How do aches and pains appear after fitness training, and how can they be treated?

Aches and pain in sport practise

Doms (“Delayed onset muscle soreness”) are pains that appear progressively 12 to 48 hours after fitness training or exercise and are commonly known as aches and pains. Delayed onset is the result of eccentric muscular work and will take several days to “disappear”.

Where do aches and pains after fitness training workouts come from?

When working in an eccentric mode (braking action of the muscle), the activation of the muscle causes resistance to its own stretching. For example, on landing a jump (skipping rope, explosive squat, jumping lunges…), the quadriceps contracts in an eccentric mode to break the knee flexion and resist being crushed on the ground.

Although there are many advantages to muscle strengthening in eccentric mode, practiced in an intense or unusual way, it can lead to micro muscle injuries. These can evolve over a period of several days to several weeks, depending on their “severity”. The resorption of these muscle micro lesions is accompanied by an inflammatory process that generally leads to more or less intense pain, which is usually called “aches and pains” and which are in reality DOMS .

They can occur, for example, when resuming sports activities after a long break, and can take several days to heal. Unusual exertion is therefore a triggering factor, even for a trained athlete.

The good news is that they will diminish with learning and practicing this new type of movement, or this new sport activity, as your general fitness training gets more and more effective.

Where does it usually hurt after your fitness training?

Pain most often appears on the quadriceps, but also on the hamstrings, but it can also occur in the arms in case of specific work. 

Genes caused by aches and pains are the appearance of pain when the muscle is touched, sometimes with more precise points of pain. There is also a lack of strength and a reduction in joint amplitudes because stretching the muscle is painful. 

I recommend you take this pain under consideration before your next fitness training session.

What are the consequences of the DOMS on your fitness training program?

Beyond the pain, and the gene caused by it, there is also a reduction in the possibilities of stretching the muscle, a decrease in strength, and an alteration of the proprioceptive qualities. These deficits persist longer than the pain, usually for 5 to 8 days, and this period is, therefore, conducive to injury.

Therefore, if after a fitness training session you feel pain, I recommend you to let me know as soon as possible, so I will adapt your next fitness workout.

How can DOMS be treated?

Currently, although many treatments are used (cryotherapy, stretching, anti-inflammatory, ultrasound and physiotherapy techniques, homeopathy, massage, compression, and hyperbaric oxygen therapy), none have been proven effective in the treatment of DOMS, and some (such as stretching) may even aggravate them and make the recovery process longer.

For the moment, resting the muscle and stopping the eccentric strain on the muscles affected by the pain is the only effective solution to heal the DOMS, and to get back to your training routine as soon as possible.

How to prevent the appearance of DOMS after fitness training?

If it has been established that heavy eccentric exercise can lead to DOMS, the muscle then quickly adapts to this first exercise. From the second eccentric exercise, the repetition effect (repeated bout effect) reduces the appearance of aches and pains. If these recur, there is then a clear reduction in symptoms, with less pain, loss of strength, and a reduction in joint amplitudes.

If these effects of eccentric muscular work are painful, they are not serious in nature and should not call into question the interest of eccentric work in strengthening muscles.

Training the muscle for this type of work has the effect of reducing or even eliminating the appearance of these DOMS.

Consequently, the more you train, the less DOMS you will experience!

If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to contact me, I will be happy to answer them, and to organize for you your next personal training session in Berlin!

Reference: « Améliorer sa récupération en sport » — Christophe Hausswirth et Véronique Rousseau — Librairies INSEP