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February 23, 2021 3 min read

When you just starting an exercise program or when you’re transitioning to a more challenging workout, it is most likely that you would experience soreness in one or more of your muscle groups after the exercise or training, and chances are, you won't be heading out to the gym for another bout when it hurts even to hold your arm up to brush your teeth. This seems to persist until you already gained the strength to carry out the regimen repeatedly and your body is already quite adapted to the more demanding routine. But what really causes muscle soreness?

Muscle Soreness After Exercise is a Natural Thing!

Our muscles undergo a bit of physical stress when we exercise. The mild strain causes microscopic tears to the muscle fibers, which is accompanied by inflammation, causing the feeling of soreness or pain. However, the pain should be minor and doesn’t cause much disability as it is simply an indication that the muscles are adapting to the exercise program.

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

Gradually increasing soreness that develops between 1 and 3 days after unaccustomed exercise is known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it is a perfectly normal occurrence. The mechanism by which DOMS occurs is still unknown, however, six theories have been proposed: lactic acid, muscle spasm, connective tissue damage, muscle damage, inflammation, and enzyme efflux theories. Of these, the lactic acid and inflammation theories are widely accepted.

Lactic acid accumulates in high amounts during and following exercise and has a role in the development of fatigue. However, its role in the development of DOMS remains unclear. A study performed in both the level-surface and downhill runners demonstrated conflicting results, where the former although did produce high blood lactic acid concentration did not develop DOMS, whereas the latter did not show high amounts of lactic acid in their blood experienced DOMS. On the other hand, the inflammation theory could have been a more valid mechanism because similarities in the description between the acute inflammation and DOMS are evident. However, previous studies that investigated the association between DOMS and inflammation failed to detect the presence of inflammatory biomarkers, like white blood cells and neutrophils. Additionally, the use of anti-inflammatory drugs in DOMS-related pain was found to be ineffective, leading to the conclusion that inflammation is not the case of DOMS.

More on DOMS

What Distinguishes DOMS from an Ordinary Muscle Soreness?

Delayed-onset muscle soreness is muscle pain that develops after working out and normally starts a day or two after, while muscle pain felt during or immediately after a workout is acute muscle soreness. Acute muscle soreness is described as a burning sensation in the muscle due to a lactic acid buildup, which usually resolves as soon as or shortly after you stop exercising. You may also have to distinguish DOMS from an actual muscle strain or injury to provide appropriate treatment.

Alleviating DOMS Symptoms with Massage as a Recovery Technique Post-Exercise

Massage has been considered the most effective recovery technique in reducing DOMS (Dupuy et al., 2018). In one study, the one-time application of a 10-minute massage three hours post exercise resulted in a 20% to 40% reduction in the severity of DOMS, as well as a decrease in the associated swelling (Zainuddin et al., 2005).These positive outcomes are attributable to enhanced circulation following the manual manipulation. The increase in blood and lymph flow enhance the removal of pain substrates and metabolites that start to accumulate in the injured area, thereby increasing the delivery of oxygen and nutrients required for tissue regeneration.

Recovapro Massage Guns as Massage Substitute

With the same beneficial effects as with the traditional manual massage, Recovapro massage guns deliver similar pain relief from DOMS through the innovative vibration technology. This tool, which resembles a power drill but not an eardrum wrecker though, can come in handy so you can take it to the gym or the field where you can have your massage session delivered by yourself, so you’ll feel reenergize with fewer worries of the DOMS!!!

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Zainuddin, Z., Newton, M., Sacco, P., &Nosaka, K. (2005). Effects of massage on delayed-onset muscle soreness, swelling, and recovery of muscle function. Journal of athletic training, 40(3), 174–180.

Dupuy, O., Douzi, W., Theurot, D., Bosquet, L., &Dugué, B. (2018). 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. Frontiers in physiology, 9, 403. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.00403