Muscle Soreness, Lactic Acid Buildup And DOMS Explained

No pain, no gain. This is the adage that many of us work out by. If it’s not hurting we are not working hard enough. What causes sore muscles and what part does lactic acid buildup play?

There are 2 types of muscle pain. One is the burning that you feel in your muscles while you are working out, and this is commonly known as lactic acid build up. The second kind is the stiffness and soreness you may encounter for up to 2-5 days after you have worked out. This pain is referred to as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS for short).

Lactic acid
is created when the body is not getting enough oxygen to break down the glucose required for energy. Lactic acid is produced at these moments of time of extreme anaerobic activity (such as weight lifting) as a defensive measure, forcing the body to slow down and catch its metabolic breath. The burning feeling you are experiencing is a sure sign that you are working out to your maximum. Once your body starts producing the lactic acid in high quantities the body can only continue that particular muscle use (rep) for another 1 -3 minutes. The lactic acid does not hang around in your muscles for too long, from several to twenty-four hours.

DOMS is the correct term for the pain, stiffness and suffering you may encounter when you try to get out of bed the day or two after the massive or new workout. This pain and stiffness usually peaks within the first 1-2 days and then subsides. The length of recovery time can depend on the muscle damage and subsequent repair necessary. Yes, you read right. DOMS is actually caused by the inflammation and damage of the muscles created by the workout. Generally, if DOMS is caused by a new workout routine, your muscles will soon adjust and you will find the DOMS will stop troubling you.

Tips for relieving muscle pain.

* Massage has been proven to reduce both the tissue swelling and the pain associated with DOMS after strenuous workouts. The theory is that the massaging motion helps clear the chemical build-ups in the muscles and surrounding tissues, allowing the healing process to start faster.

* Light exercise
again has been clinically proven to help alleviate some of the symptoms of DOMS. A light cardio workout is recommended first to warm up, followed by some stretches. If you are then able to do your usual workout that’s fine. However, if the pain is interfering with your routine, or the pain intensifies then this is your body signaling you that those particular muscles need more recovery time. It is important to listen to your body and not ignore severe pain.

* Heat packs and ice packs can both help with tissue damage and pain. Ice will help prevent swelling, and heat is generally found to be soothing for sore muscles and joints.

Does it really have to hurt to work?

The pain that is felt in the muscles after an intensive routine is the small tears in the muscles healing themselves. This is part of the muscle strengthening process. A little DOMS can be a great indicator that you have successfully pushed yourself. On the other hand, severe DOMS indicates that you have overexerted yourself. Lactic acid burn is a signal that your muscles are indeed working out.


The production of lactic acid is a process signaling that muscles in your body have run out of oxygen needed to clear out the chemicals created by an intensive workout. The build up of lactic acid is signaled by the feeling of muscle burn. DOMS, on the other hand is the pain and stiffness felt from anywhere between 1 and 5 days after a strenuous activity.

Easy And Effective Ways Of Dealing With Muscle Soreness

Have you overdone your workout? Barely able to walk, sit or bend? Can’t face the thought of the gym or the running track ever again? Don’t despair. There are many simple and effective ways of dealing with muscle soreness and stiffness. Read on for some fast relief of that muscle pain.

Types of muscle pain.

There are several types of muscle pain associated with working out:

* Lactic acid burn.
This is the burning feeling you experience in your muscles as you are working out. This is a result of strenuous muscle exertion and lactic acid builds up in the tissues as a byproduct of the vigorous workout. Lactic acid burn starts to subside within minutes of finishing the exercise.

* Acute injury or sprain. Sudden onset of acute or unusual pain while exercising could indicate an injury or sprain. Many sprains can be treated in the same manner as DOMS. However, if your pain hasn’t gone within a week it will be time to consult a doctor. Severe pain may warrant a visit sooner.

* Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is used to describe the pain and stiffness that you tend to wake up with the day after a vigorous workout. This pain may intensify for up to 48 hours after the workout, and then start to subside. There are many useful strategies you can implement to help with this sort of soreness.

Treating muscle pain.

* Massage has been shown to help with both lactic acid build up and DOMS. In the case of lactic acid build up massaging the surrounding areas seems to clear the chemical build up faster, decreasing tissue inflammation. In the case of DOMS, massage would appear to be at the very least, very soothing.

* Yoga has been shown in studies to help with DOMS. The gentle movements along with the stretches may be just what the physio ordered.

* Stretching definitely helps alleviate the stiffness and soreness of those tight muscles. The best thing about stretching is that you can do it as often as you need to. Just remember, aim for gentle stretches, do not rock or bounce and try and hold for at least 5 seconds.

* RICE stands for rest, ice, compression, and elevation, and is ideal for more significant muscle injuries like sprains and swellings. The ice and elevation will minimize the bruising and swelling of the affected area. The compression, as in a bandage, will help support the area and will ease the pain, especially if it is your ankle or foot.

* Heat packs are extremely soothing for sore muscles and help with the associated inflammation. Many people swear by wheat packs for those aching and stiff muscles and joints.

* Ice packs and cold water.
Many athletes claim that ice baths are great for dealing with pains and swellings. Ice packs definitely help with sprains and swellings. Some may prefer the warmth of a heat pack, and others may find an ice bath more effective. Experiment and see which works the best for you. Neither will harm you.

* Warming up before going again.
Before you embark on your next round of activity it is vital to do a gentle warm up for 10-15 minutes. You will start to feel better straight away. Note the word “gentle”. Activities such as walking and cycling are excellent.

* Gentle activity.
You may not feel like even climbing out of bed, but gentle activity will definitely help your cause. Do not workout to the intense level you were at to give yourself the DOMS. Knock it back a few levels of intensity, but still do something. This will also help to keep you in your new workout mode. If you stop until you feel better, you may not go back.

* Be patient. You may feel as if you will never be able to move again, but within 3-7 days you will be fine. If you are not OK after 7 days you will need to see a physio or doctor, as this would indicate an injury, as opposed to DOMS.


There are many simple ways of dealing with muscle soreness including stretching, yoga, massage, gentle exercise, and both heat and ice. Your muscle pain will go away, and in the meantime you will feel much better if you keep working out at a lesser intensity.