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What is DOMS? A guide to relieving sore muscles.

January 17, 2024 3 min read

What is DOMS? A guide to relieving sore muscles.-VPA Australia

If you've ever felt the agonising pain of moving the day after a particularly strenuous workout, you've probably experienced DOMS. But what is DOMS, and how does it affect your body?  

DOMS, or Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, is a common result of physical activity that stresses the muscle tissue beyond what it's accustomed to. After an intense workout, our bodies undergo microscopic damage in the muscle fibres, leading to soreness or stiffness. If you notice these signs and symptoms of DOMS, it's important to understand what they mean and how to respond effectively.

DOMS can occur after any exercise but is more commonly noticed after starting a new exercise program or engaging in activities that involve eccentric contractions, such as downhill running or plyometric exercises. This is due to the stress and strain placed on the muscle, causing inflammation and a natural increase in fluids, and swelling.  

Is DOMS a sign of a ‘good’ workout?

There are several common misconceptions about DOMS, such as the notion that it's an indicator of a good workout, or worse, that it's harmful. In reality, DOMS is simply a sign that your muscles are adapting to the new exercise regime. It's not indicative of muscle damage or that you've pushed yourself too far. Instead, it's an entirely normal process and a part of the body's adaptation to become stronger and more efficient.

The timeline of DOMS varies for everyone, but typically, it starts to kick in 6-8 hours post-workout, peaking around 24-72 hours, then subsides within 3-5 days. However, the duration and severity of soreness depend on the intensity of the workout and your body's recovery process.

How can we reduce the severity and treat DOMS?

Preventing DOMS may not always be possible, especially if you're new to a particular workout or stepping up your intensity level. When it comes to relieving DOMS symptoms, rest is essential. It's your body's way of healing and rebuilding the muscles. However, there are several strategies you can employ to help alleviate the symptoms and speed up the recovery process:

  • Gentle Exercise: Light, low-intensity exercises such as walking or swimming can help increase blood flow to the affected muscles, which may help reduce soreness and stiffness. This is known as active recovery.
  • Stretching: Gentle stretching exercises can help alleviate muscle tightness and improve flexibility. Focus on the muscles that are most sore. Hold each stretch for about 15-30 seconds without bouncing.
  • Foam Rolling: Using a foam roller on the affected muscles can help relieve tension and reduce soreness. Roll slowly over the muscle, pausing on any tender spots for 20-30 seconds.
  • Massage: A professional massage or self-massage using a foam roller or your hands can help increase blood flow and alleviate muscle tightness.
  • Ice and Heat:Apply ice to the sore muscles for 15-20 minutes to reduce inflammation. After the first 48 hours, you can switch to heat (warm baths, heating pads) to help relax the muscles.
  • Over-the-Counter Pain Relief: Non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen or acetaminophen can help manage pain and reduce inflammation. Follow the recommended dosages and guidelines. Post-workout recovery supplements are also a good way to relieve pain and support your recovery like ZMA, Glutamine, and BCAA’s to name a few.

  • Hydration: Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated. Proper hydration can help flush out metabolic waste products that may contribute to soreness.
  • Nutrition: Ensure you're consuming a balanced diet with an adequate intake of protein, vitamins, and minerals. Proper nutrition supports muscle recovery and repair.
  • Sleep: Get enough restorative sleep to allow your body to heal. Sleep is crucial for muscle recovery and overall well-being.
  • Gradual Progression: When returning to exercise after DOMS, start with a lower intensity and gradually increase the intensity and duration to prevent further muscle damage.
  • Prevention:To reduce the likelihood of experiencing DOMS in the future, ensure you warm up properly before exercise, maintain a consistent exercise routine, and progressively increase the intensity of your workouts.

It's also pertinent to listen to your body and avoid overtraining, as it could potentially lead to injuries and prolonged DOMS. If soreness persists for more than a week or you notice severe symptoms like dark urine or extreme swelling, it's best to seek medical attention.


As we conclude, it's important to remember that DOMS is a normal part of physical training and development, and not a sign of damage or overexertion. Understanding this can help you better manage your workouts, recovery, and overall progress in your fitness journey.

Ultimately, the goal is to enjoy your workouts, understand your body's signals, and steadily progress in your fitness journey. Remember, pain doesn't always equal gain, and there's nothing to be gained from unnecessary suffering or potential injuries. Happy training!

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