How to Prevent and Treat Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

(Originally posted January 19, 2012)

OK, the ugly truth is if you do not ever want to experience DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness), the surefire way to do that is keep being a fat, sedentary blob. You could also exercise, but never to the point at which your muscles are actually challenged to grow though. This, of course, means you won’t experience the health benefits of exercise such as improved cardio vascular fitness (increased HDL for instance), decreased blood pressure, or any of its protective effects against breast, colon, endometrial, lung and prostate cancer.(1,2) You also won’t be experiencing any of its protective effects against osteoporosis and other ill effects of aging. Assuming you’re willing to put up with some temporary discomfort for long-term gain of increased health and vitality, let’s talk about what to do to prevent and treat DOMS.

Kayla’s Top 4 Tips for Preventing DOMS:

  1. Warm up before working out in order to increase body temperature, get the blood and oxygen flowing and prepare your muscles for the workout itself. Movement rehearsal and light cardio are good ways to do this.
  2. Stretch gently after the warm up/cardio to prepare the muscles for work.  (Do not stretch cold muscles)
  3. Progress slowly when you begin a new exercise activity. If it’s a new kickboxing class for instance, do a little less than you think you’re capable of while still getting a good workout. You can judge how sore you were after the first class to know how hard to push yourself the next time when you’re not too sore to have a next time.  Use a lower percentage of your 1 rep maximum on weights…so if you have been working at 80% maybe try 70-75% or less and work up slowly (listen to your body).
  4. Consume some protein within the hour after you finish your workout paired with a little carbohydrate. Examples include peanut butter on Ezekiel bread, or a whey protein shake, slices of turkey and an apple, eggs etc.

Kayla’s Tips for Treating DOMS:

  1. Have a bath with Epsom salts. I like to put in a cup of Epsom salts into the hot/warm bath water and soak for at least 20 minutes if I’m sore. The heat from the water relaxes the muscle and its thought that the Magnesium (the key ingredient in Epsom salts ) gets into the skin to reduce the inflammation in the muscle.  It also delivers sulfates, which can ease joints. For more information on Epsom salts and its many uses go to
  2. Ibuprofen won’t make you heal any faster but can take the edge off.
  3. Take a day or more off from training that particular muscle. If it’s the bicep that’s sore, focus on the quadriceps or hamstrings or rhomboids for instance and move back to the biceps or upper body when it’s not so sore.
  4. Do light cardio. As the blood circulates, it can help ease the muscle. We’re talking a walk or light jog.
  5. Stretch the muscle. Use a foam roller.
  6. Get a massage.
  7. If its very severe and the Epsom salt bath didn’t do it, you might try drinking a small amount of aloe juice (we’re talking a teaspoon or two) mixed in apple juice to disguise the taste.

If you are sore more than two days, you may have a slight injury or muscle strain. is the case, rest and give that muscle time to heal before training it again.


(1) Courneya,K.S. & Friedenreich, C.M.(1997)Relationship between exercise pattern across the cancer experience and current quality of life in colorectal cancer survivors. Journal of Alternative and Complimentary Medicine, 3, 15-216

(2)  Friedenreich, C. M. (2001) .  Physical activity and cancer prevention from observational to interventional research. Cancer Epidemiological Biomarkers Prevention, 10, 287-301


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