How to Speed up DOMS – Delayed Onset of Muscle Soren

Could it be DOMS?

©Mia’s Health 2023

By Mia J Kacen (AEP AES MIPH BSc Hons)

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a natural response to intense physical activity, especially when introducing new or challenging exercises to your routine. While DOMS signifies that your muscles are adapting and growing stronger, it can be uncomfortable.

Recovering from DOMS is a holistic process that involves rest, nutrition, hydration, and various recovery techniques. Ice baths and warm spa/sauna sessions are advanced strategies that can enhance your recovery. However, these techniques should be used cautiously and in moderation. Remember that individual responses to these methods may vary. By incorporating these strategies into your recovery routine, you can alleviate the discomfort of DOMS and support your journey toward improved muscle strength and fitness.

In addition to traditional recovery strategies, incorporating techniques like ice baths and warm spa/sauna sessions can enhance your recovery process. This guide will provide you with a comprehensive approach to recovering from DOMS, including these advanced recovery methods.

A guide to understanding Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Have you ever experienced soreness a day or two after an intense workout? If so, you might have encountered Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Whether you’re an elite athlete or a fitness novice, DOMS is a phenomenon that can affect anyone engaged in physical activities that challenge their muscles in new or demanding ways. In this article, we will delve into the world of DOMS, exploring its causes, symptoms, and effective treatment strategies.

What is DOMS?

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is characterized by the discomfort and pain that arises in muscles following intense physical activities. This condition typically manifests 24 to 48 hours after the exercise and can last for several days. DOMS is a common occurrence and has been studied extensively in both scientific and athletic communities.

What Does DOMS Feel Like?

DOMS presents itself as a range of sensations, varying from mild muscle tenderness to severe debilitating pain. Engaging in eccentric exercises (those that involve lengthening of muscles under tension) or unfamiliar forms of exercise often trigger DOMS. Athletes and fitness enthusiasts who push their boundaries or switch up their routines are more likely to experience this phenomenon.

Clinical signs of DOMS include:

1. Reduced Strength/Force Capacities: The affected muscles may feel weaker than usual due to the discomfort and pain.
2. Increased Painful Restriction of Movement: Range of motion can be limited due to the soreness, making certain movements challenging.
3. Stiffness: Muscles may feel tight and less flexible than usual.
4. Swelling: Inflammation caused by muscle damage can lead to localized swelling.
5. Dysfunction of Adjacent Joints: The discomfort from DOMS can affect the functionality of nearby joints.

  • Sportverletz Sportschaden 2018; 32(04): 243-250. Advances in Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): Part I: Pathogenesis and Diagnostics

Theories of DOMS Mechanism

Multiple theories have been proposed to explain the mechanisms behind DOMS, including:

1. Lactic Acid Theory: This theory suggests that the accumulation of lactic acid in muscles during exercise contributes to DOMS. However, research has shown that lactic acid levels return to normal relatively quickly after exercise.

2. Muscle Spasm Theory: Muscle spasms due to fatigue or overuse have been suggested as a potential cause of DOMS, but this theory lacks substantial evidence.

3. Connective Tissue Damage Theory: Eccentric exercises can cause microtears in muscle fibers and the surrounding connective tissues. This damage is believed to contribute to the soreness and discomfort of DOMS.

4. Muscle Damage Theory: Microscopic damage to muscle fibers leads to an inflammatory response, resulting in pain and soreness.

5. Inflammation Theory: Inflammatory responses triggered by exercise-induced muscle damage are thought to play a significant role in DOMS.

6. Enzyme Efflux Theory: This theory suggests that enzymes released from damaged muscle cells irritate nerve endings, causing pain and discomfort.

  • Sportverletz Sportschaden 2018; 32(04): 243-250. Advances in Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): Part I: Pathogenesis and Diagnostics

Treatment and Management

While exercise is one of the most effective ways to alleviate DOMS, it’s important to remember that its analgesic effect is temporary. Athletes and individuals experiencing DOMS should consider the following strategies for managing their discomfort:

Firstly My go to is a warm spa performing gentle movement and stretches as we explore existing research we find the benefits of ice baths too and the following recommendations:

1. Rest and Active Recovery: Give your muscles time to recuperate. Engage in light, low-impact activities like walking, cycling, or swimming. These activities promote blood flow, helping to reduce stiffness and accelerate the recovery process.

  • Sportverletz Sportschaden 2018; 32(04): 243-250. Advances in Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS): Part I: Pathogenesis and Diagnostics

2. Hydration and Nutrition: Stay hydrated and consume a balanced diet rich in nutrients. Proper hydration supports muscle function, while nutrients aid in repair and growth.

3. Adequate Sleep: Sleep is vital for recovery. Aim for 7-9 hours of uninterrupted sleep each night to support muscle repair and overall well-being.

4. Foam Rolling and Self-Massage: Utilise foam rollers and massage tools to target sore muscles. This technique enhances blood circulation, relieves muscle tension, and promotes healing.

5. Gentle Stretching: Incorporate gentle stretching to maintain flexibility and alleviate muscle tightness. Avoid aggressive stretching that might exacerbate soreness.

6. Gradual Return to Exercise: As DOMS subsides, reintroduce exercise gradually. Begin with light workouts and progressively increase intensity to prevent reaggravating your muscles.

7. Over-the-Counter Pain Relief: Consider using over-the-counter pain relievers like ibuprofen to manage discomfort, but do so judiciously and consult a healthcare professional if needed.

8. Pre-Conditioning: Engaging in preconditioning exercises and gradually increasing exercise intensity over time can help reduce the severity of DOMS.

  • Boyd, L., Deakin, G.B., Devantier-Thomas, B. et al. The Effects of Pre-conditioning on Exercise-Induced Muscle Damage: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Sports Med 53, 1537–1557 (2023

Incorporating Ice Baths and Warm Spa/Sauna Sessions

Ice Baths: Ice baths, or cold-water immersion, involve sitting in a tub filled with cold water and ice. This technique constricts blood vessels, reducing inflammation and slowing the accumulation of waste products. To incorporate ice baths:

  • After an intense workout, fill a bathtub with cold water and add ice.
  • Submerge yourself for 10-15 minutes.
  • Be cautious not to stay in too long, as prolonged exposure to cold can lead to adverse effects.

Warm Spa/Sauna Sessions: Warm spa or sauna sessions can improve circulation, relax muscles, and promote healing. Here’s how to use them effectively:

  • Spend 10-20 minutes in a warm spa or sauna after your workout.
  • The heat helps muscles relax and can alleviate soreness.
  • Ensure you stay hydrated during and after the session.

Why Ice Baths and Warm Spa/Sauna Sessions Work:

  • Ice Baths: Cold exposure reduces inflammation and blood flow to the affected muscles, which can help minimize swelling and discomfort.
  • Warm Spa/Sauna Sessions: Heat encourages blood flow, aiding the removal of waste products and facilitating nutrient delivery to muscles for repair.


Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) is a common and often uncomfortable experience for individuals who engage in physically demanding activities.

While the exact mechanisms of DOMS are not fully understood, theories suggest that a combination of muscle damage and inflammation contributes to its development.

Effective management strategies include reducing exercise intensity, active recovery, massage, hydration, and pre-conditioning.

By understanding DOMS and adopting appropriate strategies, athletes and fitness enthusiasts can minimise discomfort and continue their fitness journeys with greater ease.


Share this post!