DOMS is muscle pain and stiffness or “muscle fever” that occurs after strenuous or unusual physical activity. It likely results from temporary microtears and inflammation in muscle tissue. Massages, heat packs, and pain relievers can help manage symptoms.
DOMS is a type of muscle pain that peaks 1–2 days after strenuous physical activity. Typically, it resolves within 4 days. Anyone can experience DOMS, regardless of their fitness level.
Any physical activity that stresses the muscles can cause DOMS, including weightlifting or high intensity training. However, DOMS may also follow any activity a person is unaccustomed to. Carrying heavy boxes or groceries up the stairs could cause DOMS in the legs or back. Home decorating could cause DOMS in the arms, neck, and shoulders.
This article outlines the symptoms and causes of DOMS. It also suggests various techniques for preventing or reducing DOMS.
DOMS symptoms usually peak 24–48 hours after strenuous activity and resolve within 4 days. Muscle pain and tenderness can make everyday activities difficult, such as walking, running, or even sitting comfortably.
Symptoms of DOMS include:
- muscle stiffness
- pain when moving the muscle
A person may also have reduced strength and range of motion in the affected muscles.
Researchers have proposed various causes of DOMS but do not agree on one definitive cause. The
When people use their muscles in an unusual way, they can cause microscopic tears in the muscle fibers. This, in turn, leads to inflammation. The inflammatory response releases prostaglandin E2 and leukotriene hormones, which can cause pain and contribute to swelling.
DOMS may be more likely after exercises involving eccentric contractions. During these exercises, a muscle stretches and contracts simultaneously.
Factors that may affect DOMS include:
- muscle stiffness
- contraction velocity
- angle of contraction
Various techniques may shorten the duration of DOMS or reduce its severity. They include:
An analysis from Frontiers in Physiology indicates that a massage after strenuous exercise can relieve muscle soreness and improve muscle performance.
Self-myofascial release is a technique that relieves tension and promotes blood flow. It involves applying pressure to the muscles using tools such as a foam roller or roller massager.
Cold water immersion
Full-body immersion in a cold water bath may improve muscle recovery after exercise slightly better than not using a recovery technique.
Applying heat to stressed muscles may reduce DOMS by increasing tissue flexibility and blood flow.
Some evidence suggests that taking certain supplements can help relieve DOMS.
Topical analgesics or pain relievers
Pain relieving gels, creams, and patches may help ease the symptoms of DOMS. In some self-reported studies, topical pain relievers help reduce pain by at least
DOMS is not necessarily an indication of a good workout, and it can be counterproductive. People experiencing DOMS may skip workouts to avoid further discomfort.
DOMS is a common physical response to intense or unfamiliar exercise. However, some practices may help prevent it, reduce its severity, or shorten its duration. They include:
Warming up before exercise prepares a person mentally and physically for their activity. Dynamic and static stretching may improve range of motion by activating the connections between the nerves and muscles. However, there is no conclusive research to show that warming up reduces DOMS.
People often choose to perform dynamic or static stretches to cool down after exercise. However, there is no reliable evidence that this helps reduce DOMS. A
Easing into new forms of exercise can help prevent DOMS. Gradually increasing the intensity or duration of a workout can help reduce a person’s muscle strain and post-exercise soreness.
Although DOMS can be painful, it rarely requires a trip to the doctor. DOMS typically goes away on its own after a few days.
People may wish to consult a doctor if their pain is severe and their symptoms do not improve after a few days. A doctor may refer them to a specialist, such as a physical therapist.
People should also seek medical attention if they experience sharp pain. This type of pain could signify an actual injury rather than just DOMS.
DOMS is a common condition that can happen to anyone, regardless of fitness level. Experts are unsure of the exact cause. However, it likely results from unfamiliar or strenuous exercise causing microtears in the muscle fibers.
The muscle soreness and stiffness characteristic of DOMS usually peaks within 1–2 days and resolves after 4 days. However, this can vary.
People can try topical pain relievers, heat packs, and massages to soothe sore muscles.