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Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read

DOMS stands for delayed onset muscle soreness and describes the soreness and stiffness felt in your muscles after you have done exercise. It is normal and usually occurs when you do an exercise or movement for the first time, after a long break or you work harder than your body is normally used to.

DOMS tends to start gradually the next day or so, where you may wake up feeling sore. It usually only occurs the first couple of times you are doing the new exercise but if you keep doing it regularly, over time your body gets used to it and the DOMS is less severe or may not occur at all. The soreness is due to small micro-tears in the muscle which then lead to some inflammation but no need to worry, this is completely normal and your body will actually rebuild the muscle back, usually stronger than it was before.

How long does it last?

DOMS resolves on its own over the course of a couple of days up to a week. You can do things to help with DOMS which include warming down well after exercise with low-level exercises such as steady jogging, walking, or cycling.

Healthwords pharmacists' top tips

DOMS shouldn’t require you to see your doctor. You can take some simple pain relief such as acetaminophen if the pain is bothering you. Other things that can help include massaging sore muscles or using ice baths within a couple of hours after exercise.

If your pain occurs during the exercise, is severe or lasts longer than this it may be due to a different cause such as a muscle strain or injury.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
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