Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) describes the feeling of muscle pain, muscle soreness or muscle stiffness that you feel the day or two after exercise. This muscle soreness or discomfort is most frequently felt when you begin a new exercise program, change your exercise program, or dramatically increase the length or intensity of your exercise program.
Many exercisers may feel surprised and sore upon waking from a night’s sleep, but the delayed onset muscle soreness is a normal response to the unusual exertion and is part of a process. This “adaptive process” leads to greater stamina and strength as the muscles recover and rebuild.
The basic idea behind resistance training is that you are tearing muscle fibers. The amount of tearing and soreness depends on how hard and how long you exercise and what type of exercise you do. Any movement you are not used to can lead to DOMS. Eccentric muscle contractions, movements that cause muscle to forcefully contract while it lengthens, cause the most soreness. Examples of eccentric muscle contractions include running downhill, going down stairs, lowering weights during exercise and the downward phase of a Squat and push-up.
This is the good pain. There is also bad muscle pain.
The other pain, which is not a good sign, is Acute pain. Acute, sudden or sharp pain related to exercise is a bad sign. Acute pain occurs during exercise and can lead to swelling and bruising.
A good way to tell if you are experiencing DOMS or good muscle soreness, and not an injury, is to determine if the pain is bilateral. If one of your shoulders is sore after shoulder training, this may be a sign of injury. If you feel normal muscle soreness in both shoulders after a workout, you can continue working out around it. The soreness will go away in a couple of days. If pain continues for days after, you should have a doctor look at the sore shoulder.
How to treat muscle soreness
There is no one simple way to treat delayed onset muscle soreness. The best way is to prevent DOMS in the first place. Sticking with an exercise program is a good way.
Another way might be to use a foam roller on muscles after exercise as part of a “Cool-down” phase of an exercise program. Other ways are rest and recovery. Take an extra day to rest. Try a sports massage, an ice bath and gentle stretching.
Some discomfort after exercise is necessary for the improvement of performance. The discomfort or pain should be short-lived.
It is unlikely that you will avoid soreness altogether when beginning a new exercise program. Nevertheless, stick with it. The soreness you feel in the muscles is good. It is a sign of muscle growth. Remember these tips to help prevent muscle soreness after exercise. Progress slowly. This is the most important. Gradually increase time and intensity. Warm up thoroughly before activity and cool down completely afterward. Follow the Ten Percent rule. Increase exercise time and intensity by 10% each week.