Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness Explained

Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or ‘DOMS’, is commonly experienced after completing an exercise session, or following a new activity that an individual is unaccustomed to. It is most common to experience DOMS in the first 24-72 hours post-training, although depending on the individual and the type, intensity and volume of your training, this timeframe may vary.

What causes DOMS? When we complete any form of physical activity, the body will recruit a portion of muscle fibres in each muscle required to complete the movement; the higher the intensity or volume of the activity, the more muscle fibres we recruit to complete the movement. As we begin the fatigue, some muscle fibres may become overloaded causing micro-tears, with such micro-tears triggering an inflammatory response within the muscle and consequent soreness. This feeling is most commonly experienced after completing resistance training, however, in some circumstances you may experience DOMS from other stimuli. For example, after a significant shoulder injury there is usually a loss of range of motion, stability and strength at the joint, and when training to re-gain function, significant DOMS may occur from simply activating the shoulder muscles to lift the arm overhead.

It is important to remember that when recovering from a musculoskeletal injury, often you will experience heightened pain sensitivity which increases the severity of DOMS. Progressive overload techniques and graduated training programmes are necessary to reduce DOMS as they allow your body to progressively adapt to the loading of the required movement, whether it be trying to re-gain shoulder range of motion or squatting a heavy weight. If you would like some advice from one of our experts in exercise to assist in developing a programme, drop us an email to or pop into our clinic for a free 15-minute assessment.

Alixe Luckins (B.Sc. Exercise Physiology)

Senior Accredited Exercise Physiologist (AEP)(ESSAM)

Lewis, P., Ruby, D. and Bush-Joseph, C. (2012). Muscle Soreness and Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness. Clinics in Sports Medicine, 31(2), pp.255-262.