Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, is the muscle soreness you may feel 24-72 hours after exercise. We are not 100% use of the physiological mechanism behind DOMS, but it'd generally agreed that it is caused from microtrauma do the muscle.
Is DOMS a sign of a good workout? Not necessarily. DOMS is just a response to new training stimulus. It is not needed for muscle growth. We grow through adaptation to stimulus, not from repairing torn muscle.
How can we alleviate the symptoms of DOMS? There is limited research on what is the most effective method, but here are some common strategies:
Massage and Self-Myofascial Release (SMR)
Massage is a commonly used tool aiming to promote recovery. Massage can be from a therapist, or through self massage such as a foam roller.
There is evidence that suggests that massage has the greatest effects if it was performed within 2 hours post exercise, with some evidence suggesting that it can reduce pain if performed up to 96 hours (4 days) after exercise.
Foam rolling is a cheap way to massage yourself. Most gyms will have the foam rollers of all shapes and sizes. I'd suggest starting with the softer versions. There are lots of resources online about how to use the foam roller. Aim for the areas of soreness and then move around to connected muscle groups - ie if your thighs are sore, move up towards the hips and down towards the calves.
Cryotherapy is the therapeutic application of cold (e.g. ice, cold bath/shower, cryotherapy machine) to local or general areas post exercise. There is recent supporting evidence that cryotherapy decreases DOMS. My advice is to test if cryotherapy works for you and if your body tolerates it.
On a side note, there is some evidence that suggests that cryotherapy can inhibit or stop the process of strength adaptations. More research is required to determine if that is so.
Compression garments (CG)
CGs are elastic tight suits that are engineered to snuggly fit the body. Often are worn during or post exercise to assist with performance or to improve recovery. There is some evidence suggesting that wearing CGs while you exercise can reduce the pain of DOM. However, there is limited evidence suggesting that CGs reduce DOMS once it sets in.
So basically, wear CGs while you exercise and there is no point wearing CGs when you're experiencing DOMS. My suggestion is to trial if CGs work for you.
I like to call it Less Intense Activity, or LIA. Some research suggests active recovery in the form of light walking or cycling can decrease pain. The mechanism behind this is not completely understood, but one theory is that it can help the removal of waste products.
I'd suggest to stay active by going for a walk or doing a light exercise program. The increases in blood flow might make all the difference.
Static and dynamic stretching
Stretching is a common strategy to alleviate the pain associated with DOMS. It is easily accessible and quick to complete. There is a lot of evidence suggesting that it can help, and a lot saying that it doesn't and some even saying that it can cause DOMS.
My advice is that if it feels good and you like stretching, then stretch. There is a lots of videos and images online of different stretches. My advice is to relax and breath through the stretch. Instead of holding it for a certain time, hold it for 5-6 cycles of your breath.
We do the majority of our physical recovery when we are sleeping. Are you getting enough sleep? Our recommendations is to aim for 7-9 hours of sleep. Anything less and you may be hindering your potential to recover.
The food that you eat will play a major role in your ability to recover. The most important nutrient will be protein. It is recommended to ingest ~2g of protein for every kg of your bodyweight. Reaching this recommendation will MAXimise your ability to recover from DOMS. Search for how much protein is in your meals, especially if you're not following our nutrition plans. It's best to spread out your protein sources throughout the day so allow for consistent absorption of protein.
- Coach Steve