Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is common for anyone who enjoys moving their body and taking on new activities. You’ve likely experienced a deep dull muscle ache in your legs or arms a couple days after a good workout. This deep muscle soreness is a very different feeling than sore and stiff joints, it literally feels like your muscles are on fire.
Typically, you’ll wake up two days after a long run, hard bike ride, all-day tennis tournament, or big session in the gym and feel like you can’t move. Your legs are so sore that you struggle to walk up and down stairs and to simply walk around the house. Your arms are so heavy it’s challenging to raise them above your head to shampoo your hair or to pick up your laptop.
This is the DOMS. DOMS is a signal that you’ve pushed your body and placed your muscles under extra load and strain. The good news is that DOMS won’t last forever and that you can take measures to lessen the impacts of DOMS.
Keep reading to learn the facts on DOMS, including why it happens, the symptoms of DOMS, and how you can recover naturally from DOMS. Above all else, don’t worry if you’re experiencing DOMS – the deep muscle heaviness and aches will go away.
The No Pain No Gain Myth
Before we get into the facts behind DOMS, we want to bust the no pain no gain myth. Yes, you may feel some muscle soreness when you stress your body differently. However, experiencing pain in your muscles after working out, is not a good thing or a sign that you’re building real fitness.
It’s important to understand that you don’t need to suffer to benefit from your exercise routine. Yes, you may have sore legs after a sprint workout or a heavy squat session in the gym. But this should be an anomaly and not a normality.
Remember that the pain in your muscles can be a sign of real muscular and tissue damage. Instead of the no pain no gain mentality, we want you to have a regular exercise for long health mentality.
What Is DOMS?
DOMS occurs when you load your muscles during a stressful activity such as tough squat routine, a long run that involves steep descents, or a challenging CrossFit workout of the day (WOD). Whenever you work out or exercise, you introduce small micro-tears to your muscles, the process of healing these micro-tears is what builds and strengthens your muscles.
However, these micro-tears also cause inflammation in your muscles and this inflammation is what causes the muscle soreness or DOMS. This deep muscle ache, stiffness, soreness, and inflammation doesn’t happen after every workout, run, or tennis game. DOMS only occurs when you’ve placed your muscles under new stress.
This stress doesn’t need to be extreme and in fact, it can be what appears to be a minor change in your activity level that causes DOMS. Maybe you went on a long weekend hiking trip for the first time and on the third day your legs were super heavy and achy – this is DOMS. Perhaps you’re training for a marathon and a couple days after your first long run, your upper thighs are super sore that you feel like you can’t run – this is DOMS. Or if you’ve recently joined a gym and have started lifting weights, you might have heavy sore arms two days after your first time doing bicep curls – this is DOMS.
DOMS typically hits within the 24 – 72 hour period after an intense or new activity. This delayed reaction has to do with how the body heals the micro-tears, remember it takes time for the inflammatory healing process to start building in your body.
What Are The Symptoms of DOMS?
Along with the dull deep muscle ache in your legs or arms, the symptoms of DOMS can include:
- Swollen muscles that are sensitive to touch.
- Stiff muscles that makes it challenging to walk or carry household items.
- A feeling of weakness in the impacted muscles. It might feel like your thighs can’t support your weight when you walk down the stairs.
- Stretching exacerbates the sensations in your muscles.
It’s important to be aware of how your body feels a few days after the onset of DOMS. If you’re experiencing a sharp pain in a muscle or a persistent ache that is very sore, you should not ignore these signals. This can be an indication that you’re not experiencing DOMS and may have done some damage to your muscles and tissues, such as a strain, sprain, tear, or some type of tendinitis.
How To Recover From DOMS
To limit the sensations of DOMS and to reduce the inflammation in your body, so you can get back to your favorite activity sooner, do the following:
- Before your workout make sure you warm-up your body. This means doing some light stretching, a brisk walk, a short ride on an exercise bike, etc. You want to wake up your muscles and body systems to prepare them for what is ahead.
- Pay attention to your diet. Eat a pre-workout snack so your body has some fuel to power your walk, run, bodybuilding session, hike, etc.
- Make sure you’re well hydrated. Your muscles require water to power you through your workouts. Drink before, during, and after your workout. If you’re exercising in the hot weather, consider using a natural electrolyte supplement to help replace the sodium, vitamins, and minerals you lose in your sweat.
- After your workout, it’s important that you enable your muscles to recover. This includes eating a high-carb snack within 30-45 minutes after your workout. For example, if you’ve just completed your Sunday long run, you should have a snack such as a couple slices of bread with natural peanut butter or drink a specialized recovery smoothie.
- Remember to stretch afterwards. Don’t end your run at your front door and immediately get on with your day. Take a few minutes to stretch out your upper thighs, your calf muscles, your hamstrings, and lower back.
- Keep working out. You need to get your muscles moving, this stimulates the blood flow and helps reduce the symptoms of DOMS. Sitting and doing nothing can make you feel tight and then make it harder to get back to your regular work-out.
- Incorporate natural supplements into your daily diet. Recent research has highlighted the benefits of taking curcumin on a daily basis to help mitigate the impacts of DOMS. Because curcumin has anti-inflammatory effects, this natural ingredient can help you recover from DOMS.
Don’t Let DOMS Slow You Down
We want you to keep moving your body and pushing your limits. If you do experience DOMS, don’t despair or stress. Yes, it’s uncomfortable and can be very challenging. But we want you to remember our tips on how to prevent and recover from DOMS.
Follow the basics of a good warm-up, a healthy balanced diet, proper hydration, stretching after you exercise, and providing muscle support with a natural anti-inflammatory supplement such as curcumin and SierraSil. Your body will thank you, your muscles will strengthen, you’ll reduce inflammation, and you’ll be able to continue doing the exercises and activities you enjoy.