5 Ways to Reduce Exercise-Related Soreness
D.O.M.S. We’ve all been there. We do some lunges for the first time in a few months and the next day we can barely walk down the stairs without clinging to the railing. Or we had 100 box jumps in a workout and our calves are tight and tender when we try to roll them out.
What is it?
D.O.M.S. stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, and is usually associated with eccentric exercise (strengthening while lengthening) and sudden changes in training routine. This soreness usually shows up between 24 and 72 hours following exercise.
Why does DOMS happen?
D.O.M.S. likely occurs as a result of microtrauma to the muscle fibers. The affected muscles are not sore at rest, but sore when they are contracted, stretched, or experiencing pressure (e.g. when somebody/something presses on them). This is why you might not feel the soreness until you try to stand up from a chair or roll out of bed. D.O.M.S. seems to be a “stop signal” for us to modify our activity and avoid heavy lift percentages while our bodies recover and repair themselves.
How do we make it less horrible?
While we should certainly respect our body’s signals to us, here are some research-backed ways to help reduce some of that debilitating soreness.
1. Foam Rolling
Spending some time on your foam roller can help to attenuate soreness after a workout. This may help by improving blood flow to the muscles or simply “over pressuring” the muscles so that they are less sensitive to stretching during your daily activities.
2. Soft Tissue Work/Massage
Similar to foam rolling, having some soft tissue work done can help improve your tolerance to pressure and decrease soreness intensity. Massage can additionally help to decrease the amount of stress on your nervous system (helping you be more zen), which has positive effects on your recovery status.
3. Active Exercise
Unsurprisingly, movement and gentle resistance exercises for the sore muscles can have a major impact on soreness. Consider using some bands to do some pull aparts or presses if your shoulders are sore. Similarly, doing some bodyweight squats can help with sore quads and hamstrings.
4. Nutritional Interventions
There are also some nutritional tactics that have been shown to help decrease DOMS. Below is a summary of some findings:
- Caffeine: 5mg/kg of bodyweight may reduce DOMS via central nervous system “down regulation”
- Omega-3 fatty acids: 1.8-3g of Omega-3 supplementation may reduce DOMS after exercise due to its anti-inflammatory effects
- Taurine: 50mg of taurine may decrease DOMS due to decreased oxidative stress
- Polyphenols:Tart cherry juice or pomegranate juice may decrease DOMS due to antioxidant effects and anti-inflammatory effects
5. Medications (BUT this does NOT speed up recovery)
Medications, such as ibuprofen, have been reported to alleviate muscle soreness after unaccustomed exercise. HOWEVER, ibuprofen does NOT appear to affect the recovery of muscle function or regeneration, meaning that despite feeling less sore, your muscles are actually still working hard on repairing themselves to be stronger. Be cautious here, because you don’t want to override the protective purpose of D.O.M.S and perform heavy exercise before your body has had the opportunity to repair itself. If you ever have any questions regarding taking medications and their effect on exercise, consult with your physician.
Unsurprisingly, movement and gentle resistance exercises for the sore muscles can have a major impact on soreness.
DISCLAIMER:This content is for educational & informational use only and & does not constitute medical advice. The content is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice or medical recommendations, diagnosis or treatment. Please consult with a qualified medical professional for proper evaluation & treatment, or beginning any exercises or activity in this content. Sports Performance Physical Therapy, Inc. is not responsible for any harm caused by the use of this content.
- Gregory E. P. Pearcey, David J. Bradbury-Squires, Jon-Erik Kawamoto, Eric J. Drinkwater, David G. Behm, and Duane C. Button (2015) Foam Rolling for Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness and Recovery of Dynamic Performance Measures. Journal of Athletic Training: January 2015, Vol. 50, No. 1, pp. 5-13.
- Andersen, Lars L.1; Jay, Kenneth1; Andersen, Christoffer H.1; Jakobsen, Markus D.1; Sundstrup, Emil1; Topp, Robert2; Behm, David G. Acute Effects of Massage or Active Exercise in Relieving Muscle Soreness: Randomized Controlled TrialJournal of Strength and Conditioning Research: December 2013 – Volume 27 – Issue 12 – p 3352–3359 doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b
- G. Paulsen I. M. Egner M. Drange H. Langberg H. B. Benestad J. G. Fjeld J. Hallén T. Raastad. A COX‐2 inhibitor reduces muscle soreness, but does not influence recovery and adaptation after eccentric exercise. Scandinavian Journal of Medicine & Science in Sports. First published: 19 January 2010 https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1600-0838.2009.00947.x
- Jay K, Sundstrup E, Søndergaard SD, et al. Specific and cross over effects of massage for muscle soreness: randomized controlled trial. Int J Sports Phys Ther. 2014;9(1):82-91.
- Kim J, Lee J. A review of nutritional intervention on delayed onset muscle soreness. Part I. J Exerc Rehabil. 2014;10(6):349-56. Published 2014 Dec 31. doi:10.12965/jer.140179
As always, we hope this helps! If you have any questions or if you would like to read about certain topics, feel free to send us an email at TeamSP@SportsPerformancePT.com.
-Dr. Marissa Rescott, PT, DPT, CF-L1
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