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A Guide to DOMS: Definition, Causes, Recovery & Prevention

Have you ever done a strenuous workout and felt muscle pains the following morning? Chances are that you are suffering from Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Don’t worry though, it is an indication that you have done the workout right! Unfortunately, this pain can get a bit unbearable and may impede your daily activity.

The good news is that there are several ways you can suppress this pain, and maybe even avoid it altogether!

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

Simply put, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is the muscle pain you experience after doing a tiring workout. This normally settles in 24-48 hours after your high-intensity workout.

Previously, it was thought that the pain is a result of lactic build-up. However, studies have found that DOMS occurs due to small muscle tears repairing itself after the workout.

What Causes Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

High-intensity workouts, especially workouts that consist of eccentric workouts, cause DOMS. This is because eccentric workouts require you to tense the muscle while lengthening it at the same time.

To make it easy to understand, think of yourself on a downhill run. Because of the slope, your quads will be lengthened and tense up with every stride. Therefore, it is the most worked muscle group in this particular workout. This is typically how delayed onset muscle soreness while running occurs. Just like a downhill run, different workouts would affect other muscle groups differently.

Symptoms of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Detecting the symptoms of DOMS is relatively easy. The most obvious ones are;

  • Muscle fatigue
  • Stiffness and reduced motion because of pain
  • Swelling
  • Tender muscles
  • Temporary loss of strength

As mentioned earlier, these symptoms can often be noticed 12-24 hours after the workout. These symptoms can last for up to three days, depending on how intense the workout was, or how you treat it and focus on recovery.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Treatment

What helps reduce Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness? The good thing is that DOMS is easily treatable. Of course, the pain can sometimes be a bit too much to bear, but there are several home remedies for that.


This is one of the easiest remedies out there. A massage after an intense workout, especially in the muscle group that was most stressed, helps ease DOMS.

According to several studies conducted on athletes[i], it was identified that athletes who received a massage between 24-72 hours after a workout experienced less soreness. However, receiving a massage soon after a workout can be quite difficult, time consuming and at times costly.

This is where a muscle recovery tool like SPRYNG really comes to use; specially after a heavy leg day or a long run. SPRYNG provides active compression that can be used in varying levels of intensity. It also has the option of two compression patterns that are  designed to help eliminate any soreness on your legs. Your calves will thank you for this afterward!

Cold Baths

This is a remedy used by elite athletes. Getting into cold baths can be very difficult, but is an effective way of reducing soreness. It has been found that a 10-15-minute dip in cold water (around 50-59°F) reduces the inflammation of the muscles[ii], thereby, reducing DOMS as well.

Anti-inflammatory Ointments and Gels

These topical applications are a good way to relieve the pain in the area that is sore. Just make sure you follow the instructions of the packaging. Better yet, get a second opinion from a physician before application, just to make sure. 

How to Avoid Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Avoiding DOMS completely is an impossible task. However, there are ways to reduce the intensity of the soreness. Here are some simple ways;

  • Correct warmup – Always make sure you do a thorough warm-up with dynamic stretching. This helps prepare the muscles for an intense workout.
  • One step at a time – Don’t rush your workouts. Do workouts at an intensity that suits you. It is alright if others are doing particular exercises faster. Even elites started from scratch.
  • Cool down – Just like your warm-up, your muscles need a bit of stretching to flush out the excess lactic acid. Moreover, this also helps the muscles to stay loose.
  • Hydrate – Drink water and consume electrolytes, so your muscles have fuel to function even after the workout.

Vulnerable Individuals

Athletes of many disciplines experience DOMS, regardless of them being an elite or an amateur. The most common are;

  • Track and field athletes
  • Cyclists
  • CrossFit athletes
  • Swimmers
  • Football players
  • Soccer players
  • Winter sports athletes (skiers, snowboarders, speed skaters, figure skaters, etc.)


[i] https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fphys.2017.00747/full

[ii] https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4802003/




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