Understanding and Managing Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Written by
Dr. David Minkoff
Published on
June 30, 2023 at 10:59:21 AM PDT June 30, 2023 at 10:59:21 AM PDTth, June 30, 2023 at 10:59:21 AM PDT

As summer approaches, many of us are motivated to get fit and adopt new health and fitness routines. However, injuries, stiffness, and muscle soreness can disrupt our progress and commitment. One common condition that affects individuals after intense workouts is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). In this article, we will explore what DOMS is, its causes, and discuss various approaches to manage and recover from it.

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)?

DOMS refers to the muscle soreness and discomfort experienced 12-48 hours after engaging in intensive or unfamiliar physical activities. It typically occurs when we engage in exercises that involve eccentric muscle actions, such as lowering weights or walking downhill. Contrary to what most people assume, DOMS occurs during the lowering phase of an exercise, not the lifting phase.

Understanding DOMS

During DOMS, muscles become sensitive to touch, exercise, and even passive stretching. This discomfort arises due to various factors, including increased lactic acid, muscle spasms, inflammation, and microscopic tears in the muscle and connective tissues. While DOMS may be unpleasant, it is important to note that it is not an indicator of muscle damage but rather a part of the healing process that contributes to muscle growth.

Traditional Medical Treatments for DOMS

Commonly used physical medicine modalities like ultrasound, TENS, cold laser, and manipulation have not shown consistent effectiveness in managing DOMS. Similarly, traditional medications like non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as ibuprofen, may provide temporary pain relief but do not accelerate muscle recovery. Moreover, excessive use of NSAIDs may hinder the body's natural healing process.

Alternative Treatments for DOMS

Alternative therapies, such as acupuncture, massage therapy, and frequency-specific microcurrent (FSM), have shown promise in reducing the perceived pain associated with DOMS. While acupuncture may not affect muscle function directly, it can alleviate pain and discomfort. Additionally, techniques like earthing or grounding, which involve walking barefoot or using grounding mats to reduce electromagnetic exposure, have shown potential benefits in speeding up healing. However, further research is needed to establish their efficacy conclusively.

Exploring Supplements and Nutritional Approaches

Studies suggest that oxidative stress and free radical damage may play a role in DOMS. While individual antioxidant supplements like vitamin C have not shown significant improvement, consuming a diet rich in fruits and vegetables that contain a variety of antioxidants is beneficial. Other supplements like creatine and melatonin, which possess antioxidant properties, have shown potential benefits beyond muscle soreness and warrant further exploration. Green tea, known for its antioxidant properties, may also aid in reducing exercise-induced oxidative stress.

Additional Approaches to Aid Recovery

In addition to the above treatments, some folk remedies and practices may help alleviate DOMS. Drinking pickle juice, although lacking strong scientific evidence, has been suggested by some to reduce muscle soreness. Certain supplements like glutamine, magnesium, and fish oil have been recommended by fitness professionals, although their effectiveness in rigorous studies is yet to be proven. Moreover, maintaining proper hydration using electrolyte-rich solutions like Sole therapy, which uses Original Himalayan Crystal Salt, can help replenish minerals lost during exercise. Lastly, practices like ice bathing or cold water immersion have been popular among athletes for reducing inflammation and improving blood flow to the muscles.

Managing Stress and Recovery

Engaging in new or intense physical activities is a form of stress for the body. It is important to support the body's ability to adapt and cope with stress. Products like Revolution Macalibrium (for men) and Femmenessence (for women) can aid in supporting the body's neuroendocrine system.