Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

Delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS for short. What is it? What causes them Do they go away and what can we do about them?

DOMS is a condition that can cause stiffness and tenderness to touch or movement and predominately occurs when you perform exercises you are unaccustomed to or exercise of high physical demand(1). People can experience varying levels of DOMS, from slight stiffness that improves with movement and engagement in daily activities, to more intense pain that restricts movement and participation in daily activities. After a bout of exercise, small microscopic tears occur in the muscles, which can cause some inflammation, therefore causing pain and stiffness. 

People tend to experience DOMS approximately 24 hours following exercise, however sometimes the intensity of DOMS can increase between 24 to 72 hours. DOMS usually also subside completely within 5 to 7 days following exercise1. People also tend to experience DOMS after engaging in new exercises that they are unfamiliar with or by pushing their body to more intense levels. 

So what does this mean for our ability to engage in exercise? The stiffness and soreness associated with DOMS can have a negative effect on our participation and performance in exercise and sport. DOMS may cause reductions in range of motion within the joints and can cause reductions in muscle strength.  It is important for us to allow adequate rest when experiencing DOMS to ensure we are not increasing the risk of injury. Reductions in exercise training shortly after experiencing DOMS may be beneficial to ensure we are not overloading our already fatigued muscles.

Is there anything we can do about DOMS? Research into massage therapy after exercise has shown that it may assist with reducing pain associated with DOMS however it is unclear whether massage has benefits for muscle function1.  A study in 2003 provided massage 2 hours post exercise, which improved the intensity of muscle soreness, however it did not improve hamstring function(2). 

There are also studies into foam rolling and whether this can provide any benefit into recovery from DOMS. The movements of foam rolling causes both sweeping and direct pressure onto the soft tissue, allowing it to generate friction and stretch(1).  A study in 2015 studied the benefits of foam rolling following exercise and concluded that foam rolling for 3 bouts of 20 minutes after exercise can enhance muscle recovery and reduce muscle tenderness(1). 

Finally, studies show that compression garments used after an intense bout of exercise can enhance muscle recovery from potential muscle damage associated with DOMS(3).

Here at Aevum, we have access to compression therapy with our Med4Elite Game Ready machine. This machine can provide cold, heat and compression therapy. If you’re experiencing some serious DOMS, head on into our clinic to try compression therapy and see the difference yourself!

If you would like more information, book in with one of our Physiotherapist’s or Exercise Physiologist’s to learn more. 8544 3231


  1. 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.

  2. Hilbert, J. E., Sforzo, G. A., & Swensen, T. (2003). The effects of massage on delayed onset muscle soreness. British journal of sports medicine, 37(1), 72-75.

  3. Hill, J., Howatson, G., Van Someren, K., Leeder, J., & Pedlar, C. (2014). Compression garments and recovery from exercise-induced muscle damage: a meta-analysis. Br J Sports Med, 48(18), 1340-1346.