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DOMS: What it Is and How to Treat It

Have you ever felt sore after a workout before? Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, otherwise known as DOMS, is one of the most common reactions to extremely strenuous workouts.



What is DOMS?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness is, in short, your muscles’ response to strenuous or new exercise. Your muscles will get stiff and sore, a general aching rather than a sharp pain usually. The overworked muscles are inflamed, and the muscle fibers are repairing themselves.


It’s worse when you’re trying to use the muscles you overworked. That’s why going up the stairs after leg day is so tricky.


It lasts about 1-2 days, but don’t be surprised if it doesn’t start until a couple of days after your workout. Especially if it’s a new, and/or particularly strenuous workout. It tends to be more common if you don’t rest, eat, or drink enough after working out to help your body recover.


Treating DOMS

If you’re willing to wait, DOMS goes away within less than a week most of the time without any treatment. However, there are ways to help relieve the pain associated with it and help improve recovery. Just don’t overdo it while you’re healing.


Pain Relief Medication and Balms

To reduce inflammation, you can take NSAIDs like Aspirin, Ibuprofen, and Naproxen. These pain relief medications will only help temporarily, but can help cut through the worst of the soreness.


However, it’s better to avoid using pain relief medication if possible. Pain relief balms like Tiger Balm or IcyHot are good alternatives.


Sports Massage or Foam Rolling

If you can get a spot and/or afford one, a sports massage is a great way to reduce the pain and soreness associated with DOMS.


Sports massages can get expensive, however. If you can't do one of those, a foam roller or tennis ball massage at home can help reduce the pain as well. You can get a foam roller at Walmart, Target, or on Amazon.


Epsom Salt Baths

A warm bath in epsom salts will really help the pain as well. Both the epsom salt and the warm water both will help reduce the inflammation. You can find epsom salt in any drugstore, some of them even have essential oils to help improve healing as well.


Sleep, Water, And Food

Make sure you’re taking care of yourself! Sleeping enough every night will speed along recovery. Drink plenty of water, and eat nutritious food.


Preventing DOMS in the Future

There are quite a few ways to help prevent DOMS before it happens. Unfortunately, you can’t completely avoid the possibility of getting it, but if you’re careful you can avoid severe soreness most of the time.


Drink Plenty of Water

If you drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercising, you’re less likely to have muscle soreness. Electrolytes are also helpful if you’ve been sweating more than usual. So don’t forget your water bottle!


Warmups and Cooldowns

Make sure you’re warming up and cooling down adequately before and after every workout. This helps prevent injury and DOMS both. Gently easing your muscles into and out of exercise will help prevent issues before they start.


Know Your Limits

Where you can, avoid overdoing it. While DOMS is often an issue when you’re trying new exercises, it can also happen if you work out for too long or too many times in a week. So take it slow when you’re adding something new or just getting started.


Gentle Movement On Rest Days

On your rest days, if possible, find a way to incorporate gentle movement. Whether it’s a walk or a light yoga routine, the light movement will loosen your muscles and prevent stiffness. But don’t do anything too strenuous, or you’ll make it worse.


DOMS is highly unpleasant, but a fairly normal reaction to strenuous movement and exercise. Just stay safe and be careful to not overextend yourself!


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