There’s a weird sort of satisfaction us fitness people get when we get DOMS: they’re the sign of a job well done in the gym, one, two, or sometimes even three days prior. Nonetheless they’re a painful sign, and can be pretty agonising for days after working out, especially if you’ve tried out a new workout or gone harder than usual!
One of the questions I’m frequently asked is how to get rid of DOMS, though unfortunately without stopping working out this isn’t going to happen completely. There are, however, some tips and tricks you can use to alleviate the symptoms and maybe even help heal DOMS faster. Read on to find out what DOMS are and how you can help yourself to recover faster from them!
What Are DOMS?
DOMS stands for Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, and they’re that nasty feeling you get the day after the gym, or sometimes up to a week after, if you’ve really gone hard! Contrary to popular belief it’s not lactic acid stuck in your muscles. True, lactic acid causes the burning sensation when you’re actually working out, but the body is pretty efficient at clearing this.
DOMS are much more likely to be tiny tears in the muscle fibres with inflammation around these tears. That’s why you’ll sometimes see a “pump” after working out. They’ll normally feel worse after you’ve worked out particularly hard or if you’ve tried something new that has targeted different muscles – for instance, in the photos I was trying out Zercher squats, which fired up muscles in my legs I didn’t even know I had. DOMS can also be worse if you’re dehydrated before training, so make sure you drink enough on the daily!
There’s a big difference between DOMS and pain that’s come from an injury, though. If the pain is any more than a little uncomfortable, isn’t unilateral (as in, one leg hurts a LOT and the other doesn’t hurt at all) or if there’s swelling or bruising, or anything you’re unsure about, you’re better off getting it seen by a doctor sooner rather than later.
How To Prevent DOMS
Like I said, the only failsafe way to prevent DOMS is to not work out. However, knowing what we now know about DOMS, there are a couple of things we can do to alleviate the pain and quickly get us training again.
Take The Day Off!
If they’re that bad, just take the day off. Seriously, it’s fine. When you start working out with DOMS, they do start to feel better, but it’s because the adrenaline is rushing around your body, taking away the pain. At best, you should train a different part of your body – so if it’s your legs that are in pain, train your shoulders.
Have A Relaxing Bath
There isn’t really any science behind this – it’s more of a placebo – but relaxing in a bath makes you feel better. Athletes take cold baths, and this should help with the inflammation in the muscles, but there doesn’t seem to be much evidence to back the efficacy of this up – it’s just a heck of a lot more uncomfortable than having a soothing warm bath! I’ve been using Mio Skincare Liquid Yoga* recently, which is full of magnesium salts and arnica, both of which are known for their muscle-soothing properties. I haven’t had any serious DOMS since I’ve been using it, but in a sick way I’m sort of looking forward for when I do so I can really put it to the test!
Supplement Your Diet
I go on a lot about glutamine but it really is an unsung hero of the fitness world. Glutamine is a conditional amino acid, which means that under stressful conditions your body stops producing it – working out hard and getting DOMS is definitely a stressful condition for the body. Glutamine has been shown to heal wounds faster – so that’s the tiny tears in your muscles – and also prevents the muscles from breaking down.
Turmeric is another supplement megastar for DOMS. This spice helps to reduce inflammation, so works perfectly in tandem with glutamine. If you don’t like the taste it comes in handy capsules, though the body finds it easier to use the active ingredient in turmeric (curcumin) if it’s taken with black pepper, so neck a couple of peppercorns if you can bear it.
If All Else Fails.. Ibuprofen!
We know that DOMS are small muscle tears with inflammation around them, and Ibuprofen is an NSAID, which is a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory. If you find your DOMS are interfering with your day-to-day life there is no shame in taking a couple of doses of ibuprofen – I’ve done it before! Just make sure you take them on a full stomach, you’re not allergic to any of the ingredients, you’re well-hydrated, and you don’t make a habit of doing this too often – just when your DOMS are unbearable.
Hopefully you’ll know why you had such bad DOMS in the first place, so next time you’ll either go less hard on the exercise, or you’ll simply be stronger and cope with it better – but next time you’re struggling to walk up stairs after leg day, or dreading washing your hair after training shoulders, these tips should go some way to sort out your aches and pains!