DOMS:That “ouch I exercised” ache…

image from

Yesterday you changed up your routine – adding some weight and some new exercises to your routine- and this morning you’re body you’re definitely feeling it.  The muscles you worked are sore; even muscles you didn’t think you HAD are sore.

Welcome to the wonderful world of DOMS.

DOMS – or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness- is that pain you feel one to three days after you’ve exercised.  It normally occurs when:

  1. you’ve just begun an exercise routine;
  2. you’ve increased the intensity;
  3. you’ve added new exercises;
  4. you overlooked a proper warm up or cool down.

While traditionally DOMS was explained as an excess building of lactic acid causing the discomfort,  recently it’s been discovered that the same micro-tears that occur to make a muscle stronger cause DOMS. 

Let me explain:

When we begin a new exercise routine -either new  all together or simply switch up what we’ve been doing- the increased demand causes tiny micro tears in the muscle fibers.  These tears- when repaired-make the muscle stronger.  But while they are in the process of repair, we feel the pain.

First a chemical is released into the blood stream that draws white blood cells to the damaged area.  These blood cells clean out each damaged muscle cell, creating free radicals while they do, which add to the destruction of the cells.  This creates swelling and inflammation on a cellular level that we perceive as pain. 

This pain will continue until the tears are completely healed – a process that can take 24-72 hours to accomplish depending on the quality of our sleep and the amount of rest we get during the day.

It’s interesting to note that most DOMS seems to be caused by the eccentric (negative) movement.  So slowly lowering weight against the force of gravity is a move that will more frequently create this delayed pain. 

This will be an important consideration when I look at  ways to cope with DOMS or to limit its impact all together.


5 responses to “DOMS:That “ouch I exercised” ache…

  1. I didn’t realize it was called DOMS in english. Needs a new name anyway, too long. The german word for it, “Muskelkater”, which translates to “muscle hangover”, sounds cuter to me.

  2. Yeah you’re right I experienced that too.

    maybe you can give some of your exercise guidelines? I have one but I want to try another procedure.

  3. I just wrote something similar about microtrauma and how it is comparable to modern day evolution. It is very intriguing how it occurs. I like your article.


  4. Hi Debs, Love the photo. I will be sure to pass on the good news that “pain is weakness leaving the body” to some people I know who complain a little more than average :)
    Toby. My site: Does P90X Work

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