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Embracing the Post-Workout Waddle: Dealing with Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

Have you ever experienced that delightful feeling of triumph after crushing a killer workout, only to find yourself wincing with every step the next day? Ah, yes, that old friend we affectionately refer to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS).

If you've ever found yourself struggling to sit down on the toilet or raise your arms to grab your favourite snack from the top shelf, you know exactly what I'm talking about.

But fear not, while DOMS may be an inevitable part of the fitness journey, there are some strategies we can employ to minimise its wrath and bounce back quicker than ever. Let's dive into the world of post-workout recovery and bid adieu to the dreaded DOMS!

Understanding the Beast: What is DOMS?

Before we dive into the remedies, let's get acquainted with our nemesis. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, as the name suggests, refers to the muscle pain and stiffness that typically develops several hours after intense or unaccustomed exercise. It's like a cruel surprise party your muscles throw for you after you thought you had a great time at the gym.

But what causes this delightful sensation? Well, it's believed that DOMS occurs as a result of microscopic damage to muscle fibres during exercise, coupled with inflammation and the accumulation of waste products like lactic acid [4]. Essentially, it's your muscles saying, "Hey, we're not used to this level of activity, so we're going to make sure you remember it!"

Taming the Beast: Tips to Combat DOMS

1. Gradual Progression: One of the best ways to prevent DOMS from knocking you off your feet is to ease into new exercise routines gradually. Don't go from couch potato to gym superhero overnight. Slow and steady wins the race, my friends.

Gradually increasing exercise intensity and volume can help reduce the severity of DOMS [1]. By allowing your muscles time to adapt to increased demands, you can minimise the risk of excessive soreness.

2. Warm-Up and Cool Down: I can't stress this enough – warming up before your workout and cooling down afterward can work wonders for preventing DOMS. Get those muscles nice and limber before you ask them to do any heavy lifting.

Incorporating a dynamic warm-up routine prior to exercise has been shown to enhance muscle performance and reduce the risk of DOMS [3]. Additionally, a thorough cool-down involving stretching and low-intensity exercise can help facilitate recovery and reduce muscle soreness.

3. Hydration and Nutrition: Proper hydration and nutrition are key players in the battle against DOMS. Make sure you're fuelling your body with the nutrients it needs to repair and recover effectively. Oh, and don't forget to drink water like it's your job [2].

Studies have shown that dehydration can exacerbate muscle soreness and impair recovery following exercise [3]. Maintaining adequate hydration levels before, during, and after workouts is essential for optimal performance and recovery.

4. Foam Rolling and Dynamic Stretching: Treat your muscles to some self-love with foam rolling and dynamic stretching sessions. It may feel like torture in the moment, but your muscles will thank you later, I promise.

Foam rolling can help reduce DOMS and improve muscle recovery by increasing blood flow and reducing muscle stiffness [3]. Incorporating foam rolling and dynamic stretching into your post-workout routine can enhance flexibility and alleviate muscle soreness.

5. Rest and Recovery: Last but certainly not least, give your body the rest and recovery it deserves. Listen to your body's cues and don't be afraid to take a day off when needed. Your gains aren't going anywhere, I promise.

Adequate rest and recovery are crucial for muscle repair and growth. Insufficient rest between exercise sessions can lead to increased muscle soreness and impaired performance. Prioritise quality sleep and allow your muscles time to recover between workouts to minimise the risk of DOMS.

Come and see our Barnet, Cockfosters & Enfield Physio's today to assist with DOMS. We also have a new Stretchology service that can assist with exactly this issue.

Blog By: Emre Oz (Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist at Crouch Physio).


1. Szymanski, D.J., 2001. Recommendations for the avoidance of delayed-onset muscle soreness. Strength & Conditioning Journal, 23(4), p.7.

2. Cheuvront, S.N., Carter III, R. and Sawka, M.N., 2003. Fluid balance and endurance exercise performance. Current sports medicine reports, 2(4), pp.202-208.

3. Behm, D.G. and Chaouachi, A., 2011. A review of the acute effects of static and dynamic stretching on performance. European journal of applied physiology, 111, pp.2633-2651.

4. Cheung, K., Hume, P.A. and Maxwell, L., 2003. Delayed onset muscle soreness. Sports medicine, 33(2), pp.145-164.

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