Delayed-onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS) or what is commonly referred to as postexercise muscle soreness, is the sensation of muscular discomfort and pain (Lieber & Friden, 2002) that is caused by vigorous and unaccustomed resistance training or any form of muscular exertion (Kisner & Colby, 2012).Other symptoms that are commonly seen are loss of strength and range of motion (ROM) (Valle et.at. 2013). These DOMS symptoms usually start to be felt around 12-24 hours after exercise and usually last a couple of days but have been known to last 10-14 days. There has been a lot of research done on various aspects of DOMS, from what causes it, how to prevent it, and how to treat it once it has occurred in an athlete. But unfortunately, very little is known about DOMS. Throughout this section, many aspects of DOMS will be reviewed. First, there will be an introduction of the etiology of DOMS and the many theories about why and how it occurs. Second, meauses that are taken in order to prevent DOMS will be discussed. Lastly, there have been many different approaches to treating an athlete with DOMS, with most of the actual benefits of these treatments being inconclusice at best, if not in some cases detrimental.
Possible Causes of DOMS
Muscle Spasm Theory
One theory that was thought to be the cause of DOMS in the 1960’s was the muscle spasm theory. This theory suggested that a feedback cycle of pain caused by ischemia and a buildup of metabolic waste products during exercise led to muscle spasm (Kisner & Colby, 2012). It was hypothesized that the buildup of these metabolic wastes caused the DOMS symptoms and an ongoing reflex pain-spasm cycle that could last for many days after (Vries, 1966). This theory has since been disproven when research showed that there is no increase in EMG activity and therefore, no evidence that spasm occurs in muscles with delayed soreness (Abraham, 1977).
Metabolic Waste Accumulation Theory
In the early 1980’s, some researchers came up with the hypothesis called the metabolic waste accumulation theory, which said that DOMS was caused by the buildup of lactic acid in the muscles after exercising (Kisner & Colby, 2012). During one study though, in which investigators ran subjects 45 minutes on a treadmill at both 0 and -10 degrees incline, at speed of 58% VO2 Max. Both groups had similar lactic acid buildup, but the group running downhill was the only group to experience soreness (Francis, 1983). Although any regular exerciser can attest to the fact that lactic acid does cause muscle pain, studies like the one described have shown that lactic acid is not the cause of DOMS (Francis, 1983).
The most commonly accepted hypothesis for what causes DOMS is the microtrauma theory in which contraction induced, mechanical disruption of muscle fibers and/or connective tissue results in the degeneration of the tissue (Kisner & Colby, 2012). There are some signs of histological muscle damage in athletes...