Understanding Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Rajan Nanavati
6 min readMar 9, 2019

After a few weeks off from exercise, you hit the gym and work out with gusto, brutally expending all that energy built up from your time away. You push your body as hard as you can and walk out feeling exhausted yet exhilarated at the same time.

Then you wake up the next day, and everything is sore beyond belief.

To you, it’s that “hurts so good in the long run but hurts so bad right now” feeling the next day. The proper term for it, however, is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

What exactly is DOMS, from a physiological standpoint? How does it happen, and more importantly, why does it happen? Are certain people more susceptible to it, and if so, how can you better recover from it, or even prevent it from happening in the first place?

Let us shed some light on all of those questions.

What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)

Sometimes, the day after a hard workout is even more brutal than the workout itself. Every part of your body is in pain. You feel like you have battery acid running through your joints. Routine tasks and household chores are now an even greater burden because your muscles are thoroughly trashed, and still feeling the effects of the previous day’s workout.

While you might be in agony for the next 24–48 hours, that “agony” is actually a biological process in which your body is healing itself from the physical stress it endured. That process, specifically, is DOMS.

How Does DOMS Take Place?

Anytime you put your body through an exercise routine, or any physical stress that’s greater than the normal range of intensity to which it’s accustomed, you’re very likely to trigger DOMS.

Whenever your muscle contracts, whether it’s running on a treadmill or lifting weights, small microscopic tears occur in your muscle fibers. Naturally, the more contractions that take place, the greater the number of microscopic tears that will take place.

In most cases, tearing your muscle sounds like a bad thing, but remember that the body’s natural healing and immune functions are designed to repair itself from anything negative that’s taken…

Rajan Nanavati

Father. Husband. Indian American. Sports Junkie. Marketing Dude. Freelance Writer. Productivity Zealot. Enthusiastic Gourmand.