DOMs: what are they?
With the term DOMs (literally “Dealyed Onset Muscle Soreness”) we want to refer to muscle pains that occur the day after a workout and persist for a couple of days.
The true nature of DOMs should not be attributed to lactic acid but to actual micro-trauma to the muscle fibers. This type of soreness is in fact closely linked to eccentric exercise: the contracted muscle fibers are found to be stretched while remaining under tension and this leads to small
damage to the membranes of muscle cells.
This physical damage leads to the release of algogenic substances that cause an inflammatory response which leads to the formation of waste metabolites. The
free nerve endings, the nociceptors, are stimulated by these substances; in particular the C fibers are stimulated (these are responsible for the sensation of tissue damage).
The mechanism of inflammation also draws immune cells into situ which can lead to an aggravation of tissue damage. This last aspect explains why the DOMs begin to manifest themselves after the first 24 hours and then worsen and finally disappear completely within 3 days.
Methods for reducing DOMs
From what has just been said it might seem that small tears in the muscle fibers are something to worry about and try to avoid. In reality, these micro traumas trigger repair and adaptation processes that make the damaged tissue prepared for the same stimulus and therefore the
muscle comes out strengthened.
This is not the only process that leads to super compensation but it certainly is a way to achieve it. Theoretically, you shouldn't even worry about eliminating or reducing DOMs if not for their disabling nature: following a hard workout it is not permissible to spend a couple of days in bed without moving but you must still carry out daily life activities.
It should be noted that reducing the DOMs does not affect the recovery mechanisms, these take place regardless in the presence of tissue damage. Reducing the DOMs means reducing the waste substances present in the area so that they interrupt their nociceptive stimulus. Having specified this, strategies can be adopted to better deal with the days of soreness:
1. Make movements in full ROM
Following an intense leg workout, you end up having serious problems moving in the following days. To promote the elimination of waste metabolites it is useful to make movements that involve the full ROM of the joint.
It is important to employ full ROM for two reasons. The first is a conscious reduction in movement due to awareness of the DOMs, knowing that if you fully flex your knees you feel pain you tend to avoid this movement. This protective mechanism can lead to a reduction in mobility due to both tissue stiffening and habit.
The second reason is attributed to the increased circulation that is obtained by completely stretching and contracting a muscle. Increasing the perfusion of the tissue also improves the elimination of catabolites and therefore the reduction of DOMs is more effective. Movements of this kind can be performed by biking by positioning the seat at an optimal distance to maximize movement, exercises for the extra rotators and shoulder blade adductors if you want to improve the situation of the pectoral and back muscles or simply walk for 30 minutes or do the light activity for the same
2. Alternate sauna with cold shower
This can be a useful way to reduce DOMs. If the whole body is exposed to exogenous heat, there is a reduction in the resistance of the peripheral vessels which leads to vasodilation and an increased flow of blood to the surface.
This should be achieved after about ten minutes in the sauna. If the body is subsequently exposed to low temperatures this leads to the opposite effect, namely a movement of blood towards the deeper and more central tissues. Alternating these two stimuli leads to the formation of a blood flow which carries with it part of the catabolites and therefore reduces the DOMs.
This process can be repeated for a couple or even more times in the day following the workout. Performing this "thermo therapy" immediately after training makes little sense as the catabolites have not yet formed.
To reduce the DOMs after an intense workout it might be a good idea to go to the gym and do some light activity that takes advantage of the full ROM of the joint and then spend 30 minutes in the relaxation area between the sauna and cold shower.