http-equiv='refresh'/> Global Therapies: DOMS - an explanation this time

Monday, 23 May 2011

DOMS - an explanation this time

Our blog is now featured on our website ( You should be redirected automatically to this article on our new site.

If you get an ERROR MESSAGE, or you are not redirected please press the REFRESH button on your browser.

It has been brought to my attention that I did not really explain DOMS in my last post. I looked at it today and realised that its very short, and just talks about me.

Hmmm, maybe this time I might be able to give a bit more information as to what it is, why it happens, and how to avoid it.

DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. It is the feeling of painful, tired muscles that you get maybe 24, maybe even 48 hours after hard, unaccustomed exercise. You think you've got away with it, and then all of a sudden, you wake up and you can barely stand up, let alone walk down the stairs to make a cup of coffee.

What is it?
There are a few theories about this. The main one being that when you exercise, the blood brings oxygen to the muscles, and then takes away metabolic waste, e.g. hydrogen ions, which create carbonic acid, and lactic acid, which makes the pH level in the muscle too low for it to work properly - hence causing fatigue etc - taking it back to the lungs/liver etc to be dealt with.

If after significant exercise, you stop, and don't warm down, don't stretch, and just sit down for a beer, (or even if you chug a "recovery" drink, those metabolic waste products just sit there in the muscles. The blood isn't pumping as hard, and doesn't continue getting it out of the system.

Another theory is micro-trauma to the muscle cells resulting in an inflammatory process within the muscles, or it could be increased interstitial fluid (intercellular fluid) increasing pressure on pain sensitive structures.

Whichever one (or more likely a combination of these) factors it is, it results in increased muscle tension, swelling, stiffness and resistance to stretching.
(the lactic acid and muscle spasm theories have mostly been discredited, but muscle damage has a decent scientific basis)

Why does it happen?
Oddly enough, eccentric activity has been shown to be the main culprit for DOMS. (eccentric muscle activity is when the muscle is being loaded while lengthening- so if you were to lift a book, your biceps shorten- concentric- but if you put it back down, your biceps are still working- against gravity- even though the muscle is lengthening - eccentric)
When running/walking down hill, a massive eccentric load is placed upon the quad muscles on the front of your legs. Coming off a hill at the end of the day, and then sitting down in a pub is a recipe for really quite painful legs on the morrow.

However, it is not exclusively eccentric activity that causes DOMS. Cycling is pretty much only concentric muscle contractions, but I can definitely report having DOMS after an unaccustomed long hard ride.

Right- how to avoid it.
You are more likely to get DOMS if you change your mileage in a big way, if you do a strenuous workout that you haven't done before or if you aren't used to the stresses you are putting on your body because you suddenly do something different. If you are looking at changing an exercise plan, do it slowly, or Muscle Soreness will probably result. If something changes in your fitness regime/life, and uses muscles that you didnt know you had, or pumps blood through areas which don't normally get it - expect to get it.

Changes to Type of exercise
Changes to Time of exercise
Changes to Intensity of exercise
Changes to the Frequency of the exercise
If you do any of these 4 you are more likely to get DOMS.

If there is no way to avoid it - like you just HAVE to go on a 17 mile run over some hills today, or you HAVE to wander over that hill to see what is on the other side, or you HAVE to go to that aerobics class, at the end, WARM DOWN. Stretch out, if you can, ice your muscles, jump in a cold bath, (or glacial stream) for 10 mins, get waste products out of your muscles, have a post event massage, anything like that.

DOMS is avoidable, and I mostly rely on the icebath/ contrast shower recovery method, a bit of stretching and post event massage.

No comments:

Post a Comment