Man holding his shoulder in pain.

What is delayed onset muscle soreness?

Delayed onset muscle soreness, also known as DOMS is the pain and stiffness that you feel after a working out a group of muscles that you is unaccustomed to getting that workout.

The soreness is often felt one to three days after the exercise, and is caused by small scale damage to the muscle fiber.

The soreness is often perceived as a dull, aching pain in the affected muscle, often combined with tenderness and stiffness.

How to prevent it from happening

Muscles often adapts to the exercise and delayed onset muscle soreness. Frequently repeating the exercises with proper form will prevent the soreness from reoccurring in the future.

It also might be an indication that you’re increasing the weights that you are using too quickly. Gradually increasing the intensity of a new exercise program may prevent or reduce the severity of delayed onset muscle soreness from occurring in the future.


John starts a new exercise regimen that includes squats. He frequently did squats in high school, but hasn’t attempted to do them with a weighted barbell on his shoulder in a couple of years.

He asks his workout buddy to spot for him and make sure that his form is correct. He starts up with a light warm up and then does a 5 sets of 5 ( he wants to following StrongLifts 5×5 to get back into shape ).

The following day he wakes up and he finds the muscles near his knees ( quadriceps ) and butt ( gluteus medius and gluteus maximus )  to be slightly achy and sore.

John is experiencing the result of delayed onset muscle soreness.

Other type of muscle soreness?

There is also acute muscle soreness which appears immediately after an exercise.

What can you do for DOMS?

The soreness usually disappears within 3 days after appearing, but anything that increases blood flow to the affected area may help the symptoms.

Low intensity activity, getting a massage, having a hot bath or visiting a sauna may help some of the symptoms.

Continued exercise may also suppress the soreness — for example John decides to go for a bike ride the next day after realizing that he has a low level of DOMS, he notices that during his light exercise that the aching pain goes away but after sitting in his office chair for a couple of hours that it comes back.

Incorporating endurance training such as running, cycling and swimming could also increase the threshold and pain tolerances called exercise-induced analgesia which is known to occur in the endurance exercises.


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