Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness After Exercise and Massage

Do you ever wonder why it feels like you got hit by a bus the day or two after a deep tissue massage or workout? This is not necessarily a bad thing, but can confuse a lot of people into thinking that the massage or workout was bad for them. This symptom is actually called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS.

DOMS is defined as activity that puts unaccustomed loads onto muscle causing soreness, 24-72 hours after exercise or intense massage. This is considered a normal repair process, in which the soreness is caused by microscopic damage to the muscle fibers during exercise or massage. A variety of cells and substances flock to the muscles to help repair those tears. Anatomically, it is usually caused by eccentric contractions which is when the muscle lengthens while load is applied. An example of this action is using the quad muscles while running downhill.

There is a myth out there that says the soreness is caused by lactic acid, but this is actually not a component of the healing process. No treatment has been shown to be able to decrease the duration of DOMS except for rest and proper hydration. Even though the process might be uncomfortable or slightly painful, after the cycle has been completed, it is shown to make the muscles stronger and more capable to adapt to future strains. Since the more repetitions you do in a given exercise, the more damage and soreness there will be, it is suggested to gradually increase the duration of the exercise and/or intensity of the workout to minimize the likelihood of DOMS. Also, the general advice is to go through a proper warm-up, progress slowly into a new program, and stretch only after the body is warmed up.

If the muscles are not used to massage, they will respond with soreness that should only last a day or two. It is always extremely important and helpful to communicate with the massage therapist what you expect from the session and your tolerance for deeper work so that they do not go over your limits or not be intense enough for your liking. After the massage, the typical take home instructions are to drink plenty of water immediately after and continue that for the next 48 hours. In addition, refrain from strenuous activity for the remainder of the day. Rest as if you just worked out. It is a good practice to either get a longer massage on a day where you are able to relax, or later in the day or at night when your activities have already happened. Shorter soft tissue or massage (<15 minutes) might be more enjoyable to some that do not want any discomfort in their session, and will most likely significantly decrease the likelihood of DOMS.




Ask Well: Why Do Muscles Ache a Day or Two After Exercise? November 2, 2015. Reynolds, Gretchen.



ACSM Information On…Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). American College of Sports Medicine.



Why Am I Sore? 2003. Vanderbelt, Shirley.  

Massage Therapy Benefits Those with Chronic Pain

bth_massageMore than 15 percent of the population suffers from chronic pain related to the joints and musculoskeletal system.  Lack of exercise combined with obesity, occupation related physical stress, sports and hobby related injuries and other phenomena contribute to this statistic.  Many people choose massage therapy, often after suffering for a long time and not finding resolution with other treatments.

Chronic pain is a pain sensation that lingers longer than would be expected, versus acute pain from a recent injury.  Chronic pain may start acutely, from an injury for example, and then remain for a disproportionate period of time.  It can then transform into a more diffuse, longer-lasting pain condition.

Most recent research is showing that fibromyalgia pain originates in the muscles (not in the head).  The role of massage is particularly beneficial for this condition.  Those with chronic fatigue syndrome also frequently experience debilitating, body-wide pain.

Chronic pain complaints may develop either from or into an interactive process involving metabolic factors, such as food or allergies; psychological stressors; chemical or environmental impacts; or any number of sensory system irritants.  This produces an overactivity of the sympathetic nervous system – the system in “high-gear” during the fight-or-flight response.  Prolonged, excess sympathetic system activity can generate  pain in various regions of the body.  Factors that become perpetuating include insomnia, poor sleep, lack of exercise or movement, fatigue, and psychological stress and depression.

According to Rolfing and Feldenkrais practitioner Robert Schleip, “our body’s richest sensory organ is not the nose, ears, eyes, or mouth – but rather the myofascial system”.  With the largest amount of sensory information coming in to the central nervous system through the myofascial tissues, massage therapists have a great opportunity to decrease the barrage of nervous system input from pain receptors.

By addressing different areas of the body, soft-tissue therapists can change the entire sensorimotor experience for the individual.  Massage therapy is an intervention that reduces the noxious input from the myofascial tissues.  By decreasing this input and reducing the sensitivity of the neural pain receptors, massage therapy is able to break the perpetual cycle of pain.

Chronic pain may also involve trigger points.  These are areas of tissue with ischemia and lactic acid build up.  Trigger points can create local nerve fiber impairment or aggravation, leading to increased pain.  Many times, soft-tissue pain is not produced by a local tissue, but is referred from some other location.  Therapists recognize the characteristics of referred pain sensation and adapt their therapy accordingly.

Massage is beneficial in improving sleep, reducing anxiety and stress levels.  For many, finding relief through skillful soft-tissue therapy can be a life-changing experience.  Call the office and book your massage today!  802-655-0354

Chiropractic Economics, The Soft-tissue Solution, Whitney Lowe, September 21, 2011, pg. 76