Paragon Press – December 2015

What is DOMS – The mystery of pain “out of nowhere”?

Your goal to work out four to five times a week starting January 1st is made and you head off to the gym to begin Day 1, for a healthier 2016. The first day begins with a moderate upper body lifting regimen. You decide not to work out the next day, but when you wake up on the third day, you can barely lift your arms to get in a spoonful of cereal. What happened? Why didn’t I hurt yesterday if this is from lifting weights? Is it an injury?

The usual answer is: no. You are experiencing DOMS, or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Delayed soreness can develop 12-24 hours after you exercise, with the greatest pains happening in up to 24-72 hours. This pain stems from microscopic damage done when you placed new stresses on the muscles. This damage is not permanent; it is a side effect to the repairs your body is doing, which can lead to stronger muscles and increased mass. There are certain activities known to cause DOMS:

  • Step aerobics
  • Strength training exercises
  • Hill walking
  • Jogging
  • Jumping

These activities cause muscles to lengthen when force is applied, leading to the microscopic damage, and the delayed pain you will experience. The amount of DOMS pain you have depends on the type and amount of force placed on the muscles. For example, running down a hill places greater force on a muscle than walking down the same hill, resulting in more pain after the downhill run. Doing more repetitions results in more pain than less. This is the reason doctors and exercise experts recommend you start slowly.

I Think I Need Help

DOMS typically does not require you to seek medical treatment. If the pain becomes debilitating, your arms or legs become swollen, or if your urine becomes dark, then you should seek medical attention.


Starting slowly into a new exercise routine is the first step to avoid DOMS. Include a cool down period of 10 minutes after exercising, raising your heart rate mildly, such as slow jogging and stretching. Allow enough time for your muscles to recover before using those aching muscles. Schedule your workout routines to cover a variety of muscle groups on different days, so you don’t stress the same group every time. Stretching before and after the exercise can help. Know that everyone can get DOMS, from the exercising newbie to the track Olympian. Let that soreness encourage you that you are working your muscles and creating a healthier body.

The following articles were referenced for this newsletter: