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Delayed onset muscle soreness

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the pain or discomfort often felt 24 to 72 hours after exercising and subsides generally within 2 to 3 days. Once thought to be caused by lactic acid buildup, a more recent theory is that it is caused by tiny tears in the muscle fibers caused by eccentric contraction, or unaccustomed training levels. Since lactic acid disperses fairly rapidly, it could not explain pain experienced days after exercise, and some concentric-only exercises produce lactic acid, but rarely produce DOMS.[1]

Although the precise cause is still unknown, the type of muscle contraction seems to be a key factor in the development of DOMS. Exercises that involve many eccentric contractions, such as downhill running, will result in the most severe DOMS. This has been shown to be the result of more muscle cell damage than is seen with typical concentric contractions, in which a muscle successfully shortens during contraction against a load.[2]

Some research claims that DOMS is not caused by the pain from damaged muscle cells, but from the reinforcement process.[3] The muscle responds to training by reinforcing itself up to and above its previous strength by increasing the size of muscle fibers (muscle hypertrophy). This reinforcement process causes the cells to swell and put pressure on nerves and arteries, causing DOMS.

Training with DOMS

DOMS typically causes stiffness, swelling, strength loss, and pain.[4][5] Continued exertion of sore muscles can cause further swelling and pain, and lengthen the period of muscular soreness. There is some scientific evidence that further training—a so-called second bout—has no negative effect on the reinforcement process.[6] Training in a state of constant soreness would be uncomfortable, although one may be able to adapt to it. The relationship between muscular soreness, the rest required and hypertrophy is a contentious topic in bodybuilding. Claims that perpetual muscular soreness assures muscle growth are opposed by reports of stagnation through overtraining.

Stretching before and after exercise has been suggested as a way of reducing DOMS, as has warming up before exercise, cooling down afterwards, and gently warming the area.[7] However, there is also evidence that the effect of stretching on muscle soreness is negligible.[8] Overstretching itself can cause DOMS.[9] Some recommend contrast showers as a treatment, alternating between cold and hot water; this may increase circulation.[10]


  1. ^ DOMS at Sports Injury Bulletin
  2. ^ Roth, S. (2006, January 23). Why does lactic acid build up in muscles? And why does it cause soreness? Retrieved on July 24, 2006.
  3. ^ Yu, J., Carlsson, L. & Thornell, L.E. (2004). Evidence for myofibril remodeling as opposed to myofibril damage in human muscles with DOMS: an ultrastructural and immunoelectron microscopic study. Histochemistry and Cell Biology, 121(3), p. 219-227. link
  4. ^ Connolly, D. A., Sayers, S. P. & McHugh, M. P. (2003) Treatment and prevention of delayed onset muscle soreness (abstract.) Journal of Strength Conditioning Research, 17(1):197-208. Retrieved from on July 24, 2006.
  5. ^ Szymanski, D. (2003). Recommendations for the avoidance of delayed-onset muscle soreness. Strength and Conditioning Journal 23(4): 7–13.
  6. ^ Ji-Guo, Y. (2003). Re-evaluation of exercise-induced muscle soreness: an immunohistochemical and ultrastructural study. Abstract of unpublished doctoral dessertation, Umeå Universitet, Sweden. ISBN 91-7305-503-4
  7. ^ WebMD article on DOMS
  8. ^ BMJ "Effects of stretching before and after exercising on muscle soreness and risk of injury: systematic review"
  9. ^ [1]
  10. ^ "Alternating hot and cold water immersion for athlete recovery: a review"
This article is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. It uses material from the Wikipedia article "Delayed_onset_muscle_soreness". A list of authors is available in Wikipedia.
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