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What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?

Have you ever worked out and thought, “Hmm, I think I’ll be sore from this”. But then the next day you AREN’T sore. You feel great! You think you’ve made it. Until the next day…. you are miserably sore! That soreness you feel is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS for short. Often this doesn’t set in until the 2nd day after the exercise (hence the “delayed”) and could last for a day or two or even longer if you’ve really overdone it.


What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?

DOMS happens when you use your muscles in a way they're not used to, like running farther than usual or doing new exercises. Our muscle cells naturally experience minor damage with exercise. This is a normal process that is then repaired, improving them slightly each time. This is how we become stronger over time.

A performance physical therapist is coaching a patient with a pull-up in Asheville, NC.

When does DOMS happen?

DOMS usually shows up 24 to 48 hours after you've exercised. However, it is more likely to happen with eccentric muscle contractions compared to concentric muscle contractions. For example, if you focus on 3 second eccentric/negative lowering phase with squats compared to a fast lowering phase, you will have more DOMS. Another example is if you perform pull-up eccentrics/negatives where you start at the top of the bar and lower down slowly, you will have more DOMS than from kipping pull-ups.

What should you do if you have DOMS?


Here are some things you can do to feel better:


1. Rest: Give your muscles time to recover. It's okay to take it easy for a day or two. But read the next point!


2. Continue moving! Going for a walk or doing a low intensity bike ride can be really helpful for getting rid of soreness.


3. Stretching: Moving your body with flowy, dynamic movements can help you feel better when you have DOMS.


4. Warm Baths: Taking a warm bath with Epsom salt can be helpful.


5. Hydrate and Eat Well: Drink plenty of water and eat healthy foods. This helps your muscles recover faster.


The big takeaway is that soreness is normal, even DOMS. This is especially true when you start a new exercise, increase your volume in said exercise, or simply just overdo it. Remember, you do NOT need to be sore for a workout to be effective. But there are times when it is unavoidable, and it is a natural part of the process of building muscle.

I hope this was helpful! Don't hesitate to reach out with any questions, especially if you are in the Asheville or surrounding areas.


Dr. Sieara Hinshaw



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