11 Effective Ways to Manage Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

What is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is characterised by pain and discomfort in the muscles. 

Normally pain associated with exercise or physical activity subsides within hours this is called acute muscle soreness however Delayed onset muscle soreness has different pattern.

DOMS normally increases in the first 24–48 hours after exercise and then start decreasing. It may take 5–7 days post-exercise for complete recovery. 


Have you ever felt muscle heaviness after vigorous exercise?

Definitely you must have faced it. You are not alone!! Most of us have experienced DOMS in our life at some time. 

Although the exact pathology or physiology of DOMS is unknown, however, researches indicate that the primary mechanism is thought to be micro-injuries due to excessive work or strenuous exercise.  Heavy workouts lead to protein degradation, apoptosis and local inflammatory response resulting in DOMS. 

7 Symptoms of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

  1. Impaired muscle power/force
  2. Muscle stiffness and tenderness 
  3. Severe unbearable pain. 
  4. Swelling
  5. Decreased range of motion 
  6. Reduced flexibility 
  7. Functional limitation.

Why should you concern about Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

By and large DOMS is not considered as a very severe problem, it usually happens after heavy work load however, the pain and uneasiness may have a negative effect on further involvement in gym, exercise or daily household activities. Therefore, you should take extra care when you are going through DOMS, as muscle pain and insufficient ROM may increase the risk of injuries. 

Some people may think that soreness is part of gym activity and is good for muscle growth, endurance and power. However, I do not think in that way. Soreness is type of protective mechanism of body to prevent further damage. In my opinion, you should workout according to your tolerance limit. Once you feel fatigued or your muscles start to cramp – sit back and relax. Give yourself time to recover.

How to Treat Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

As we have discussed earlier in this article that DOMS is a time bound phenomena and it takes 5-7 days to disappear however, we can still reduce its impact. We can adopt strategies to diminish swelling and muscle injury, further and we can also increase ROM and flexibility. 

DOMS can be effectively managed by adopting TWO strategies 

  • Minimize DOMS symptoms 
  • Facilitating muscle recovery 

There are many treatment options that can be performed to reduce pain associated with DOMS and increase muscle recovery. The basic principal of all conservative management option is to reduce the pain sensation and associated swelling and to increase blood flow to affected area. This increased blood circulation provides necessary nutrients to the injured muscles and hence helps in muscle recovery.

Here are 11 points which can prevent and treat Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

1. Warm up: 5-10 minutes of warm up period is necessary before starting a gym workout. It facilitates and prepares the muscle for heavy work out. You can perform mild to moderate range of motion and stretching activities during warm up period.

2. Cool down: After every bout of exercise a cool down period should be encouraged. It helps in muscle to restore its nutrients which is necessary to avoid fatigue and ache associated with exercise.

3. Massage: Gentle massage to the affected area increases the lymphatic drainage and hence, removes the waste material which is main causative factor of muscle soreness.

4. Hot Packs: Hot packs or heat therapy are very easy treatment option. Heat therapy is usually applied at home in the form of hot water bottle or as electrical heating pad which uses some kind of gel in it. Hot packs or heat therapy provides a soothing effect and help in increased bold flow to the affected area.

5. Cryotherapy: Cold therapy or application of ice packs is another approach to reduce pain and increase muscle healing. However, it is not usually easily adopted by everyone due to unpleasant feeling of cold.

6. Therapeutic ultrasound: Therapeutic ultrasound is different from diagnostic ultrasound. Therapeutic ultrasound is also a good option to manage delayed onset muscle soreness.

7. Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS): As the name suggest, mild electrical stimulation is used to reduce the pain & swelling and to facilitate muscle recovery. 

8. Compression Bandages: Compression bandages are used to apply pressure to the affected area. It helps in reducing swelling. 

9. Nutrition: Studies show that nutrition plays an important role in recovery after exercise.  Proper nutrition supplies after strenuous work out helps in 

  • Milk-Based Beverages
    Milk-Based Beverages
    Replacement of glycogen store both at hepatic and muscular level 
  • Restoration of fluids and electrolytes lose which occurs during exercise
  • Repair of muscular tissue
  • Stimulation of muscle protein synthesis (MPS)

Milk-based beverages including low fat chocolate milk (LFCM) are supposed to be rich supplier of nutrients which are needed to maintain energy reserves. 

These beverages may enhance availability of protein, carbohydrate, fluid, and vitamin/mineral. It lessens the ill effect of fatigue during repeated or subsequent session of exercise. 

10. Analgesics medicine: There are mainly 3 different types of analgesic medicines

  • Simple Pain killers like Paracetamol
  • NSAIDs like ibrufen and diclofenac 
  • Compound Pain killers like paracetamol + ibuprofen, ibuprofen + codeine

These should be taken with precaution and as prescribed by physician. 

11. Acupuncture: Studies have shown that acupuncture can reduce muscle pain by activating sensitized polymodal-type receptors of the muscle by stimulation of tender points. However, data shows only a small to moderate effectiveness of acupuncture as a remedy for pain relief associated with DOMS.


Don’t rush to develop the muscle bulk or power just seeing the fancy pictures of WWE wrestlers!!! They have achieved this status with patience and steady efforts. DOMS can halt your fitness routine. Therefore, steps to reduce its impact should be taken on priority by slowly adopting to intensify your workouts. Perform warm up exercise and take rest during cool down period. Keep yourself hydrated by taking nutritious drinks.

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  1. Interesting to read, especially since I hadn't heard of DOMS but have certainly experienced it. More than once. You describe it quite acurately and the tips you give to help reduce the effects are quite useful. I should work on my nutrition more and creating a solid workout plan.

  2. Great tips! Thank you for sharing. I've recently started using the gym, so this will come in handy for me x


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