Whether you have started a new workout plan, changed up your workout routine, or maybe tried working out on some new equipment, the result is the same; pain. New exercises or a change in routine can leave your muscles stiff, sore and full of aches—even days after you have trained. It’s enough to leave you wondering, “Is it normal to be in pain after a workout?”
Depending on the severity of your pain, you may be experiencing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS, which is perfectly normal. It’s a pain you feel the next day after a workout or after a particularly intense legs day at the gym. So what is DOMS? We’ve put together a short guide to help explain what’s happening and why this pain may even be a good thing.
What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?
DOMS refers to the discomfort you feel in your muscles, starting about 24 to 48 hours after physical activity. It often lasts up to 72 hours after exercise. DOMS happens when the muscle performs an eccentric or lengthening contraction (i.e. running downhill or releasing weight from a bicep curl) resulting in micro tears in the muscle fibres.
What causes DOMS?
Tiny, microscopic tears damage the muscle fibres and cause inflammation, producing the pain of DOMS. It’s quite common to experience DOMS after switching to a new sport, activity or heightening the intensity or duration of a familiar one. The good news is that this pain signals that your muscles are adapting and growing stronger.
As your body repairs the micro tears, it builds the muscle to handle the stress of the new activity better. Each time you go back, the soreness should decrease as the specific muscles you’re using get broken down and rebuilt.
What are the symptoms?
Minor discomfort, stiffness, and weakness in the muscles are all symptoms of DOMS.
When should I seek treatment?
Monitoring the level of your muscle soreness is important. It should be minor to moderate. While some everyday activities might make you cringe, you shouldn’t be unable to do them.
If your muscle pain came immediately following an exercise, not 24 hours later, you may have an acute strain or injury rather than DOMS. If your pain level is quite high or not decreasing over time, it could be more serious. Both are indications that it’s time to get checked out by a physiotherapist.
You don’t need to experience DOMS to strengthen your muscles—some people are more susceptible to soreness than others. There’s no reason to chase this sore feeling, even though some may brag about DOMS like it’s a badge of honour. Just be prepared to deal with DOMS accordingly, if it happens to you.
To ease DOMS and get back to your exercise regime, try treatments like ice, rest, heat or stretching. Massage is also an excellent way to alleviate the discomfort of DOMS by increasing circulation for faster healing.
Find a clinic near you to book a physiotherapy or massage therapy appointment.