evidence that upper body movement creates more soreness than lower body exercises.”

Although discomfort in your muscles is the most obvious symptom of DOMS, there are other symptoms as well. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) reports that these may include a reduced range of motion and stiffness in your joints as well as local swelling accompanied by tenderness, and diminished strength in the associated muscle.

These symptoms show up gradually after completing exercise. This is what differentiates DOMS from the acute pain that can manifest as the physical activity is taking place.

The Facts and Myths of Muscle Soreness

There are many “facts” that are really myths bandied about in the gym and on the road. You might be surprised at some of them. Here are a few of these myths and explanations of what is really going on.

If you have experiences or tips on muscle soreness for our readers, please share them below.

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