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Hurt So Good?

By July 14, 2015November 2nd, 2018Uncategorized

By: Mike Simmer BS CSCS LMT FST


Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is very familiar to most of us who have been working out for any length of time. Usually it only really happens when we take a prolonged break from our workout routine. It also happens when we start using a new piece of exercise equipment. Any “new” thing that challenges our bodies is a good thing but we can, and usually do pay for it. We have all experienced the days of soreness following a rigorous workout routine, but what causes it and what can I do to speed up my recovery?

DOMS describes a sensation of muscle pain and soreness that is felt usually 12-48 hours following exercise, predominantly at the beginning of a new exercise program, after a change in sports related activities, or after an increase in the duration or intensity of exercise and will typically decrease over a few days. Symptoms can range anywhere from slight tenderness in the muscle to severe I cannot get off the toilet pain and weakness. The soreness is a normal response to an unusual amount of exertion and is part of the bodies’ adaptation process to the new routine or intensity, but how does this process occur?

Your body breaks down carbohydrates to produce Adenosine Triphosphate better known as ATP, via the Glycolytic System. ATP is the principle energy compound in most cells and this energy is stored within the phosphate bonds. There are two other systems that provide energy to the system Phosphagen and Oxidative. The Phosphagen system produces ATP mainly for high-intensity activities like weight-training and sprinting. It will kick in at the beginning of the activity, usually between 0-6 seconds and last up to 20-30 seconds. The Oxidative system is the only one that is aerobic and its primary function is to provide ATP for low-intensity activities such as cycling, long distance running and swimming for longer than 3 minutes. This system doesn’t just use Carbohydrates for fuel, it will also uses Fats and Proteins as well. The Oxidative system doesn’t normally use proteins as a fuel source much because it doesn’t want to break down muscle tissue. For now, I am only going to address the Glycolytic system and its production of Lactic acid.


The primary function of the Glycolytic System is to break carbohydrates down and produce ATP. The energy that it provides is primarily used for moderate to high intensity activities (30 sec up to 3 min). It does this by either the Fast or Slow method where Fast Glycolysis is where the Amino Acid Pyruvate is converted to lactic acid. The lactic acid produced during fast glycolysis creates a negative feedback with the Calcium release from the Sarcoplasmic Reticulum. Lactic acid interferes with the actomysosin formation (which is the complex when the actin and myosin bond) and Glycolytic enzyme activity which results in fatigue. That is a lot of information to just tell you that the carbohydrates that your body

uses for fuel results in lactic acid which causes you to get sore, but it is important to understand how and why lactic acid forms. Through training, your body learns to better utilize this system, and/or you get use to the lactic acid build up and you stop being sore after doing the routine for some time.


There have been many different treatment strategies to help reduce the intensity of DOMS and to return the athlete to training as fast as possible. Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen and naproxen, have demonstrated dose-dependent effects but can be influenced by when the dose was given. The key word in the use of inflammatory drugs is TEMPORARY.

Massage has also shown some varying results that can be attributed to the time and type of massage technique used, in most cases having a brief session lasting between 10-20 minutes can yield the best results. In a study published in the Journal of Athletic Training in 2003, ten healthy subjects (5 men, 5 women) performed 6 sets of maximal effort bicep curls. 3 hours after exercise each subject had one arm receive 10 minutes of massage the other arm received no treatment. They concluded that massage was effective in alleviating DOMS by approximately 30% and reducing swelling, but it had no effects on muscle function.

Stretching and foam rolling can have a positive effect on DOMS related symptoms but there are no studies that show stretching and foam rolling to be a factor in relieving pain related to exercise. Ice is a popular choice for many people to help curb DOMS, but ice will not actually help relieve DOMS, though it may feel good especially in the summer time in Arizona.

So how do we get relief from DOMS? Exercise.

Exercise is the most effective means of relieving pain during DOMS, but the pain-relieving effect is temporary. If you have to train on a daily basis, then you should reduce the duration and intensity of exercise for 1-2 days following the exercise that caused the DOMS. You can also train less effected body parts to allow time for the body to recover. Rest is often overlooked in the training regime and you should plan for it. I believe that we usually over train and never give our bodies the required rest that it needs to rebuild and repair itself. I know that the burn feels good after a workout but it isn’t the best thing for you. Your body is designed to adapt to whatever stress is imposed upon it so if you want to grow, or get in better shape, you have to make changes periodically in your routine to stop from hitting a plateau and getting bored. Any significant change in your workout can increase the risk of DOMS. When it happens, use the suggestions provided above.

So Keep Moving and Keep Working to reach your Goals!

Michael Simmer


Pulse Fitness Coach

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