Surviving DOMS

In light of the tough workouts I have coming this weekend (long run + obstacle course training = wide spread pain!), I decided to do a literature search of what I can do to help with delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) without taking handfuls of ibuprofen.

When I posted this idea on my personal Facebook page, my trainer/friend said, essentially, to enjoy it now because I will miss DOMS and the muscle building stage.  To which I mentally replied:

I’ll let you know in about eight billion years if that ever happens.  Meanwhile, I will keep track of what the “experts” say.  It should be noted that the medical community has essentially issued a big, fat “Huh!” on this.  There are many, MANY conflicting studies that have very small subject groups.  Just about all of them end with a line about how further studies in this area are needed.  Ya think??

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About half-way through my search, I found a fairly exhaustive website that cited many of the same articles I was planning to use so, to save reinventing the wheel, I will just link there: fellrnr.com/wiki/Delayed_Onset_Muscle_Soreness

Here is his chart for the click-adverse:

Strategy Timing Soreness Weakness Downsides
Repeated Bout Effect Before (days to months) Strong evidence of reduced soreness Some evidence of reduced weakness None
Carbohydrate and/or protein After Some evidence of reduced soreness Strong evidence of reduced weakness None
Cadence During Some evidence of reduced soreness Some evidence of reduced soreness None
Compression Clothing After Some evidence of reduced soreness Some evidence of reduced weakness None
Caffeine After Some evidence of reduced soreness Some evidence of reduced weakness Nonea
Massage After Some evidence of reduced soreness No benefit None
Warmup Immediately before Some evidence of reduced soreness No benefit None
Light Exercise After Transient pain reduction No benefit Nonec
TENS After Transient pain reduction No benefit None
Icing After No benefit No benefit Noneb
Antioxidents Before and/or After Mixed evidence Mixed evidence Conflicting evidence of reduced Endurance Adaptations
Stretching Before and/or After No benefit No benefit
  • Stretching temporarily weakens muscles
  • Can induce DOMS
  • Can lead to injury
NSAIDs Before and/or After Most evidence indicates no benefit Most evidence indicates no benefit Can impair recovery

My only quibble is with his statement that there is no benefit from cryotherapy.  From all of the literature I reviewed, the researchers leaned in favor (albeit marginally) to using ice/ice baths.  Also, I found no study that suggest that increasing water intake (another common suggestion) helps with DOMS.

My personal plans for managing DOMS (no, there is no avoiding it at this stage):

1. I will have a protein/carbohydrate rich snack after exercising.  I have a pumpkin bar recipe made with almond flour that should do nicely!

2. I will continue with light exercise every few hours. One of my biggest problems is the fact that I have a very sedentary job and everything tightens up during the day.  I will take regular (light) stretching breaks, utilize the foam roller that I keep in my office, and take a couple of walks during the day.

3. I will take an ice bath after my long run.  I did this after two half marathons but not the third and I did notice a difference in how my legs/hips felt.  I will also use ice packs on my arms.

4.  I will schedule a sports massage.  Score!

5. I personally have had good luck with Arnica cream, though all of the studies I found say it doesn’t help.

I may also weep quietly in the corner and walk like Frankenstein for a few days but really, who’s going to notice the difference 😉

What do you do to manage DOMS?

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