Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a specific type of discomfort in the muscles. It was previously believed that a “build up” of lactic acid in the muscles was responsible for DOMS. However, research now shows that lactic acid is removed from muscles within an hour after exercise.
More recent studies demonstrate that physical activity beyond the current ability of muscles to meet the demand result in a type of trauma to muscle fibers themselves. This overload creates “microtears” in the muscle fibers. It is characterized by increased
plasma enzyme activity.
DOMS typically increases during the first 24 hours after activity and peaks at about 48 hours. During that time, the muscle fibers then repair themselves by increasing in size and becoming stronger. As your body adapts to new levels of physical activity, you will notice that DOMS is less frequent, but your strength, stamina, and flexibility all are improving. To optimize the results of physical activity and reduce injury risk, take exceptional care to optimize your nutrition and rest.
As you become more physically activity, you will learn to attend to and differentiate the sensations you experience during and after physical activity. You can be assured that DOMS is not associated with long term muscle damage or reduction in function. However, do contact your health care provider immediately if you experience:
- DOMS that lasts longer than 48 hours
- discomfort or pain during activity that is either new or made worse by the activity
- continued discomfort in joints and/or bones