What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?

Have you experienced muscle soreness a few days after working on that new exercise?

It is normal and everyone can experience muscle soreness regardless of their fitness level. There is nothing to worry about because it will not last long and it only proves that your body is improving physically.

Why do you feel muscle soreness after exercise?

When someone changes their exercise routine, start a new exercise program, or increase the intensity or duration of their regular workout, expect to experience muscle soreness. It is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). This occurs because of microscopic damage to the muscle fibers which leads to muscle stiffness or soreness. 

Who experiences DOMS?

Anyone can develop DOMS and it includes even those elite athletes who have been training for years.

Most of the time, those who are starting their fitness regime are disheartened when they experience pain. However, the soreness will decrease as your muscle adapt to the new physical demands you're doing. 

As cliche as it sounds, no pain, no gain. Soreness is part of the adaptation process which will give you stronger stamina and greater strength.

How long does DOMS last?

The typical recovery for DOMS lasts between 3 and 5 days. Depending on the level of pain, it can range from mild to severe usually occurs 1 or 2 days after the training or exercise.

Determining the level of pain shouldn't be confused with another kind of pain you experience during your workouts such as sudden, acute, and sharp pain of an injury like muscle sprains or strains.

How can I treat DOMS?

While taking time off and waiting for your muscles to repair themselves, you can also take steps to ease the stiffness and pain.

Here are the following self-care steps and treatments that can lessen the discomfort and soreness.


According to a 2017 study of Frontiers in Physiology, those people who received massage 1, 2, or 3 days after an intense workout are reported to have less soreness than those who didn't get a massage. You can try self-massage on your calves, thighs, buttocks, arms, and shoulders. Apply some oil, lotion, or even use a foam roller right after a workout to shake your muscles. 

Cold Bath

Cold baths have become a known self-treatment for elite athletes. According to the 2016 study from PubMed Central, there is a lessened degree of DOMS for someone who had a 10 to1 5-minute full-body immersion in a cold water bath (50–59°F or 10–15°C).

Warm Bath

For those who can't stand the coldness, you may also soak in a warm tub instead. Most warm baths or moist heat wraps can ease the stiffness and pain that is caused by DOMS.

Topical Analgesics

Menthol-based topical analgesics are meant to help relieve pain and can ease the pain of DOMS. Simply apply the product to the sore area.

When should I seek medical help?

If the pain from DOMS prevents you from doing your usual daily activities, then it is time to see your doctor. You should seek medical help if your DOMS lasts longer than 7 days, your urine becomes dark, or if you experience severe swelling in your arms and legs.

What should I do to lessen the intensity of DOMS?

  • Stay hydrated especially if you are working out in a hot and humid environment. 
  • Always start with a warmup of 5 to 15 minutes before every workout. 
  • After every workout, have a 20-minute cool down to boost flexibility in your muscles and joints.
  • Take your workouts to the next level slowly to safely build your endurance and strength.