The Ouch of Exercise: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

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By Susan Heckler

You did it! You managed to squeeze in that long overdue workout and because you were feeling so good, you gave it your all and then some.

The ‘Then Some’ has a name, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, affectionately known as DOMS. You feel great and invigorated for hours after your workout or game, and then BAM. Twelve to forty-eight hours later your muscles are tight and achy, sometimes resulting in a decreased range of motion. Fear not, it should lighten up in about three days and you should feel normal in a week.

Why? It is thought to be triggered by microscopic muscle tears, which occur when we exercise harder than usual. This occurs normally and is required for growth in muscle size and strength, but if the training is too excessive, the tearing may be too. This is one of the reasons why exercise and training should start very lightly and progress gradually.

To prevent DOMS, always warm up prior to any intense exercise. Conversely, always cool-down and stretch following exercise. To start off, ‘do little and often’ to allow your muscles to become adapted to these new strains. Build up gradually and allow your body time to recover. Avoid temptation and increase your training intensity and duration by no more than 10% a week.

Once the damage is done, allow the muscles to heal without over stressing them again. Once symptoms have diminished, give yourself one more week before doing the same exercise again. Massage and very light, non-weight bearing aerobic exercise and stretching may alleviate the discomfort or you can try a spa bath.

You can have gain without so much pain.