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 Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Causes After Exercise

Delayed onset muscle soreness predominantly affects the muscle after unusual physical activities. This exercise-induced condition happens after a period of reduced activity or occurs when certain activities are first introduced. The discomfort can range from mild muscle tenderness to severely debilitating pain. Mild muscle soreness and joint stiffness usually disappear with mild to moderate intensity daily activities. The pain intensity typically increases within the first 24 hours, and the pain can remain up to 72 hours. Most of the time, the pain will subside 5 to 7 days post-exercise with relative rest.

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DOMS is a type I muscle strain injury. A prolonged period of unfamiliar high force muscle work can cause the onset of DOMS. Eccentric exercises that require muscle contraction at a lengthened position cause more micro-damage to the muscle. Examples of eccentric activities include downhill running, resisted cycling, ballistic stretching, stepping, and eccentric resistance training. 

A few hypothesized theories are proposed for the cause of DOMS, such as lactic acid, muscle spasm, connective tissue damage, muscle damage, inflammation, and enzyme efflux theories. One single theory cannot explain the onset of DOMS, and integrating several methods in unique sequences can better explain the emergence of DOMS in detail. 

An athlete’s performance can be affected by DOMS as the joint range of motion, shock attenuation ability, and peak torque of a joint are reduced. Muscle ligaments and tendons are at a higher risk of injury as muscle sequencing and recruitment patterns are altered. This can result in abnormal stresses placed on ligaments and tendons. Therefore, premature return to sport may precipitate further injury. 

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