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How to minimise muscle soreness

Last Updated: 17 January 2019








How to minimise muscle soreness

If you exercise, then no doubt you have experienced delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. Often worn as a badge of honour signifying how hard you worked the day before, DOMS can be mighty painful and affect your training. 


What is DOMS?

It is very common to experience soreness after working out. But there are different types of pain and soreness to be aware of. Acute pain or soreness is felt while you are exercising. This should be taken seriously – listen to your body and don’t push it if you are in pain. It would be worth chatting to a health or fitness professional if you are concerned about pain you are experiencing during an exercise. DOMS on the other hand is not felt immediately and starts to take effect about 24 hours after exercising. You will probably feel the peak of DOMS at 36-48 hours.


A build up of lactic acid in the muscles is often blamed for DOMS, however lactic acid is not actually involved. Research has shown that acute muscle soreness experienced during exercise is due to micro-tears within the muscles fibres. These micro-tears trigger the body to rebuild and strengthen muscles. This is the very basics of why muscle gain is a result of weight bearing exercise. This repair and building of muscles is part of the body’s inflammatory response and is felt as DOMS.



Regardless of your athletic prowess, gender, age or body composition, DOMS does not discriminate! However, there are measures you can take to reduce the length and severity of the discomfort.


1. Ease into new programs

Give your muscles a chance to adapt to new programs without hitting new exercises too hard. This will allow your muscles to acclimatise gradually and reduce the amount of soreness you experience afterwards. Easing into a new exercise regime is the most effective way to reduce DOMS. As a general guide, increase your sets/reps by 10% each week.


2. Warm up

Prepare your muscles for the exercise you are about to undertake by warming them up. Start off with gentle activity focussing on the target muscle groups you will be working that session.


3. Stretch after exercise

Weight baring exercise tightens and contracts muscles. Lengthen them back out and promote blood flow to the area by ensuring you stretch after each workout.


4. Recovery

If you are struggling with DOMS symptoms using ice packs or massage can often offer some relief. It is important to remember however that it does not fasten recovery but just helps you cope with symptoms only. You do not have to refrain from exercise while you are recovering however it is best to stick to light exercise. Jumping back into a full workout can make DOMS worse. You will probably find anyway that your muscular strength is subdued whilst still in recovery. Be sensible, if you are sore, take a walk or have mini break from exercise. Workout again when your muscles are feeling better. Give your body a chance to rest and repair itself before returning to your regular exercise program.


Written by Perri Simon

SiSU Wellness Nutritionist



American College of Sports Medicine
Nosaka K, Newton M, Sacco P. Delayed-onset muscle soreness does not reflect the magnitude of eccentric exercise-induced muscle damage. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2002 Dec;12(6):337-46.

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