Delayed onset muscle soreness, the muscle pain felt 24-48 hours after new vigorous or unaccustomed exercise, fascinates athletes. It’s felt most intensely following eccentric exercise – that is putting resistance on a muscle as it lengthens. Downhill running is a good example of eccentric exercise. A day or so after a high intensity exercise session, pain is characteristically felt going down stairs or lowering yourself into a chair – other eccentric quad exercises.
While practically everyone has felt it at some stage, there is very little that can be done about it. DOMS is thought to be caused by microscopic muscle damage following an intense bout of exercise. It has little to do with lactic acid or lactate build up as dispelled in our article last December entitled The Lactic Acid Misconception.
So what can be done about DOMS? The short answer is very little. There is no real treatment for it. It passes. The effect of DOMS may be limited by gradually building up exercise so that there’s no drastic increase in intensity at any particular stage. Deep tissue massage may also help to give some immediate relief or if you need to train again a day or two after you’ve begun to suffer with the condition. However by and large there is nothing to be done. Just know that it’s not harmful and it will pass, and rejoice in the fact that you’ve worked hard and that it will not be as sore after the next session.