Don’t you just love the feeling of not being able to walk after a tough run or workout….
It doesn’t matter if you are a newbie to exercise, or a seasoned vet, you have all at one point or another experienced the feeling of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). This is the feeling of muscle soreness and fatigue that you feel anywhere from 24-72 hours following any particularly difficult workout. While most people have felt it before, they don’t really know much about it. What causes it? Is it treatable? Does it affect performance? Because of that, I’m going to try to explain some things about muscle soreness in a very simple manner.
Simply put, DOMS is created by repeated muscular contraction. DUH. More specifically, the eccentric phase (lengthening) is the prime suspect in the case of DOMS. Lengthening of the muscle, under tension of course, cause a disruption in both connective and contractile tissues. This leads to microtrauma within the muscle, and usually results in a inflammatory response. So, that tight, sore feeling you get in your hamstrings the day(s) after a leg workout is literally because your muscles have been damaged and are trying to repair themselves.
So, should you exercise while sore? Does it affect your performance? In short, no. DOMS does not affect performance, assuming you are not doing the exact same exercises while sore. It is generally agree upon that MOVING the muscles is recommended, while EXERCISES the sore muscles is generally discouraged. So, if your legs are sore from a tough workout yesterday, you’re probably going to second guess climbing those steps to get to your apartment. But, the fact of the matter is, you’re not going to be inhibited any. You may not really feel like climbing, but your ability won’t be hindered any. Don’t let muscle soreness prevent you from getting up and moving. In fact, movement is usually the best way to rid yourself of DOMS.
Is there anything that prevents muscle soreness?? There are things that tend to help with DOMS, but there is nothing that completely prevents or removes DOMS – other than time and a whole lot of patience. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs have been shown to be somewhat effective in reducing soreness, although long-term use is probably not very beneficial. Then there is exercise (funny how that keeps popping up). The best medicine for a sore muscle, as previously mentioned, is to get up and move it around. Active skeletal muscle require increased blood flow. With blood to the muscle comes nutrients, many of which are vital in muscle recovery and repair.
There is certainly a lot of information out there on muscle soreness, some of which I don’t even completely understand. But, I feel like it is something that, since it happens so regularly, people should at least know the basics. If you are interested in reading some more on DOMS, check out this article, which does a great job explain what it is and how to deal with it.