We are told the end of January can be a depressing time of the year. Why? Because, by then most of us will have broken our New Years Resolutions made so confidently on January 1st. For those who chose a fitness goal – how has it been? Some of you may have suffered from delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) at some stage during the last month. This muscle stiffness or soreness is usually felt 12 – 48 hours after exercise. The discomfort may have tempted you to abandon your new programme entirely. DOMS is a normal response to increased activity and the good news is that it can actually lead to improved stamina and strength as the muscles recover. The difficulty is knowing the difference between DOMS and an acute, sudden pain of injury. One specific difference is that DOMS will subside after 2 days. DOMS is thought to be due to small microscopic tears of muscle fibres. This can be caused by suddenly increasing the amount of exercise you do. However, it is the eccentric contractions which cause the most soreness. Exercise such as running downhill, the lowering of weights or the downward movement of press ups are all eccentric.
How can you best deal with DOMS? Try one of these to see what suits you :
- Active recovery – try easy low impact aerobic exercise as part of your cool down. Also, repeat this the next day.
- Rest – soreness will generally go away after a 3 – 7 days
- Have a sports massage
- Gentle stretching
- Good warm up /cool down as part of your activity session
- Try an ice bath or contrast water bath
How can you avoid DOMS in the first place? Build up your programme gradually, warm up and cool down adequately and listen to your body.
Finally, if the pain does not go in a week you should have it diagnosed.