Usually kicking in around 24 to 48 hours after exercise, muscles feel tender and sore as a result of microscopic damage to the muscle fibres, which occurs when you force your muscles to work harder than they are used to, or use muscle groups that you don’t often reach in your regular workout. It can leave you feeling achy and stiff, with a walk around the office taking on a John Wayne feel.
Doms doesn't generally require medical intervention. But you should seek medical advice if the pain becomes unbearable, you experience heavy swelling, or your urine becomes dark. This sort of muscle pain shouldn't be confused with any kind of pain you might experience during exercise, such as the acute, sudden and sharp pain of an injury, such as muscle strains or sprains.
Doms can last up to five days, with the effects usually worst on day two or three, then gradually improving without treatment. It is a normal part of building muscle strength and stamina, but coach Nick Anderson warns that it could be telling you it’s time to review your workout. “A lot of people like [Doms] because it means they’ve worked really hard, but if it’s excessive and you’re getting it all the time then I would be questioning either your recovery strategies or your training plan.”
Any changes should be gradual to allow muscles to adapt. “If you don’t get rid of that tightness and allow the muscle fibres to repair, you are more susceptible to injury for a period afterwards.”
In the days following the onset of Doms, Anderson says, “don’t hammer the same muscle group again”. Instead, he suggests using other muscle groups for a few days at the gym or, if you’re a runner, simply lessening the intensity. He also suggests incorporating a progressive warm-up, in which movements become gradually more intense, and not to skimp on the warm down. Good quality sleep also plays a factor, when it comes to recovery.
These things may help ease some of the symptoms:
- ice packs
The use of foam rollers and massage balls may also help to alleviate symptoms, but should be used with care to avoid the danger of further aggravation of the muscles.
Why not speak to our Health Coaches about ways to help with Doms – they are always happy to help!