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DOMS…What is it and how can we treat it?

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If you came to a class at CrossFit Boomtown yesterday, today may be a rough day for anything involving, well your body. We accompanied a hypertrophy strength workout with a pretty grueling metcon that probably left you a little sore.

If you woke up this morning and things like getting out of bed, going to the bathroom, walking down stairs or picking something up off the floor made you say “OWWWW” this blog is for you.

First things first. understanding the difference between being sore and being hurt is a very important part of training. At some point, if you push yourself, you will probably feel a bit of soreness. This is ok. Feeling hurt is not. Knowing the difference is paramount to progress.

That being said, the soreness you are feeling is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or more commonly referred to as DOMS. DOMS can kick in as quickly as 6 hours post exercise, and usually peaks around the 36-48 hour mark.

So…what causes DOMS?

For a long time people thought that DOMS was caused by a build up of lactic acid in your muscles, but research has shown that this is not the case. Instead, DOMS appears to be a result of inflammation caused by microscopic tears in your connective tissues (the trauma we cause to our muscles when we exercise). The more intense the exercise and greater focus on the eccentric phase (when we lengthen or stretch our muscles) the more likely for a case of DOMS.

The pain we feel is our body’s way of signaling that repair is going on. While there is no guaranteed way to alleviate DOMS, there are some things you can try that will help with muscle soreness. Here are a few:

  1. Ibuprofen – low dose, over the counter pain killers can help lower inflammation and help with severe pain from DOMS
  2. Gentle Stretching – slow, controlled stretches will help muscles that are tight and sore. This will also help blood flow to these areas, usually lessening the pain.
  3. Light massage – massage also helps muscles loosen and increases blood flow and has been shown to help lessen the duration of soreness
  4. Epson Salt bath – a warm bath with epsom salts can help improve circulation and loosen up tight muscles, better circulation means oxygen rich blood being pumped to sore areas.
  5. Heat/Ice Treatment – alternating between hot and cold every 15 minutes or so for a few cycles has been shown to help with muscle repair and sorness
  6. Use a topical muscle rub – My favorite is Magsoothium (http://www.magsoothium.com), it has arnica, witch hazel and magnesium sulfate which really help muscle soreness without the burning of something like IcyHot.

Besides these strategies, try to give your body some time to recover. Be sure to still get up and move. Sitting and completely resting will only make DOMS worse. Come in and ride a bike or gently row for a few minutes. Stretch, do a bodyweight flow sequence or some yoga. Avoid heavy lifting using the sore body parts for a day or two, but definitely keep active. Also, be sure to drink LOTS of water!

Sometimes being sore is inevitable. It’s your body’s way of saying “we put work in”. Try these ways to help alleviate some soreness and be sure to get back at it when you are feeling good!