Have you ever returned from the gym and couldn't move your muscles the morning after? Indeed, we all have that experience often especially the first time at the gym or the first time we return to the gym after a long break. We tend to feel sore in our muscles after a strenuous exercise, but these sores caused by practices can occur for different reasons.
This soreness can be characterized by muscular pains commonly caused by Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). We will briefly discuss this DOMS, its likely causes as well as few hints on how we can handle it.
Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS)
Sometimes football stars tend to have DOMS when they take intensive training that is more than they are used to, but the funny thing is that DOMS is not a measure of the intensity of exercises. Now, how then can someone get struck with DOMS?
DOMS is caused by exercises that stretch the muscles beyond their known normal limits. For instance, a marathon runner who is used to running 70 kilometers on the flat road might wake up the next morning with a DOMS if he tries to hike a mountain with a heavy backpack at the same speed with which he runs on the flat ground. At this time, mountain hiking has stretched his muscles (thigh presumably) beyond their reasonable limits and would lead to DOMS. Sadly, this same athlete could as well take a marathon of 200 kilometres and not feel a strain in his muscles; thus he didn't contract DOMS because he had an intensive session. Because the thigh muscles absorbed more pressure than it was used to causing it to stretch farther than it is used to; this is the cause of DOMS.
Effect of DOMS on Humans
DOMS naturally makes the affected muscles weaker causing a reduced ability to carry pressures as much as they used to. With this, athletes experiencing DOMS may not be able to accomplish their exercise goals while experiencing this soreness.
Also, DOMS can cause intense pain that usually discourages people from going out for exercises (especially newbies), and this reason accounts for many gym dropouts we find in our neighbourhoods. It takes discipline to keep fit and exercising regularly; there are no guarantees that you will not experience DOMS often.
Sometimes when DOMS hits us, it affects our normal lives; we sometimes find it difficult to squat when we are experiencing DOMS on our thighs leading to inconveniences while we conduct our daily lives.
Preventing DOMS: What Works and What Doesn’t
Many times we have listened to people's opinion on how to manage muscle fatigues and other painful experiences caused by intensive exercise. We even adopted a few of those opinions only to find out that they had little or no effect on the condition of our muscles, yet we still took them because we know little to nothing on how to prevent or manage cases of DOMS. Here are the measures that work and others that do not work in the prevention and management of SOMS.
> Massages and Foam Rollers: These measures do not entirely alleviate the pains experienced during DOMS, but they help to reduce the span of the soreness and enhance the chances of the athlete to return to his normal physical activities as early as possible.
> Antioxidants: Since DOMS is caused by the inflammatory response of the body to the muscles and oxidative stress, antioxidants play a significant role in reducing the effects of DOMS and ensure quicker recovery from the pains of this unpleasant experience. Natural sources of antioxidants include berries like oranges, grapes, strawberries, etc. and taurine, a component of proteins that are found in meats and fishes.
Ø Fish oils: Fish oils contain strong anti-inflammatory compound and as earlier stated DOMS is caused by inflammation of the muscles and oxidative stress. The anti-inflammatory components of fish oil help to reduce the effect of DOMS and aids quick recovery.
> Caffeine: this is an essential compound that is required for the proper functioning of the mind and body, as recommended by the WHO. Caffeine blocks the receptors of the body that carry signals of laxity, fatigue, and sleep to the brain and by so doing, it drastically reduces the chances of the brain to interpret the pain felt as a result of DOMS allowing the athlete to go about his daily activity.
What Doesn’t Work?
> NSAIDs: Sometimes we have this belief that NSAIDs like Aspirin and Ibuprofen helps to relieve pains, but unfortunately, they do this by attempting to block pain receptors which mean that the strains are there but not being received by the brain for interpretation. These NSAIDs doesn't work for DOMS –not in the slightest bit. Taking NSAIDs does not affect your chances of having a DOMS; it will come just as it will without the NSAIDs.
> Ice-Cold or Warm Bath: Yes bathing warm water after an intense exercise has a way of relieving our bodies by dilating the vessels to allow free flow of blood but this has nothing to with the pains of DOMS, nor does it play any role in preventing DOMS. Ice-cold bath, on the other hand, is believed to help muscles relax but that is scientifically incorrect and as such has little to no role to play in the prevention of DOMS.
> Warming-up Properly: Most athletic coaches tell their trainees to warm up properly to prevent experiences like DOMS, but really, the warming up has nothing to do with the occurrence of DOMS. Perhaps the warming up can help awaken the athlete's drive for the exercise he's about to engage himself with, but frankly, it has nothing to do with DOMS.