rehabilitation post-surgery

Muscle soreness after exercise – DOMS

We all know that feeling of achy, sore and stiff muscles after a workout. This is called “Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness” (DOMS). DOMS is very common and typically occurs if you have started a new exercise regimen. Increasing your exercise intensity, duration or your resistance weights can also lead to DOMS.

What happens to the muscles?

Exercising and strengthening your muscles causes temporary, microscopic tears in the muscle fibres. This leads to inflammation. Rest assured, you have not injured yourself or done any permanent damage. This is a natural and normal process that occurs in the muscles, helping them to become stronger.

Does DOMS mean I am unfit?

It is important to know that the amount of muscle soreness you experience after exercising is not indicative of your fitness level. If you do not experience DOMS after a workout, that is okay too. You can still complete a great workout and build up strength without feeling DOMS afterwards.

How long does DOMS last?

Most commonly, the muscle soreness will get better over a few days or a week. There are a couple of things that you can do at home that can help treat DOMS. These include massage, stretching, applying heat and ensuring you keep hydrated. Additionally, there is also some evidence to suggest that applying compression to the muscle can assist.

Can DOMS be prevented?

Prevention of DOMS is the best philosophy, so try to include the following into your exercise regime:

  • Add a warm up and cool down to your workout. This may include a short walk, side stepping, standing heel raises, marching on the spot and/or dynamic stretches.
  • Massaging your muscles regularly by using your own hands, a spiky ball or a foam roller
  • Staying hydrated
  • Applying ice to the muscle straight after a workout
  • Having a rest day between workouts or doing a lighter and lower intensity session the next day e.g. going for a walk or walking in a pool
  • Gradually increase your intensity and duration of your workouts and ensure you are not increasing them too rapidly.


Hopefully the tips above will keep your muscles feeling great after your workouts. If you have any questions or feel your muscle soreness has lasted longer than a week, then to book in to see your physiotherapist who can provide you with personalised instructions and advice. Happy exercising guys!

~ Julia Esposito – Physiotherapist

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