You know how you worked out hard. Went to bed. Woke up totally fine, and then the next day you're super sore!?
That's called DOMS. Delayed onset muscle soreness. It used to be thought that delayed onset muscle soreness was caused by the build-up of lactic acid in muscle tissue. However, new research has disproved this hypothesis, and it is now clear that whereas regular muscle soreness is predominantly due to microtrauma structural damage to muscle fibers, DOMS is primarily caused by the bodies inflammatory response to exercise and several other variables.
Today, scientists know that DOMS is influenced by:
- Athletic conditioning, age, and the skeletal muscular system
- Structural damage to muscle tissue and tendons
- The inflammatory response system
There are few treatments that are supported by shreds of evidence. For instance, everyone will be pleased to know that one study (predictably European) showed some benefits to hot tubbing, specifically “warm underwater jet massage." However, it was a small and flawed piece of research — and most people know from personal experience that a soak in a hot tub may “take the edge off it,” but this hardly constitutes a miracle cure for DOMS.
“Vitamin I” may also be partially useful. Ibuprofen (and other anti-inflammatory drugs, the NSAIDS) have been shown to reduce the pain of DOMS, although — disappointingly — they are not actually aiding recovery in any meaningful sense. For instance, they do not reduce the muscle weakness that goes with it. If you had severe DOMS in your quadriceps, taking ibuprofen would probably reduce your pain, but you would still not be able to jump as high as usual. In short, they are masking the pain, not treating the problem. For instance, if you had severe DOMS in your quadriceps, taking ibuprofen would probably reduce your pain, but you would still not be able to jump as high as usual. Note that topical NSAIDs (like Voltaren) may be almost completely ineffective, probably because the drug can’t be absorbed into deep enough tissue.
We wish we could give you all the answers on how to cure your DOMS. However, there is little evidence to suggest that you can speed up the recovery. Take it easy, you should feel normal again within a few days.