We’ve all had it…

That moment you wake up in the morning after your first session back exercising.

You tentatively walk down the stairs feeling like your muscles aren’t going to carry you on account of the severe muscle pain in your thighs.

For a brief period you can’t remember why you ache so much.

Then you remember that HIIT class you went to the day before or that new workout you tried and the muscle pain makes sense.

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is one of the most common complaints in the active population and in this weeks article I am going to share with you 8 of the best things you can do to get rid of it.

Firstly, lets clarify exactly what it is and why it happens..

DOMS is thought to be as a result of the ‘microtrauma’ (very small scale mechanical damage) to your muscles during exercise. Pain receptors in your muscles (called nociceptors) are stimulated and cause the sensation of pain.*

Thankfully, after a bout of DOMS your body rapidly adapts to reduce further damage from the same exercise. This means you are somewhat protected from as severe reactions again unless there is a significant time delay between each bout of exercise.

So, how do we prevent it and what can we do once it has happened?


1. Gradual increase in intensity of exercise

If you are already suffering from DOMS this isn’t going to be very helpful!

Very slowly increasing the difficulty of your exercise routine (in terms of duration, intensity, resistance, frequency, volume) will help to prevent DOMS.

Gradually increasing the difficulty of your training will mean you are allowing your muscles to strengthen and tolerate more.

Consistency is important here as well.

Exercising once a month will not do you any favours!

2. Do not drink alcohol

Expect to have more than just a hangover when getting on the sauce after exercising.

Drinking alcohol worsens your DOMS.

The reason why isn’t fully understood but it is believed that the bodies healing response to exercise / micro-trauma is impaired with alcohol consumption.

3. Warm up

Warming up raises the bodies temperature and increases blood flow to your muscles which enables them to function better.

This should be in the form of a 10 minute period of light cardiovascular exercise at least 15 minutes before exercise.

There is little evidence to support cool downs having any significant benefit on recovery.

4. Saffron

One study showed that taking 75mg of Saffron per day for 7 days leading up to exercising and 3 days afterwards prevented the effects of DOMS >> https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/24915175/

However, it is also around £2500 per kilo.

Personally, I would rather take the hit on the DOMS than buy that much saffron.


5. Foam rolling

One study, showed that foam rolling reduced the effects of DOMS in most dynamic performance measures.

However, this was a very small study and larger studies have not been as conclusive.

My view is that you need to try this one for yourself.

If you can feel DOMS in your legs then jump on YouTube for a tutorial on how to roll out your quads, glutes and hamstrings (this one might hurt!).

6. Curcumin (tumeric)

Multiple studies have found this be effective at improving recovery and reducing DOMS after training.

Studies that found using turmeric to be effective at reducing DOMS typically used a 2.5g twice daily dose of Curcumin in the form of tumeric.

This is thought to be due to the anti-inflammatory effects of curcumin.

7. Sauna

This is an interesting one.

Some studies have shown that using hyperthermia (raising the bodies temperature) before exercise can help to reduced DOMS.

The theory is that it increases blood flow to your muscles to enhance the recovery phase.

But who wants to go in a sauna before they train…

If using heat be cautious if you have any injuries because if there is swelling present this would not advisable.

Some studies have shown the same benefits for people who have saunas after exercise (which is a lot more convenient!).

(A hot bath will also do the trick).

8. Massage

Studies have shown massage to have a positive effect on recovery from DOMS.

Just the same as heat, massage helps to increase blood flow to your muscles which enables them to recover quicker.

TIP: For the best effect book in your massage 2 hours after exercise.

So there you have it, some of the ways you can prevent DOMS and some of the ways to combat it when you experience it.

This is not an exhaustive list and may be revisited at a later date.


Always consult your doctor or health professional before making changes to your exercise routine or diet.

P.S. Thinking about Physio?

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