DOMS: Why You’re Sore Two Days After Exercising

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The classic Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, is an exercise-related muscle pain that sets in 6 to 8 hours after excessive and unaccustomed exercise, and peaks around the 48-hour mark. It is not surprising to find people complaining of aching muscles a day or two after exerting themselves in the gym or after a dramatic increase in the duration and/or intensity of their exercise.

Cause of DOMS

While the exact cause of DOMS has not yet been discovered, the pain synonymous with DOMS is triggered by myofibril tears (muscle strains). The microtrauma results in an inflammatory response with intramuscular fluid and electrolyte shifts. The tearing of the muscle fibres is also associated with swelling in the muscle, which may contribute to soreness. The swelling can build up for days after a workout and explains why the muscles soreness may feel worse two to three days after the workout.


A dull muscular ache localized to the involved muscles that develops 24 to 48 hours after a new or strenuous exercise are classical symptoms experienced by a DOMS sufferer. In addition, the muscles may feel stiff and tender. Passive stretching will increase your symptoms which is a reason for the feeling of stiffness. Short term loss of muscle strength, reduced joint range of motion and possible swelling of the affected muscle groups are other possible symptoms of DOMS.


The muscle soreness should go away in 3 to 7 days without any special treatment. However, if you want to accelerate healing and recovery, sports massages have been found to be effective in doing so. Otherwise, using the R.I.C.E.R method can help as well.

Research has shown that some preventive measures can be taken to reduce DOMS after a workout. These measures include warming up prior to exercising, modifying workout intensity and gradually building it up, and cooling down thoroughly following your workout.

However, if you have taken the measures mentioned, and are finding the pain persisting for more than 7 days, you should consult your physician.