Delayed onset muscle soreness is common after exercise and usually means your muscles are getting stronger.
Starting a workout program can be challenging. Making the time to exercise, creating a balanced routine, and setting goals are hard enough, but add to that the muscle soreness that comes with adapting to that regimen, and it may be difficult to stay on track. Chances are, you won't be leaping out of bed to get to the gym when it hurts to hold your arm up to brush your teeth.After participating in some kind of strenuous physical activity, particularly something new to your body, it is common to experience muscle soreness, say experts. "Muscles go through quite a bit of physical stress when we exercise," says Rick Sharp, professor of exercise physiology at Iowa State University in Ames.
"Mild soreness just a natural outcome of any kind of physical activity," he says. "And they're most prevalent in beginning stages of a program."
Exercise physiologists refer to the gradually increasing discomfort that occurs between 24 and 48 hours after activity as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and it is perfectly normal.
"Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is a common result of physical activity that stresses the muscle tissue beyond what it is accustomed to," says David O. Draper, professor and director of the graduate program in sports medicine/athletic training at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.
To be more specific, says Draper, who's also a member of the heat-responsive pain council, delayed onset muscle soreness occurs when the muscle is performing an eccentric or a lengthening contraction. Examples of this would be running downhill or the lengthening portion of a bicep curl. "Small microscopic tears occur in the muscle," he says. The mild muscle strain injury creates microscopic damage to the muscle fibers. Scientists believe this damage, coupled with the inflammation that accompanies these tears, causes the pain.
"The aches and pains should be minor," says Carol Torgan, an exercise physiologist and fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine, "and are simply indications that muscles are adapting to your fitness regimen."