Managing DOMS: How to Deal with Muscle Soreness

peter griffin hurt leg parody

If you’re getting back into training after a break or you have had an intense training session then you can expect your old friend DOMS to make an appearance.

What Does DOMS Stand For?

DOMS stands for delayed-onset muscle soreness and it can range from a slight ache to being unable to move upon waking, most times it will fall somewhere between the two.

What Causes DOMS?

There are several theories about what causes DOMS, from lactic acid to microtears in the muscles. It’s probably a combination of microtears in the muscle combined with the inflammatory response. Either way, no one is 100% sure, we just know it can hurt.

What To Do If You Have DOMS

First of all, relax.

You’re not the first and you won’t be the last. DOMS is normal and it doesn’t mean you’ve seriously injured yourself. A bad case can be pretty painful but it does pass.

Drink plenty of water, get plenty of protein and you’ll be fine.

DOMS tends to peak around 24 hours after your session and will usually have disappeared 72 hours afterwards. That said there are a few things that make things easier when DOMS is in full swing.

Keep moving

It can be tempting to crawl into bed, or sit around and do nothing, this isn’t ideal.

The best thing to do is simply to keep moving. If you’re moving around then your blood keeps flowing to the area and it doesn’t tighten up as it would if you were sitting still.

If you keep moving as much as possible then the only tough time of day will be when you get up in the morning!


The actual reduction in DOMS you’ll get from stretching is little to none, but it will make moving around easier. Stretch the affected area thoroughly and keep moving to avoid getting stuck in your chair.


Yeah, I’m happy with this one. Caffeine appears to reduce DOMS.


You can pop some ibuprofen if you feel so inclined. There is the possibility that reducing inflammation could reduce the training response.

There’s not really much else you can do.

Massage doesn’t help.

Hot baths don’t help.

Cold baths may help but not much

(anecdotally I’d say that cold baths do help, but some research suggests that they might reduce the training effect)

A Note On Stairs

You’d think climbing the stairs would be the hardest part of DOMS after a leg day.

It’s not.

If you have an inquisitive nature, you might notice that the muscle only really hurts when it is lengthening, not when it’s contracting. This is known as an eccentric contraction, it’s what causes most of the soreness and it’s the type of movement that will be most painful while you’re recovering.

It’s for this reason that it is actually harder to go DOWN the stairs, lower yourself to pan, and sit down, rather than getting up or climbing stairs.

When DOMS Becomes Tendinitis

Sometimes when you train too hard, you get inflammation of your tendons too, rather than just your muscles. It’s rarer than DOMS but still fairly common. Most people with a few years of lifting experience will have experienced a mild case at least once.

Tendinitis, like DOMS, isn’t necessarily a reason to worry. I had a pretty bad case a few years back and although it was painful and my range of motion was diminished for a few days, it did no lasting damage whatsoever.

Some anti-inflammatories and a dose of man the fuck up are normally sufficient, but it is a sign that you’re pushing too hard. Your muscles might ache simply because you took a weak off but when your tendons complain there’s usually a pretty good reason, so don’t push it.

To sum up:

  • Keep moving
  • Keep caffeinated
  • Drink plenty of water
  • Eat well
  • Stretch to maintain mobility
  • Take painkillers if you must

Until next time,