Pain after exercising and muscle soreness are common in any fitness activity or sport. So whether you can't bend your arms without pain or you have jelly legs walking up the stairs; you're not alone and it doesn't necessarily mean you are unfit or have something wrong with your muscles.
This is because DOMS is usually a direct result of starting a new physical activity or an increase in intensity that your body is not used to so it's just your body's response while it tries to recover.
It is however a sign that the particular muscles that are hurting are not strong enough for either the new activity or weight (if you're working out).
In this blog post, we will discuss what DOMS is, how it is caused and recommend some recovery products that will help you get rid of DOMS or any pain after exercising.
What is DOMS?
DOMS stands for Delayed-onset muscle soreness and is a term used to describe pain and muscle fatigue caused by physical activity. The 'delayed-onset' part of the term tells us that it is usually felt a couple of days later.
This depends on the person, change in intensity or how demanding the new physical activity is so the effects of DOMS can be felt anywhere between 8 and 48 hours with the apex of this being in the last 24 hours.
You can get DOMS from any physical activity such as sports and running but it is more common in exercise that focuses on muscle building or muscle strengthening such as gym workouts.
What are the symptoms and causes of DOMS?
Some of the symptoms of DOMS are:
- Soreness and muscle aches
- Pain 24-72 hours after physical activity
- Tenderness and stiff muscles
The main cause or risk factor for DOMS is starting a new physical activity that you've never tried before. This is because the muscles are not used to what has been demanded from them.
Similarly, suddenly increasing the intensity of a workout, training session or other physical activities can also cause DOMS because just like in the previous example, your muscles aren't used to the strain and overloading.
What actually happens when you have muscle soreness is the muscles have microscopic tears or the muscle tissue breaks down and this makes the muscles vulnerable and weak.
The good news is this is only temporary and over time your muscles get used to the intensity or the new type of exercise
If you go to the gym then you might already know this because most workout enthusiasts will know that intense exercise causes muscle tears and when these heal; the muscles grow in size and get stronger. The scientific term for this is hypertrophy.
How do you get rid of DOMS?
Here are some things to do in order to help the muscles to feel less painful and provide your body with the care and attention needed to recover faster and get rid of DOMS.
A study found that contrast, cryotherapy, vibration, ultrasound, massage and active exercise have beneficial effects on DOMS-related pain 
Kinesiology Tape (Kinesio taping) was also found to speed up the regeneration of muscles according to a study on the effects of Kinesio taping on DOMS in the quads. 
Massaging the sore muscles is essential for DOMS recovery because it helps to ease the muscles and provide pain relief. In fact, massage has been found to be one of the most effective ways for reducing DOMS and fatigue.
Sports Massage and similar massage techniques can be used to get rid of DOMS temporarily by increasing discharge from lower sensory fibres and blocking the pain sensation. Of course, for most, access to a sports massage therapist after exercise is not feasible. In this case, a self-administered massage through a vibration massage tool would be the next best option.
Compression is a very common method of pain relief, it is used to treat a wide range of soft-tissue injuries and it will help with DOMS recovery as well as perceived fatigue.
Resting the muscles is extremely important for getting rid of DOMS because it allows your muscles to properly recover and it allows the muscles to repair themselves in preparation for the next activity or workout.
Make sure you are getting enough sleep! Studies have found that without adequate amounts of sleep, our bodies start failing slowly in one way or another.
Anti-inflammatories and Contrast Therapy
Anti-inflammatories such as Ice packs, cold gels and ibuprofen gels can help to relieve some of the pain caused by muscle soreness.
You can also use hot and cold therapy together in order to get more benefits out of this type of treatment.
More Protein and a good diet
A good, balanced diet is important for recovery from any physical activity because it allows your body to replenish any nutrients spent trying to recover from DOMS.
Similarly, protein is essential for repairing and building the muscles because Hypertrophy requires increased protein intake (proteins are the essential building blocks for muscle growth).
If you've been working out then a protein shake can help to ease some of the effects of DOMS and similar products such as protein bars can come in handy for athletes and sports enthusiasts.
Here's a list of foods that can help you get rid of your DOMS quicker and recover better
- Foods with Antioxidants e.g Potatoes with the skin on, dark chocolate, berries, nuts
- Whey Protein supplements or foods e.g. dairy products (yoghurt, cheese, etc.)
- Foods High in Omega 3s e.g. tuna, sardines
- Anti-inflammatory foods e.g. green leafy vegetables (spinach, etc.) nuts like walnuts and almonds, olive oil
Foam rolling and using massage balls can help to get rid of DOMS by preventing it and treating it. In terms of prevention, foam rollers can be a useful tool for stretching before physical activity or workouts.
Foam rollers are also very useful for recovery as they can be used to massage muscles and can also be used as a general pain relief treatment
Foam Roller Exercises for Soft Tissue Release
Although there is evidence for  and against  the effect of Soft Tissue Release on reducing the effects of DOMS, foam roller exercises are a good way to start a recovery strategy. As recovery exercises, they are an affordable, easy-to-perform, and time-efficient way of releasing the muscles immediately after a workout.
They can help you recover better by alleviating DOMS pain in affected muscles and improve range of motion. 
Can I exercise with DOMS?
Yes, you can exercise with DOMS but you should rest as much as possible, especially if your muscles are really sore. It is better to stick to low-intensity exercises to keep you active. Things like cycling and swimming are good options for active recovery.
Although DOMS effects can be felt 24-72 hours after exercising, sometimes you might still feel a bit fragile for up to a week or more after the initial exercise.
If you have a strict training programme to stick to or you are a workout enthusiast who doesn't like to take long breaks then you'll probably have to get back to exercising for most instances where you develop DOMS.
This is completely okay and won't damage your muscles any further but always make sure it's not an injury if you have a really bad case of muscle soreness.
Pain Relief Products for DOMS
This recovery gel from Naqi relaxes the muscles and helps reduce muscle fatigue after physical activity and sports.
It contains essential oils of eucalyptus, peppermint, cypress, arnica and juniper, and vanillyl butyl ether to stimulate blood flow and increase the supply of nutrients and oxygen to tired muscles. These ingredients all work together to help you get rid of DOMS and pain after exercising.
By speeding up the removal of waste materials building up in the muscles, you will enjoy a quicker recovery after intense workouts.
As we noted above, vibration massage tools, like the Thumper, can be used as a cost-effective substitute for manual massage therapy when it comes to recovery. Not only are these local vibration devices effective in reducing DOMS, but they can also shorten recovery time.
Thumper Massagers are powerful hand-held percussive devices that transmit energy deep into the muscle tissue, relieving tension through all fascia layers. Each device penetrates ¼ inch deep, 28 times per second. Unlike cheaper options available elsewhere online, the Thumper range is made of high-grade components and offers maximum comfort for both experienced and new users. With almost 40 years in production and more than 200 000 units worldwide used by professionals, the Thumper brand is one you can rely on.
This is the smart recovery kit from diPulse, it's a fully integrated NMES (Neuromuscular Electrical Stimulation) kit which makes use of an innovative approach to muscle recovery. NMES is particularly good for DOMS recovery as it helps the muscles to recover better by using electrical stimulation to treat the muscles and other soft tissues.
It is the ultimate recovery solution and the kit comes with the Smart Belt, Smart Straps and all the accessories needed to help you recover faster and more effectively.
As mentioned earlier, Ice packs are extremely useful tools for getting rid of DOMS. They do this by reducing muscle inflammation and the cold response helps provide pain relief while also increasing oxygen delivery to the sore muscles.
Biofreeze is a brand of pain relief creams and cold gels, if you know what Tiger Balm is then it's basically the same except it has an active ingredient that targets sore muscles and other soft tissues which will be very instrumental in getting rid of DOMS and recovering better.
The anti-inflammatory effects of Biofreeze will also help to make sure your muscles aren't too irritated and provide additional relief.
As mentioned earlier, Kinesiology Tape is effective for getting rid of DOMS and helping with muscle recovery.
Kinesiology Tape not only provides pain relief by improving the circulation of blood around the soft tissues; it also increases lymphatic drainage which helps the muscles to recover faster and ease muscle soreness
How to prevent DOMS and avoid getting it again
Ultimately, it is almost impossible to prevent DOMS, it is a natural body response to either increased intensity or something completely new so there's not much you can do to prevent DOMS besides approaching physical activities and workouts with more preparation.
If you read our injury prevention blog post, we explained how properly warming up, activating your muscles and stretching them can prevent damage by making sure they are ready for anything you are going to do in the training or workout session.
Although DOMS isn't necessarily 'damage' to your muscles (if anything it is a good response); it's still very important that the muscles are well prepared for anything you throw at them let alone higher intensity workouts or a new physical activity.
Rest is also important, give your body time to recover properly with enough rest days and take a break if you feel like it's straining your muscles.
Although the 'one rep max' (1RM) is a good guideline for a lot of workout exercises like Deadlifts and Squats, remember to listen to your body and don't push yourself too much when you first start to increase any intensity in your training
Stretching, Activation and Warm-Up exercises
Glute Activation Exercises
Here's an example of some activation exercises that you can do in addition to the soft tissue release exercises we covered earlier
These exercises make use of mini bands and can help to warm up the muscles for workouts like squats and other leg workouts.
Sources and References
Movegb - 10 ways to ease DOMS
 - Nahon, R. L., Lopes, J. S. S., & de Magalhães Neto, A. M. (2021). Physical therapy interventions for the treatment of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS): Systematic review and meta-analysis. Physical Therapy in Sport, 52, 1-12.
 - Boguszewski, D., Szkoda, S., Adamczyk, J. G., Piesio, S., & Bialoszewski, D. (2020). The effects of kinesiotaping applied to delayed-onset muscle soreness of the quadriceps femoris. Physical Activity Review, 1(8), 39-45.
 - Zainuddin Z, Newton M, Sacco P, Nosaka K. Effects of massage on delayed-onset muscle soreness, swelling, and recovery of muscle function. J Athl Train. 2005 Jul-Sep;40(3):174-80. PMID: 16284637; PMCID: PMC1250256
 - Dupuy O, Douzi W, Theurot D, Bosquet L, Dugué B. An Evidence-Based Approach for Choosing Post-exercise Recovery Techniques to Reduce Markers of Muscle Damage, Soreness, Fatigue, and Inflammation: A Systematic Review With Meta-Analysis. Front Physiol. 2018 Apr 26;9:403. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2018.00403. PMID: 29755363; PMCID: PMC5932411.
 - Wiewelhove, T., Döweling, A., Schneider, C., Hottenrott, L., Meyer, T., Kellmann, M., ... & Ferrauti, A. (2019). A meta-analysis of the effects of foam rolling on performance and recovery. Frontiers in physiology, 376.
 - Pearcey, G. E., Bradbury-Squires, D. J., Kawamoto, J. E., Drinkwater, E. J., Behm, D. G., & Button, D. C. (2015). Foam rolling for delayed-onset muscle soreness and recovery of dynamic performance measures. Journal of athletic training, 50(1), 5-13.
 - Skinner, B., Moss, R., & Hammond, L. (2020). A systematic review and meta-analysis of the effects of foam rolling on range of motion, recovery and markers of athletic performance. Journal of Bodywork and Movement Therapies, 24(3), 105-122.