Q – I recently got back into weight training and have been getting very sore several days after, is this normal?
A – It sounds like you are suffering from a case of DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
This usually occurs between 24 – 72 hours after exercise and is often experienced after an extended layoff from training or after taking part in an activity that you aren’t used to.
It is a relatively familiar situation amongst both novice and elite athletes and most of us will experience it to some degree at some stage after exercise. Some of the common symptoms of DOMS include, tenderness, pain, restriction in range of motion, inflammation and a temporary loss of performance. Despite research in the area an actual etiology (cause) for the condition is still unknown, though there are several theories. Some suggested causes include lactic acid, muscle spasm, connective tissue or muscle damage, and more recently the role of free radicals. It is more likely that combinations of several of these theories are the cause rather than a singular one.
Though the exact cause of DOMS is still unclear, what is known is the type of muscle action that is primarily responsible. Eccentric muscle actions are those when we lower weights (such as the down phase of a squat), or have to slow down movement (running downhill for example). These types of movement cause the muscle to be lengthened under tension and the amount of soreness will be dictated by the intensity and duration of muscle action.
Treatment of DOMS is tricky, as many conventional approaches such as ice, stretching, homeopathy and ultrasound seem to be ineffective. Some reduction in reported symptoms has been shown with the use of NSAID’s (Non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as Ibuprofen). Though one of the simplest ways to ease the soreness is with physical activity. To maintain your training programme focus on working different movement patterns or body parts in your training sessions and avoid training areas or movements where you have painful soreness. Exercise training helps protect and reduce DOMS in subsequent exercise.
To help prevent painful soreness get back into your weight training with lighter weights and build up to higher intensity levels.