Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS is described as muscle pain that occurs 12-48 hours after the muscles were subjected to vigorous exercise. It can be more frequently experienced when you exercise at a particular intensity that the body is not yet used to, like when you initiate a new exercise regimen or when you progress your usual exercise to a heightened intensity or duration.
The reason why you experience DOMS is because of microscopic tearing of the smaller components of your muscles called muscle fibers. Aside from the tearing, swelling can also occur at the muscle fibers, causing you to experience muscle pain. Studies say that the greater the intensity of exercise, the greater will the microscopic tearing be, and so it also follows that the soreness of the muscles will be of a greater extent. There are studies that further say that eccentric or lengthening contractions of muscles are more likely to cause DOMS. Examples of activities that require eccentric muscle contractions are slowly lowering of weights after you have lifted it and the downward motion that you perform during squats and push-ups.
Although DOMS can largely cause discomfort, rest assured that it is a normal phenomenon. It is actually expected that when you subject the muscles to strenuous exercise, DOMS will eventually occur in a few days. However, there are measures that you can do to prevent the occurrence of DOMS. To avoid the discomfort of having that dull, aching type of pain days after you exercise, follow these three important measures:
- Include a warm-up exercise for at least 10-15 minutes before your actual exercise regimen.
Gentle stretching of your muscles prior to your high intensity exercise can lower the tendency for you to experience DOMS. When you stretch prior to exercise, the muscles get more prepared for the actual exercise regimen.
- Perform a cool-down exercise for at least 10-15 minutes after the actual exercise regimen.
Having a cool-down exercise after vigorous exercise, rather than suddenly stopping, can help in preventing the occurrence of DOMS. Cool-down can be in a form of gentle stretching or low-intensity activities such as walking or marching in place.
- Progress your exercise gradually, not drastically.
With regards to progression of exercise, follow the ten percent rule. Progress the duration or intensity of your exercise only by ten percent a week. Also, be aware not to make sudden changes to your exercise regimen.