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What causes delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)?

So delayed onset muscle soreness, which is commonly known and affectionately shortened to "DOMS" refers to a specific type of muscle pain and/or soreness that sets in typically:

  • hours
  • days

after a workout or exercise.

It is really common for people to report aching muscles one or two days after exerting themselves in the

  • gym
  • workout indoor/outdoor
  • after a sudden increase in the duration or intensity of their exercise

Delayed onset muscle soreness is also very common in individuals who had just started a new exercise and/or fitness program (or just joined a new sport or gym).

Unfortunately...the exact cause of delayed onset muscle soreness is not known for sure.

It's been said and thought to be due to the result of micro-tearing of the muscle fibres (hypertrophy), and the microscopic tears of the muscle fibres is associated with swelling and pain in the muscles, which then contributes to the soreness.

Swelling from delayed onset muscle soreness can build up for days after the intense workout/activities, and this may explain why muscle soreness may be worst a couple of days after the workout. Of course, it'd also depend on the extent of the workout, which leads to extent of microscopic tearing and extent of soreness.

Usually, these delayed onset muscle soreness should go away within a week (between 3-6 days) without any special treatments (though we recommend regular deep tissue release and sports massage to accelerate it and improve muscular performance).

Some tips to accelerate recovery:

  • hydrate, hydrate, hydrate
  • muscle soaks (or dipping in pool)
  • using rest and elevation
  • doing for some light to moderate cardio workouts

If your delayed onset muscle soreness lasts more than 7 days, we recommend that you see a doctor or a physiotherapist.