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  • Writer's pictureIan Thornley


You've probably heard of DOMS but how much do you know about this uncomfortable issue?

In this blog, I want to explore the topic of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). As an osteopath, I want to provide you with valuable insights into what DOMS is, when it is likely to occur, which muscle groups are most often affected, treatment options, including self-care strategies, and how osteopathic care can make a significant impact on your level of pain, recovery time, and future prevention.

What is DOMS? DOMS, short for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, is a condition that commonly affects individuals after intense physical activity or unfamiliar exercises. It typically manifests as muscle pain, stiffness, and tenderness, which tends to peak 24 to 48 hours after exercise. Although DOMS can be uncomfortable, it is a natural response to muscle exertion and is not a cause for alarm.

When is DOMS Likely to Occur? DOMS usually occurs when you engage in one or more of the following activities:

  1. Intense Workouts: Engaging in a strenuous workout or incorporating new exercises into your routine can trigger DOMS.

  2. Sudden Increase in Activity: Rapidly increasing the intensity, duration, or frequency of your workouts can make you more susceptible to DOMS.

  3. Eccentric Movements: Movements that emphasise the lengthening of muscles, such as descending stairs or lowering weights slowly, are particularly likely to induce DOMS.

Which Muscle Groups are Most Often Affected? DOMS can affect various muscle groups, but some of the most commonly affected areas include:

  1. Leg Muscles: Quadriceps (front thigh muscles), hamstrings (back thigh muscles), and calf muscles are often susceptible to DOMS.

  2. Upper Body Muscles: Muscles in the arms, shoulders, and upper back may also experience DOMS, especially after weightlifting or upper body workouts.

Treatment Options, Including Self-Care:

  1. Rest: Give your muscles time to recover. Avoid strenuous activities that exacerbate the soreness.

  2. Hydration: Proper hydration helps flush out toxins and aids in muscle recovery.

  3. Gentle Stretching and movement: Light stretching and gentle movement can relieve muscle tension and reduce discomfort.

  4. Over-the-Counter Pain Relief: Non-prescription pain relievers like ibuprofen can help alleviate pain and inflammation. Seek advice from your pharmacist about the best option for you.

  5. Heat and Ice: Applying heat or ice to sore areas can provide relief. Heat can relax muscles, while ice can reduce inflammation.

  6. Osteopathic Care: Seek the expertise of an osteopath who can provide manual therapy and tailored treatment to address DOMS and improve recovery.

How Long Will DOMS Last? DOMS symptoms typically peak within 24 to 48 hours and gradually subside within 3 to 7 days. However, the duration can vary depending on the individual and the severity of the muscle strain.

The Impact of Osteopathic Care: As a qualified osteopath, I can help you manage and recover from DOMS more effectively. Osteopathic treatments, such as soft tissue manipulation, joint mobilisation, and stretching techniques, can help reduce pain and promote healing.

While DOMS can be uncomfortable, it is a natural part of the muscle recovery process. With the right self-care strategies and a good osteopath in your corner, you can manage your symptoms, reduce pain, and minimise the impact of DOMS on your daily life.

If you're experiencing severe or persistent symptoms, please do reach out for assessment, personalised care and guidance.

What NOT to Do When You Have DOMS While it's important to know how to manage DOMS effectively, it's equally crucial to understand what you should avoid to prevent exacerbating the condition. Here are some things NOT to do when you have DOMS:

  1. Overexertion: One of the biggest mistakes you can make is pushing yourself too hard with intense workouts when you already have DOMS. This can lead to further muscle damage and prolong the recovery process.

  2. Ignoring the Pain: Dismissing the pain and pushing through it is not recommended. Pain is your body's way of signaling that it needs time to heal. Ignoring it can lead to more severe injuries.

  3. Skipping Warm-Up and Cool-Down: Neglecting to warm up before exercise and cool down afterward can increase the risk of muscle strain and exacerbate DOMS. Always include proper warm-up and cool-down routines in your exercise regimen.

  4. Dehydration: Inadequate hydration can hinder the body's ability to repair and recover from muscle damage. Ensure you stay well-hydrated before, during, and after exercise to support the healing process.

  5. Alcohol and Smoking: Alcohol and smoking can interfere with the body's ability to recover. They can increase inflammation and delay healing. It's best to avoid or limit these substances when dealing with DOMS.

  6. Skipping Rest Days: Your body needs time to recover. Skipping rest days and continually engaging in intense physical activity can lead to overtraining, which may worsen DOMS and result in more serious injuries.

  7. Neglecting Proper Nutrition: A balanced diet that includes sufficient protein, vitamins, and minerals is crucial for muscle recovery. Neglecting your nutrition can slow down the healing process.

  8. Using Excessive Pain Medication: While over-the-counter pain relievers can be helpful, using them excessively to mask the pain without addressing the underlying issue is not advisable.

  9. Ignoring Severe Symptoms: If your DOMS symptoms are exceptionally severe, such as intense swelling, weakness, or extreme pain, it's essential to seek professional help promptly. These could be signs of a more serious injury.

  10. Not Seeking Professional Help: If your DOMS persists for an extended period or if you frequently experience severe DOMS, consider consulting with an osteopath. I can provide tailored treatment and advice to help you manage and prevent future occurrences of DOMS effectively.

Understanding what not to do when you have DOMS is just as important as knowing how to manage it. By avoiding these common mistakes, you can protect your muscles, promote faster recovery, and reduce the risk of further injury.

Remember that listening to your body and seeking professional guidance when necessary are key steps in managing DOMS successfully.

For more information or help with musculoskeletal issues please do get in touch. I can be reached by phone, WhatsApp, email or you can book an appointment straight away here

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