Ask an expert: What are DOMS and how can I reduce the aches and pains?

There’s nothing better than the buzz of that post-workout feeling. What’s not so great? A burning soreness for days afterwards that makes it difficult to walk.

We asked David Wiener, a training specialist from fitness app Freeletics (freeletics.com) to explain how to treat it and learn to avoid it.

“We’re all familiar with the phrase, ‘No pain, no gain’, and it may come as no surprise that you’re aching or sore after a brutal workout – but it’s a total misconception to think that pain or stiffness is a sign of an good workout, or proof that your body is making progress,” he says.

DOMS isn’t always a good sign, says Wiener (iStock/PA)
DOMS isn’t always a good sign, says Wiener (iStock/PA)

“Muscle strain or soreness following a workout could actually be a sign that you’ve pushed your body too hard, or that you’re on the road to an injury, so it’s not something to be ignored.”

“The most common form of muscle strain or soreness is known as ‘DOMS’, which stands for ‘delayed onset muscle soreness’. The pain typically doesn’t happen straight after a session, hence the word ‘delayed’.

“DOMS can actually happen 12-24 hours after you’ve worked out, and linger for days. The pain occurs when intense exercise causes micro tears in your muscle tissues.

“When these muscle tissues start to repair and rebuild you may feel achy, tender and stiff. You may also experience slight swelling, or a reduced range of motion which could make it difficult to stick to your weekly workout schedule.

“A healthy diet which includes lean proteins, carbohydrates and fats could help to ease muscle soreness and aid recovery.

“Protein supplementation could also help to limit the damage, so it may be worth investing in a good quality post-workout supplement which will ensure your body has access to vital amino acids for repair and replenishment.

“Including lots of healthy fats like salmon, avocado and walnuts is a good idea, as these foods are known to soothe inflammation – which can make soreness worse.

Healthy fats can reduce inflammation in the body (iStock/PA)
Healthy fats can reduce inflammation in the body (iStock/PA)

“Regular rest days can also help you to combat muscles soreness and are a vital part of your training regime. No matter what your goal, you should always ensure that your body has rest days and time to recover. This will help to prevent injury too, which can set you back even further.

“If you do suffer from pain following a workout, it can be tempting to halt your exercise regime altogether, but one of the best things you can do to ease the pain is to keep moving, opting for less intense or more recovery focused sessions (like yoga and foam rolling) to help you recover and ease the pain.

Schedule in some recovery training like yoga or mobility stretching (iStock/PA)
Schedule in some recovery training like yoga or mobility stretching (iStock/PA)

“It is important to remember that DOMS is a type of muscle conditioning, meaning your muscles are adapting to a new activity.

“The next time you perform the same activity or exercise at the same intensity, there’ll be less muscle tissue damage, less soreness, and a faster recovery.”

- Press Association

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