Dealing with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

  • Published
  • By Maj. Michael Ross
  • 382nd Training Squadron
Whether you're a novice at the exercise scene or a long-time fitness advocate, it may be difficult to interpret the discomfort that occasionally comes with exercise.

For example, if you haven't exercised in a month and you decide to run three miles and perform a few sets of push-ups and sit-ups, you will probably feel soreness throughout much of your body the next day.

Should you be concerned over this soreness? Probably not, as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, is common if you engage in an unusually vigorous workout or an activity you're not accustomed to.

Miscroscopic breakdown within the muscle is probably to blame for DOMS. The discomfort is normal and actually leads to stronger muscles as they repair and rebuild themselves. The soreness is generally at its worst within the first two days following the activity and subsides over the next couple of days. Ice application and gentle massage may be helpful in decreasing soreness.

Also, working other parts of the body not affected by DOMS or by performing low impact aerobic activities, like the elliptical machine or stationary cycling, may also help decrease soreness. It is recommended to thoroughly warm-up the affected areas before your next workout.

Certain tactics may help you keep DOMS to a minimum. One step is to warm-up thoroughly before activity and cool down afterward with proper stretching. Another is to give your muscles time to adapt to your activity.

For example, if you have been inactive and your goal is to run three miles in 20 minutes, start by running one or two miles at a comfortable pace, and then add another quarter mile at each workout until you can comfortably run three miles. Then you can increase your running pace to reach your goal.

While occasional muscle soreness following exercise is acceptable, persistent joint and tendon pain is not. If you have persistent joint and tendon pain, you should consult your health care provider.