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  1. First day in the gym and you are all excited to exercise. You did the treadmill, hit the dumbbells, picked on the machines, spin the bike, and even did a class. The next day, your muscles are sore, so you decided not to go back to let the soreness go. The following day was worse, and now you can’t even move a muscle, the pain is all over, you can’t go up the stairs it hurt your legs a lot, you can’t reach the cupboard and the pain is killing you. Now you are cursing the gym and never to go back again.

    What possible went wrong? This is a typical setting to first timer in a gym, all energetic to do everything all on the first day. But it’s not only for first timers in the gym, also for those who had been in the gym and yet stopped. Or even for those who has a regular gym routine, but had a new intense exercise to try. This muscle soreness is known as DOMS or delayed onset muscle soreness.

    What is DOMS?

    Delayed onset muscle soreness is the stiffness and pain felt on the body secondary to unaccustomed exercise activity. It usually appears hours after new exercise and peaks 24-48 hours. It may last for several days and subsides at around 5-7 days.

    This pain is different from the pain and fatigue experienced during exercise which is acute in nature and pain during injury such as muscle strain and sprain which is sudden, abrupt, intense pain with swelling or bruising.

    DOMS is a result of ruptures within the muscle, ruptures meaning the disruption in the microfilaments of the muscle and not the entire muscle fiber. This does not mean extensive damage that causes injury. This simply explained as the muscles reaction to the new activity such as eccentric (lengthening) exercises. Although concentric (shortening) and isometric (static) exercises may cause less DOMS, the actual exercises may consists of both eccentric and concentric, so muscle soreness still occurs in cases of DOMS.

    How to deal with DOMS

    In order to prevent DOMS is to have a conditioning exercise program for the first 1-3 days of exercise. It is not advisable to carry heavy weight on the first day. Conditioning exercises may consist of warm-up, cardio exercise such as treadmill, cool down and stretching.  Although stretching before has been said to prevent DOMS, studies have shown that overstretching may actually contribute to the soreness. Considering that stretching is lengthening, this is the action that causes DOMS. But proper warm up is supported to help prevent DOMS.

    Take your time, take it easy. Progress your workout gradually. The best treatment to DOMS is to actually prevent it.

    DOMS resolves after a few days and there is no treatment necessary. However, if you would prefer to have treatment, hot baths, sauna, massage is said to decrease the pain. Rest, but it is better to continue with low intensity workout, so as not to stop the process of the muscles adjustment to the exercise or new exercise program. There are claims that exercising the sore muscle helps decease the pain and soreness, but the explanation behind is still unclear. Others who have low tolerance in pain would consider NSAID or pain pills. But if the pain persists for more than 7 days, consult your physician.

    Workout should do you good not bad, but in cases like muscle soreness, it can be painful and discouraging. Keep in mind the no pain, no gain saying. But remember that this pain is just temporary, which can even be prevented if proper conditioning has been done. You should also know that this type of pain appears hours or days after exercise and should not be mistaken with a pain felt during an exercise that may have caused an injury and needs immediate intervention. Ask assistance from fitness professional or seek medical advice when necessary. 

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