A quick round of stretching can help you deal with muscle soreness and ache after your workout. But a ceaseless pain that lasts more than 48 hours usually leaves us in two minds. Either you are smug that you worked your ass hard enough for your muscles to ache, or you refuse to do another squat in the near future because the pain is unbearable. This muscle soreness and tightness that you experience is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or ‘DOMS’ and is common in people who hit the gym for the first time or raise their running distance drastically.
You’ll experience a general muscle soreness, slight pain and stiffness, the day after an intense workout or after starting a new activity. In severe cases, you might even see slight swelling and an evident drop in strength when you are working out.
What Is DOMS?
DOMS is basically the wear and tear of the muscle fibres after a strenuous workout or activity. Ideally, the fibres repair themselves in a day or two and are stronger than before. When muscle tissue is injured in an exercise, the fibres tear. In the case of DOMS, the muscle pain doesn’t occur until 24 to 48 hours after the muscle injury. In the case of regular aches and pains, where the severity is moderate, people suffering from DOMS feel elevated levels of pain and often need medical help.
Is It Serious?
When your muscle tissue is injured, a process called rhabdomyolysis causes it to release a protein called myoglobin. Myoglobin is released by our body after a hard athletic event and some of it is processed by the kidneys. Triathletes and marathon runners usually show mild to moderate amounts of myoglobin in their urine, a condition called myoglobinuria. However, when the muscle injury is severe, the myoglobin levels can be quite large and this lends a dark colour to the urine. In extreme cases, if DOMS goes untreated it can cause kidney damage and even result in kidney failure.
How To Fix It?
For normal post-workout soreness, there are three mantras that you need to follow: Hydrate, Fuel right and sleep well. You need to give your body the necessary time and fuel to repair muscle damage and come out strong. Increase your fluid intake so that your urine is clear and eat the right types of food to help your body heal. And most importantly, don’t miss out on your sleep as the best restoration and recovery happens while you are hitting the hay. An anti-inflammatory like ibuprofen or naproxen can also help you alleviate soreness. Ice baths, compression clothes and staying active at a moderate level also help to ease up the pain.
However, if you suspect you have DOMS, start drinking a lot of fluids and call your doctor. Your doctor will do a urine analysis to check your myoglobin level. If necessary he will also perform blood tests to determine if there’s been any kidney damage.
DOMS is not serious if treated in a timely manner. It is usually short-lived and most people should be fine within a week. Workout on a level that gives you a little bit of DOMS, so that your body can adapt and gradually increase in strength. This way your body learns to recruit muscle more effectively and learns the efficient way to do activities that cause less damage.