Why Do I Get Sore Two Days Later?

What Is Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness?

You worked out yesterday or two days ago and your muscles are screaming at you now.  Maybe you did a new workout or added weight or just started.  No matter what you did, you were not expecting to be feeling it this much.  Welcome to DOMS – Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.  DOMS is felt somewhere between 24-72 hours post exercise.  The soreness tends to be at its peak in the 48 hour mark, but it can take up to ten total days to fully recover.  Don’t let any of this scare you, in the end it’s all beneficial.

But Why Though...

Muscle soreness is the breakdown or “microtrauma” of muscle fibers and connective tissues.  When they tear it stimulates new muscle fiber production and growth, that way when the movements are performed again the body will be more efficient.  Kind of a miracle if we do say so ourselves.  It’s like evolution at light speed. And with any kind of weight bearing activity your bone density improves too, which is a second miracle.

There have been handfuls of studies on muscle soreness.  It’s been debated whether or not DOMS is desirable or permanently damaging and whether or not our efforts to alleviate soreness are actually effective.  However, we do know that the cellular and biochemical explanations of DOMS are in depth.  Exercise, specifically controlled eccentric movement (when you’re lowering your arm at the end of a bicep curl), damages the muscles and our body reacts by producing all kinds of healing techniques. For example, we make more creatine kinase (CK), an enzyme that leaks into the blood and spikes its levels when our muscles need repairing.  This is why it’s important to eat foods like proteins right after exercise to help repair the fibers right away.  There’s your first tip to alleviating DOMS next time you work out.


Although the answers to this question are widely debated, there are still a few.

Light exercise IS beneficial for alleviating DOMS. Not only does it get the blood flowing, which carries all the healthy enzymes used to rebuild muscle, but it keeps the fascia and muscles moving enough to maintain some range of motion (ROM). Exercise and its induced soreness can lead to stiffness which can lead to future injury when you exercise again.  It is vital to stretch or foam roll or go through mobility drills for injury prevention.

Ibuprofen and aspirin ARE effective at relieving inflammation and lowering levels of pain if you’re soreness isn’t too intense.

Icing or cryotherapy ARE promising and have shown to work in studies as well.  The only issue with cryotherapy is that it’s still relatively new and a difficult service to find.

Studies suggest that sedentary rest is NOT recommended. This means it won’t benefit you to go home and lay on the couch for three days.


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