[Image source: Breaking Muscle]
Your muscles go through a fair bit of physical stress every time you exercise. When you start exercising or do something more than you’re used to it’s even more prevalent. This pain is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). It’s perfectly normal but what is it exactly?
Even if you exercise safely and sensibly, it’s likely you will still experience some DOMS at one time or another.
The worst case of DOMS I’ve ever had lasted for seven days. I was tight and sore the following day and it peaked on the third day. That peak pain lasted for the fourth and fifth day before subsiding over the sixth and seventh day.
I’d been doing eccentric pull ups and chin ups. Eccentric exercises is exercise where the muscles are contracting at the same time as lengthening. Examples include running downhill, lowering a dumbbell during a bicep curl or in my case, the lowering phase of a pull up. I’d got to a point where I couldn’t do any more pull ups or chin ups but continued to jump up to the bar and slowly lower myself down.
It’s possible to do much more eccentric exercise than it is to do concentric. Concentric exercise is exercise where the muscles are shortening. Examples include raising a dumbbell during a bicep curl and the ‘pull up’ phase of a pull up. I continued to jump up to the bar and lower myself down with control until I couldn’t even do that anymore.
I had ultimately exercised in an excessive manner, which I was unaccustomed to. It’s these two aspects — excessive and unaccustomed — that make all the difference to the severity of DOMS.
So, what Brings DOMS on? DOMS is more prevalent when the exercise is eccentric. The reason for this is because you can lift a heavier weight more times with an eccentric contraction than you can with a concentric contraction. This is exactly what I did — eccentric exercise more excessive than I was accustomed to.
What is DOMS?
DOMS is caused by myofibril tears in the muscle. This leads to an inflammatory response and a shift in intramuscular fluids and electrolytes. Muscle strength, motion and function is thought to be impaired because of the swelling, pain and altered muscle firing patterns.
What’s the treatment?
Even if you exercise safely and sensibly, it’s likely you will still experience some DOMS at one time or another. If you do, you can treat it with active rest such as walking and anti-inflammatory measures such as icing and compression garments. Anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to decrease pain but I’m not one to suggest drugs for pain relief if possible. Light stretching and gentle massage can help avoid aggressive stretching and deep tissue massage in the first 24 hours.
How can I avoid DOMS?
Adopt the mantra, “Rome wasn’t built in a day”. Start with light exercise and gradually build on that. Small, consistent steps is the key to building strength and getting fitter.
Whether you’re starting out or you already train consistently, you can still experience DOMS. DOMS is caused primarily by eccentric exercise and becomes more severe if the exercise is excessive and unaccustomed.
What experiences have you had with DOMS?
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