What is DOMS and How do I Deal with It?
Okay, maybe in this case, it’s better if it was “never”.
If you’ve ever done a really tough workout (hello, Tempo 40m Lower Body Build: Mechanical Dropsets), run a long race, or even just returned to your normal routine after some time off, you know what we’re talking about.
That dull ache in your hammies, or the inability to sit down on a toilet properly.
You, friend, have a case of the DOMS.
DOMS stands for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and just like the name implies, DOMS is that feeling of soreness you might get a day to a few days after some strenuous exercise.
It shouldn’t be confused with acute muscle soreness, which is that burning feeling you experience when you’re crushing it in a class. While the build-up of lactic acid (a biological by-product that causes muscle fatigue) in your muscles may be responsible for acute muscle soreness, it has nothing to do with DOMS.
While research is still out on the singular cause of DOMS, these are a few possibilities. One is that DOMS occur because of tiny microscopic tears in your muscle fibers caused during your physical badassery. Another is that your body tries to adapt and reacts to these tears by causing inflammation—and thereby soreness—in those muscles). Another theory is that these tears can actually release minerals and free radicals from your muscles and can cause inflammation as well and create that sense of soreness. There’s also likely some genetic predisposition as well for getting sore and to what extent.
And where do these tears come from? You’ll mostly get this mini-muscle mutilation from eccentric exercises AKA exercises that cause lengthening of your muscles, like a bicep curl or deadlift. You’ll be a lot less sore (and literally torn up) from isometric exercises like planks.
All this to say, you’ve worked hard, and your muscles hurt. Now what?
While it sounds counterintuitive, especially while you’re hobbling down the stairs, one of the best ways to get over the sore is to keep on moving.
If your legs are feeling a bit dead, consider going for a walk, or if you can bear it, even a low-intensity run. Getting your legs moving can help your legs recover from soreness quicker — if anything make them feel a little less stiff than sitting on the couch.
There isn’t concrete evidence that there’s a cure-all for DOMS, and a lot of it is also probably pretty personal, but you can also try getting a massage, stretching and foam rolling, or even a sauna sesh.
DOMS will go away on its own, but the above can definitely help speed up that departure. Above all, listen to your body and take a rest day if you need to.
Cue the dramatic sound effect. Just when you thought it was over.
How can you know when it's DOMS and when it is something worse?
Specifically, is it rhabdomyolysis?
You may have heard it referred to as “rhabdo”. Essentially, rhabo occurs when you overstress your muscles and the muscle breakdown releases what’s called protein myoglobin and when it reaches the bloodstream, it can be toxic to your kidneys and liver.
Some symptoms of rhabdo are:
If you’re experiencing any of these systems, be sure to seek medical professional help immediately.
And even if you’re not experiencing any acute issues, above all, it’s good to take it slow and listen to your body.
Contrary to popular belief, DOMS isn't necessary to build muscle, gain strength, and generally see results. In fact, if your DOMS is so bad that you are unable to workout effectively, you could be shooting yourself in the foot by sidelining yourself when you could be training more.
Here are somethings to avoid extreme soreness:
While there isn’t really a way to prevent DOMS altogether, you can take these steps to make it a bit less painful. If you need a little extra help, don’t forget about our Tempo mobility classes.