Delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS is a condition wherein muscle soreness, stiffness and pain develop on affected muscles after a strenuous exercise where the person is not accustomed to do. It is also known as muscle fever and mostly happens 24 to 72 hours after the activity, sending many to their local Lutz chiropractor to find out what’s going on.

Delayed onset muscle soreness is an exercise-induced muscle soreness. As opposed to acute muscle soreness, which develops during the strenuous activity itself, DOMS usually develops later during the day or a couple of days after the exercise.

Although DOMS is a form of muscle damage, it does not extend to actual overall muscle damage and may go away without intervention.

Causes of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

DOMS is caused mainly by eccentric exercise or those that involve muscle lengthening. The sudden and unaccustomed lengthening of the muscles causes microtrauma to the muscle fibers, which subsequently lead to muscle soreness as a form of adaptation to prevent further muscle damage. Compared to eccentric exercises, concentric or muscle shortening exercises do not lead to DOMS and isometric or static exercises cause only mild soreness.

Symptoms of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

DOMS is felt as a dull ache on the affected muscle or muscle groups, which is experienced when the affected muscle/s is placed under pressure, contracted or stretched. The pain also usually goes away when the affected body part is at rest. There may also be associated muscle stiffness and tenderness or otherwise known as muscular mechanical hyperalgesia. In some instances, reduced range of motion, muscle swelling and decreased muscle strength may be experienced.

The pain felt in DOMS usually subsides within seven days after the strenuous exercise and peaks from 24 to 72 hours after the activity.

What Happens during Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

The injury in DOMs happens due to the small scale muscle damage in the muscles during strenuous and unaccustomed exercise. The muscle fibers generally rupture at the muscle sarcomere and these ruptures are considered microscopic. When increased tension is placed on the lengthened muscles, soreness develops and the microtrauma sensitizes the pain receptors or the nociceptors around the muscles leading to pain.

Another reason for the development of pain in DOMS is the accumulation of calcium in the damaged muscle/s. This leads to some forms of anaerobic metabolism and further leads to the degeneration of muscle proteins by phospholipases and proteases. The resulting outcome is the inflammatory cascade to repair the damage, which in turn cause the release of chemical mediators such as prostaglandin and histamine that leads to pain, swelling and tenderness.

Management of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

The management of DOMS is generally conservative. It includes increasing blood flow to the affected muscles to stimulate tissue repair. These managements include:

  • Massage
  • Hot baths or use of warm compress over the affected muscles
  • Sauna
  • Low impact exercises

Aside from these, application of ice packs may provide temporary relief of pain within 24 hours of DOMS development. In certain instances, exercise-induced analgesia or the performance of exercises may be used to temporarily suppress muscle soreness. Endurance training in the form of swimming, cycling and running is most commonly employed exercise avoiding eccentric exercises to prevent further injury.

Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

It is also important to prevent DOMS especially for those who employ high-impact exercises. Gradually increasing the intensity of training helps the muscles adapt to the tension and stress preventing microtrauma to the muscle fibers.

If you have been experiencing DOMS, it is also essential to contact your nearest chiropractor for effective and immediate relief of muscle pain through evidenced-based approaches to delayed onset muscle soreness.