The feeling of soreness after engaging in any form of physical activity is considered common. Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) involves muscle soreness, pain or stiffness that develops 1-2 days after exercise. Muscle soreness is frequently felt once the individual starts a new exercise routine as well as modifying an exercise regimen or drastically increasing the intensity or duration of the exercise routine.
Even though it can be alarming for those who are new to exercise, delayed onset muscle soreness is a normal response to an unfamiliar exertion and part of the adaptation process that eventually leads to improved strength and stamina as the muscles recover and build-up. Remember that it is usually worse during the initial 2 days after a new exercise routine and steadily subsides over the next few days.
Causes of muscle soreness
Delayed onset muscle soreness is believed to be due to the microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers. The degree of tearing depends on how long and hard the exercise was and type of exercise engaged in.
Any type of movement that the individual is not used to can lead to DOMS, but activities involving eccentric muscle contractions seem to cause the most soreness. These activities include going down stairs, lowering weights, downward movement of push-ups and squats as well as running downhill.
Ideal treatment for muscle soreness
Remember that there is no simple way to manage delayed onset muscle soreness. In the past, mild stretching was recommended to minimize muscle soreness. On the other hand, it was discovered in one study that stretching is not effective in preventing soreness. The best advice when treating DOMS is to prevent it from developing in the first place.
Measures to manage muscle soreness
- The individual should rest for some time since the muscle soreness typically subsides within 3-7 days without requiring any form of treatment.
- Active recovery involves performing simple low-impact aerobic exercise to increase the flow of blood which is linked with reduced muscle soreness. After engaging in an intense exercise routine, this technique should be used as part of the cooling down phase.
- Sports massage can help minimize muscle soreness and reduce swelling but it has no effect on the muscle functionality.
- RICE method has been the standard method used in managing acute injuries especially in cases in which the soreness is intense.
- Ice bath or contrast water bath has been used but there is no clear proof that it is effective.
- Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as ibuprofen, aspirin or naproxen sodium can help reduce muscle soreness temporarily but will not hasten the healing process.
- Make sure that the muscle soreness has reduced completely before the individual engages in any strenuous activity.
- Proper warm-up must be done before starting an exercise routine. Based on studies conducted, warming up before unaccustomed eccentric exercise can help minimize DOMS.
In case the muscle soreness and pain persists longer than 7 days or increases despite these measures, it is best to consult a doctor for proper assessment.