DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness may come about a day or two after participating in physical activity, particularly after doing something your body is not used to. You may find that if you don’t exercise at all, just running for a bus may cause you to feel sore muscles. For others, changing a high intensity exercise routine may bring about this uncomfortable stiffness in your whole body.
It is believed that the type of exercise that brings on this soreness is caused by doing eccentric exercises. This is where you are strengthening the muscle but lengthening it at the same time. An example of this is during the downwards phase of a squat, or when your pumping up your biceps, it is the downwards phase of the bicep curl.
DOMS is fundamentally caused by microscopic ruptures within the muscle, and our pain receptors are then activated giving us the sensation of pain. Although DOMS is associated with muscle damage, it does not actually reflect the magnitude of the damage caused. Our muscles tend to recover within days and we end up with increased muscle bulk and stamina.
As a physiotherapist, it is important for me to mention that you need to be cautious and be aware of the symptoms you are feeling, ensuring you are always comparing DOMS to acute muscle pain. DOMS can be relieved with rest, ice, taking non steroidal anti-inflammatories such as Nurofen and doing gentle stretches. You are better off waiting until the DOMS calms down prior to continuing any exercise, otherwise the symptoms may just get worse! The ideal situation would be to start an exercise programme, slowly and gently. Build up the intensity, the load, the repetitions gradually to avoid any injury.