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Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) describes a phenomenon of muscle pain, muscle soreness or muscle stiffness that occurs in the day or two after exercise. This muscle soreness is most frequently felt when you begin a new exercise program, change your exercise routine, or dramatically increase the duration or intensity of your exercise routine.

Although it can be alarming, DOMS is a normal response to unusual exertion and is part of an adaptation process that leads to greater stamina and strength as the muscles recover and build hypertrophy.

DOMS is generally at its worst within the first 2 days following a new, intense activity and slowly subsides over the next few days.

What Causes Muscle Soreness After Exercise?

DOMS is thought to be a result of microscopic tearing of the muscle fibres. The amount of this tearing depends on how hard and how long you exercise and what type of exercise you do. Any movement you aren't used to can lead to DOMS, but eccentric muscle contractions (movements that cause muscle to forcefully contract while it lengthens) seem to cause the most soreness.

Examples of eccentric muscle contractions include going down stairs, running downhill, lowering weights and the downward motion of squats and push-ups. In addition to small muscle tears there can be associated swelling in a muscle which may contribute to soreness. 

What Is the Best Treatment for Muscle Soreness After Exercise?

There is no one simple way to treat delayed onset muscle soreness. In fact, there has been an on-going debate about both the cause and treatment of DOMS. In the past, gentle stretching was one of the recommended ways to reduce exercise related muscle soreness, but a study by Australian researchers published in 2007 found that stretching is not effective in avoiding muscle soreness though should not be avoided as stretching helps reduce injuries.

So does anything work to reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness? Nothing is proven 100 percent effective so it's best to try a few things to see what works for you. Ultimately, best advice for treating DOMS is to prevent it in the first place.

  • Post Exercise Massage
  • Foam Rolling (simulates massage)
  • Sports Compression Before / During & After Exercise (perpetual massage)
  • Ice / Ice Bath
  • Warm Down to 10% of Active Intensity

All or any of these options can assist in reducing the effects of DOMS but not are 100% assured for everyone.  Each athlete is different and each solution will have varying amounts of success as a consequence.