Sore Muscle

Why Are My Muscles Sore?


 We have all experienced soreness during or after exercise. But as trainers we know not all discomfort is the same. Muscle pain from exercise can be divided into three categories:

  1. Pain or discomfort during or immediately after exercise.
  2. Pain or discomfort 2-3 days after unaccustomed exercise (referred to as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS).
  3. Pain from involuntary muscle contractions or cramps that lasts for several seconds.

Today we are going to address DOMS, which “results from strenuous exercise that goes beyond the intensity or duration for which the muscle is accustomed to performing.” (see Dierking article, p. 44, full cite below). This soreness usually begins 24 hours after exercise and peaks 48-72 hours thereafter. The discomfort may continue for a full week as much as 7 to 10 days.  Scientists still have not determined conclusively what causes delayed muscles soreness, but there are numerous theories under study as well as remedies that novice exercisers can utilize for relief.

Why do people experience DOMS?

Lactic Acid accumulation in the muscles was originally believed to be the likely cause of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.  However, researchers now believe that this is the cause of discomfort during exercise, not two days later.

Some researchers believe that since muscles are elastic and connective tissue is stiff, connective tissue damage during vigorous resistance training may be the cause.  Recent research, however, now suggests the primary cause of muscle soreness is damage to the muscle itself.  Scientists believe exercising a muscle beyond what it is accustomed to causes slight tears in the muscle.  This is known as the Overload Principle. This theory has not been proven, but many bodybuilders believe it to be true. This scenario can especially be seen when performing exercises such as lowering a weight at a slow speed or sprinting downhill.

Another cause may be inflammation of the damaged area. The inflammatory process begins immediately following exercise. When the inflammatory process reaches a certain level, the nerve endings for pain respond, resulting in muscular soreness.

Research shows that DOMS is most prevalent in the beginning stages of physical activity. The body needs to adjust as the muscles grow. This is why athletes often cross-train and vary their routines to continue to challenge their bodies and develop their muscle strength.

Ways to address DOMS pain:

Inspire Train Fit offers many holistic modalities and therapies that can offer relief from delayed muscle soreness such as PNF Stretch sessions, myofascial release therapy, and BEMER therapy sessions to help relieve soreness and increase performance.

It is important to distinguish the difference between moderate muscle soreness induced by exercise and muscle overuse or injury. If soreness prevents you from performing daily activities associated with living and work, then it’s time to rest.

Many therapists and trainers will recommend Rest, Ice, Compression, and Elevation (RICE). Ice can be applied for 15-20 minutes on and off daily to relieve soreness. Compression can be applied with kinesotaping, ace bandages or compression sleeves or socks.

Many exercise enthusiasts do not like to miss exercise sessions, so there are some alternative methods we can offer to help with the recovery process.  A light workout that keeps the blood flowing with low-moderate intensity is best. We also recommend that you train different muscles groups to give your sore muscles a break from activity. For example, we can train your lower body (legs) if your upper body is sore.

Stretching can provide some relief. Yoga offers a great workout that can reduce stress, soreness, and offer recovery for the mind, body, and spirit.

Self-myofascial release such as foam rolling is another very effective technique. Foam rolling involves applying a sustained pressure into the myofascial connective tissue. We can help select a roller that is appropriate for you and your pain tolerance to focus on restoring optimal muscle motion and function. The more you foam roll the more comfortable it will become and the faster you will recover.

A deep tissue massage can help relieve lactic acid build up and inflammation in the muscles, offering relaxation, improved circulation, reduced stress and reduced tension. Finally, consider using anti-inflammatory pain relievers such as ibuprofen  to reduce inflammation and soreness.

Addressing muscle soreness is just one way Inspire Train Fit achieves its goals of helping people move, feel, and live better.

Allison Milano- Stolar, MA
Health Fitness Specialist


Dierking, Jenny K. & Bemben, Michael G.   Strength and Conditioning Journal.
“Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.” August 1998.  Pgs. 44-47.

Dierking, Jenny K. & Bemben, Michael G.   Strength and Conditioning Journal.                       “Recommendations for the Avoidance of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.” August 2001.







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