D.O.M.S – A Right Pain In The…..

It could happen anywhere in the world and our leisure centre in Waterford is no different. If you have ever lifted weights before chances are, you have had DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) in your thighs, shoulders, ass, abs, practically everywhere! That feeling the day after a workout where a sneeze would cause you to shatter as if you were made of glass – that’s DOMS.

The feeling when laughing hurts, but your pals laugh at you and it is kind of funny, so you laugh more and it hurts more! That’s DOMS.

Getting out of the car? No point! You can recline to sleep, head to a drive through to eat and to wash you can leave the window down while it’s raining and drive along the main road with the window down. Yep, that’s probably DOMS too!

But what actually causes it, why does it hurt and how can you get rid of it?


According to a post on Breaking Muscle an article by Bret Contreras (The Glute Guy) concluded that “DOMS appears to be a product of inflammation caused by microscopic tears in the connective tissue elements that sensitize nociceptors and thereby heighten the sensations of pain.1

So there you go!


Ok I’ll explain a little more.

When a muscle is used in a new type of movement, whether weight training, hill walking, running, playing a new sport or even new activities involved in a new job, muscle soreness can occur. The muscles becomes stressed and tears (microscopically). This tearing leads to the first step in the healing process – inflammation. And that’s when the pain kicks in!



Inflammation will cause the nerve endings (nociceptors) to become sensitised by the swelling meaning you feel pain when you normally wouldn’t like getting out of the car! This is why even touching the skin will provoke a tetchy response from anybody with DOMS. Some other common symptoms include2:

  • Swelling of affected areas
  • Stiffness of the joints affected
  • Temporary reduction in strength
  • Muscle breakdown (in rare cases)
  • Being a cranky pants! Just me?

These are also good reasons why massage isn’t a great idea. You’ll be so sensitive to touch that massage can actually become painful and may not assist in your recovery at all. Wait until the inflammation decreases first for a more enjoyable, beneficial massage.

When connective tissue becomes inflamed, it increases in size, meaning there is less space for it within the body. This restricts movement around a joint or in certain ways much in the same as a sprained ankle will be swollen to restrict movement and protect the joint.



DOMS will reduce and disappear when the inflammation recedes as the muscles heal and the tissue can return to its normal resting length. In my experience this can take anywhere from 3-5 days depending on the damage and/or the stimulus which caused the DOMS in the first place.

Does massage help?

Not in the acute inflammatory phase. If you can’t touch it, a therapist might just make you hit the roof!

Does foam rolling help?

Maybe, if applied correctly and again, in the acute phase of inflammation may cause you more discomfort than relief.

Ice packs?

They can numb the affected area to reduce pain but are only a short term fix. If being used, use for 5 minutes and once the affected area has returned to body temperature some light stretching can help.


Will reduce inflammation, thus increasing recovery time. BUT they can help reduce discomfort short term. What do you want first – recovery or less discomfort?


Dynamic, controlled movements within your pain-free range of motion can increase blood flow and aid waste product drainage. Keep it light!


The second day after your first weights session ever – you’re going to be sore! This will decrease the second, third and subsequent times. A change in stimulus (increase in weight, change of reps/sets, increased intensity etc.) may cause a return but it shouldn’t last as long or be as sore. In fact you may even learn to love it. I haven’t!


Most bouts of DOMS will only last 2-3 days and with the adequate recovery strategy the discomfort will decrease with each passing hour.

Consistency in training should be paramount. Starting a program, getting DOMS, taking a week off, returning to the same program and starting from scratch may have the same result – DOMS. If you don’t stop, you won’t have to start all over again.

Train. Recover. Repeat.


Thanks for reading,


Originally posted on Mark Caulfields Blog HERE. Re-posted with permission.

Some references used:

  1. http://breakingmuscle.com/strength-conditioning/doms-the-good-the-bad-and-what-it-really-means-to-your-training
  2. https://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/delayed-onset-muscle-soreness-(doms).pd