Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): What Does It Mean?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): What Does It Mean?

Authored by Marshall on January 25, 2023

Perhaps you’ve never heard of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, but you have likely experienced it. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is often referred to as DOMS, and as the name suggests, it refers to a form of physical discomfort. This soreness occurs after an athlete has engaged in certain types of workouts. 

If you want to learn more about DOMS and ways to treat and prevent it, we’re here to deliver. In this article, we will discuss everything DOMSrelated! If you come away with any more questions, get in touch with us. The Jack City crew has answers! 

What Is DOMS in Exercise?

Let’s say you always hit the gym on Monday nights. By your lunch break on Tuesday, your muscles are tired, aching, and sore. You may even find that movements feel stiff or your muscles feel swollen or sensitive. When you get home, your toddler runs into your arms—but lifting them feels heavier than usual. Don’t freak out. Your Monday workout night didn’t break you. You’re likely just experiencing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). 

DOMS is a specific type of muscular or bodily discomfort that is experienced after a person has been working out. DOMS is unique for a couple of reasons.

First of all, the effects of DOMS are not felt immediately—hence the “delayed onset” part of the acronym! While the exact timeline varies depending on the athlete, the symptoms of DOMS tend to crop up hours (typically 12-24) after a workout. Once the soreness sets in, it may take several days to subside. This sets it apart from Acute Muscle Soreness, which typically occurs during or immediately after a workout session.

Another trademark of DOMS is the type of exercise that often causes it. Though DOMS can (and does) occur following all types of exercise, one of the biggest culprits is something called “eccentric” movement. In this case, eccentric refers to a type of movement that simultaneously lengthens and tenses a muscle. Many “lowering” motions of a lift create eccentric movement. So do activities like running downhill.

Is All Post-Exercise Discomfort Caused by Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

No! While DOMS is a common type of post-workout discomfort or soreness, it isn’t the only one. Many athletes experience strain or pain after working out, especially if they are using improper form. This is why so many newcomers to strength training experience lower back pain after deadlifting if they don’t have a fitness coach to help them with form. If you regularly experience pain after a workout that is not Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, we recommend speaking with a professional. You may be using incorrect form and could injure yourself working out. A fitness coach will be able to ensure that you are working out safely and help you avoid dangerous pain.

What Causes DOMS?

As we mentioned, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness happens after intense exercise, particularly eccentric movement. But what causes DOMS to occur in the body?

When an athlete engages in high-intensity workouts, their muscles work hard. As a result, minuscule tears begin to form in the fiber of those muscles. This leads to inflammation in the body, and often, DOMS is quick to follow.

Unlike some types of post-workout discomfort, DOMS is not caused by improper form or inexperience. However, it is also not a “necessary evil” of athletics. It is absolutely possible to work out intensely without regularly experiencing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.

Is DOMS a Good Sign or a Bad One?

Honestly, we wouldn’t really categorize Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness as a good or bad sign. It’s simply a part of working out. Let’s break this down further.

We see how some would consider Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness to be a good sign. After all, it’s a great reminder that you have pushed your muscles hard and had a great workout. However, inflammation and muscle soreness are not the goals of a workout, and they’re not required for results. If you aren’t experiencing DOMS, you aren’t necessarily doing anything incorrectly.

While  Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is not the most enjoyable sensation, it’s also not a “bad” sign. It is a very common and expected part of working out. However, if your post-workout soreness feels sharp or is more intense than usual, we recommend speaking to a doctor. It’s always better to be safe and avoid future injury.

Delayed onset muscle soreness treatment

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Treatment Suggestions

Are you experiencing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness right now? Been there! We’re happy to share some of our most helpful ideas for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness treatment. While these tips may not affect the speed at which your muscle fiber recovers, they can have a helpful impact on the discomfort you are experiencing.

  • Step Back

If you’re experiencing DOMS, it might be a good idea to take a little break from super intense exercise until you’re feeling better. If you’re itching to get back to the gym, we recommend keeping it light and letting your coach know about your current discomfort.

  • Get a Massage

Some athletes swear by massage therapy to tackle their DOMS symptoms. Studies have confirmed that this may indeed be helpful. These findings typically suggest going for a massage two days (or 48 hours) after your workout. If you don’t want to hire somebody, you can also engage in a self-massage. Some athletes receive trigger-point acupressure for DOMS symptom relief.

  • Adjust Temperature 

Heat and cold can both affect DOMS-related discomfort. Some athletes find that applying ice packs or taking cold baths can help them find relief. Ideally, a cold bath plunge will be around ten minutes, with a water temp of 50-60 degrees. If you’re shivering at the idea of a cold bath, don’t worry. Some athletes also dip into a nice warm bath to ease their muscle soreness.

  • Chow Down

Some athletes reach for certain snacks and foods to help keep their inflammation levels low. Speak with your nutritional counselor to learn more about foods that help prevent inflammation and assist muscles in the healing process. Your counselor can help to create a DOMS meal plan that you love.

How To Prevent DOMS After Your Workouts

Wondering how to prevent Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness? While there is no foolproof anti-DOMS technique, we can offer a few helpful tips.

  • Slow Down

This isn’t a competition! Don’t rush your progression. By gradually increasing your workout’s intensity, you are giving your muscles more protection against Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. 

  • Stretch

We highly recommend both warming up ahead of your workout and cooling down when you finish. While DOMS can still occur when athletes engage in these stretches, their joints and muscles will be looser. We recommend warming up with dynamic stretching and cooling down with static stretching. 

  • Drink Up

Welcome to the hydration nation. You need to drink plenty of water (or an electrolyte-heavy sports drink) to perform your best, and this may also play a crucial role in preventing DOMS. This theory was strengthened by a 2005 study published in the Journal of Athletic Training.

Let’s Get Moving!

At Jack City Fitness, we are workout pros! Our expertise covers everything from understanding and preventing DOMS to maximizing muscle recovery. But don’t just take our word for it. Come and see for yourself! We offer FREE InBody fitness consultations to every athlete interested in becoming a Jack City Partner. If you decide to join us, you’ll have 24/7 access to our entire facility. You’ll have the opportunity to take our famous workout classes, train one-on-one with our expert fitness coaches, and become part of Boise’s strongest and friendliest athletic community.

Let’s get started today! Call (208) 999-1111 to plan your visit. We can’t wait to meet you and help you smash those goals!



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