Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a serious and painful condition that affects every athlete. Learn more about DOMS, how it might effect you, etc. Get the details below.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a serious and painful condition that affects every athlete. Some athletes get DOMS only occasionally, while other athletes suffer from it on a continual and chronic basis.

DOMS prevention is one of the most important considerations for an athlete because DOMS dramatically affects every aspect of training, including working intensity, muscle strength, muscle gain, training effect, body composition,hormone levels, anabolism, catabolism and exercise recovery.

In this article, I will discuss briefly:

  • What is DOMS
  • How you get DOMS
  • Why DOMS is an equal opportunity condition
  • How to prevent and treat DOMS

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a debilitating and painful condition. It is often confused with regular muscle soreness, but regular muscle soreness and DOMS differ fundamentally.

DOMS differs from regular muscle soreness in severity, duration of soreness and in causal factors. Whereas normal muscle soreness results immediately following exercise and usually lasts for less than two days, DOMS onset occurs several days following an exercise session. And, regular muscle soreness and DOMS are caused by different variables.


It used to be thought that delayed onset muscle soreness was caused by the build-up of lactic acid in muscle tissue. However, new research has disproved this hypothesis, and it is now clear that whereas regular muscle soreness is predominantly due to microtrauma structural damage to muscle fibers, DOMS is primarily caused by the bodies inflammatory response to exercise1 and several other variables.

Today, scientists know that DOMS is influenced by:

  • Athletic conditioning, age, and the skeletal muscular system
  • Structural damage to muscle tissue and tendons
  • The inflammatory response system

Your athletic conditioning, age and the condition of your skeletal muscular system all contribute to DOMS onset. Your degree of athletic conditioning - i.e. how adapted is your body to training - will determine, in part, the inflammatory response to exercise.

Young athletes are susceptible to DOMS because their conditioning is not yet fully developed to handle heavy and intense workouts, and older athletes are susceptible to DOMS because of their age, shifting hormonal status and decreased recovery responses.


Structural damage to muscle tissue and tendons contributes to DOMS onset, but only because of the inflammatory response to muscular damage, as outlined above.


The inflammatory response system that activates following resistance training stimulus triggers the activation of pro-inflammatory cytokinases and PGE2 - prostaglandin E2. The activation of this pro-inflammatory response system and PGE2 draws water to the damaged body part, leading to edema, and increased pain sensitivity to exercise.


It doesn't matter if you're young or old, conditioned or unconditioned, male or female: DOMS doesn't discriminate and you're equally likely to get DOMS.

While younger and less conditioned athletes are all likely to experience DOMS at some point in the beginning phases of their bodybuilding careers, older and more experienced athletes are equally likely to experience DOMS, despite their muscular maturity and excellent conditioning.

In the case of the young athlete, DOMS sets in because they lack muscular conditioning and because the pro-inflammatory response system that's triggered by exercise is over-active and not adjusted to their training volume.

By contrast, advanced athletes are likely to experience DOMS, not because they lack muscular conditioning, but because their enzyme levels and their inflammatory response systems are slower and less efficient due to age. In both cases, both young and old athletes lack the anti-inflammatory enzymes needed to stifle prolonged inflammation and DOMS onset.


It used to be thought that speeding recovery and preventing DOMS was as simple as increasing protein, fats andcarbohydrates intake. Now, however, its clear that while repairing structural damage to skeletal muscles by nutritional means is relatively simple, controlling or reducing the inflammatory response to exercise and preventing or reducing the painful symptoms that come with DOMS is more complicated.