Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness – DOMS

The Effects of Massage Therapy on Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness


What is DOMS?


Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS for short) is basically exactly what you are thinking: Any soreness or discomfort created from performing an activity. DOMS is often worse when you do activities that you are unaccustomed to doing. This is why the first few visits to the gym or games in a season make you feel the most muscle soreness.


As far as exactly what DOMS is… physiologically speaking it is a bit unclear.


Scientists are still debating the topic so there is no great answer. “Mechanisms, treatment strategies, and impact on athletic performance remain uncertain”(Nelson, 2013; Cheung, Hume, & Maxwell, 2003).


What is known is that Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness leads to:

  • loss of muscle strength
  • soreness sensation
  • decreased range of motion
  • increased muscle stiffness
  • negative effects to athletic performance (Weerapong, Humen, & Kolt, 2005)


How Massage Therapy affects DOMS


Seeing as the exact mechanisms behind DOMS are still unclear, it is very difficult to make any solid claims as to what massage therapy is doing to reduce DOMS. As the mechanisms behind DOMS are better identified, research will able to examine the effects of massage with more accuracy.


What the Research Says

Running Up Stairs

Several studies have found small reductions in DOMS (Imtiyaz et al., 2014; Ernst, 1998); It appears that although massage may reduce some of the chemical markers of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, it is more likely that the reduction of symptoms is a result of changes to the perception of soreness (Tiidus & Shoemaker, 1995; Jakeman, Byrne, & Eston 2010).


One interesting study done in 2014 by Han et al had participants induce DOMS by walking up a 5-story building 20 times (not the most fun study to participate in)! The research found improvements in gait (how we walk) and reduction in pain from therapeutic massage performed on the calf muscles.


In Summary, there are still many questions that need answers and research that needs to be completed on the topic of DOMS, and the effect massage therapy has on it.


With that said, receiving sports massage will likely decrease the intensity of DOMS more than not having massage at all. So if you are feeling the consequences of getting back to the gym book a massage with your RMT.


If you live in the Surrey, Vancouver or West Broadway area, book a massage with one of our own painPRO Professionals and find out just how much better you’ll feel after.


This article was written and submitted by Arnold Warkentin, RMT
Feel free to voice any comments, questions or concerns by calling 604-683-7246
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Works Cited:

Cheung, K., Hume, P. A., & Maxwell, L. (2003). Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness: Treatment Strategies and Performance Factors. Sports Medicine, 33(2), 145-164.


Ernst, E. (1998). Does post-exercise massage treatment reduce delayed onset muscle soreness? A systematic review. British Journal Of Sports Medicine, 32(3), 212-214.


Han, J., Kim, M., Yang, H., Lee, Y., & Sung, Y. (2014). Effects of therapeutic massage on gait and pain after delayed onset muscle soreness. Journal Of Exercise Rehabilitation, 10(2), 136-140. doi:10.12965/jer.140106


Imtiyaz, S., Veqar, Z., & Shareef, M. Y. (2014). To Compare the Effect of Vibration Therapy and Massage in Prevention of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS). Journal Of Clinical And Diagnostic Research: JCDR, 8(1), 133-136. doi:10.7860/JCDR/2014/7294.3971


Jakeman, J., Byrne, C., & Eston, R. (2010). Efficacy of lower limb compression and combined treatment of manual massage and lower limb compression on symptoms of exercise-induced muscle damage in women. Journal Of Strength & Conditioning Research (Lippincott Williams & Wilkins), 24(11), 3157-3165. doi:10.1519/JSC.0b013e3181e4f80c


Nelson, N. (2013). Delayed onset muscle soreness: Is massage effective?. Journal Of Bodywork & Movement Therapies, 17(4), 475-482.


Tiidus, P. M., & Shoemaker, J. K. (1995). Effleurage massage, muscle blood flow and long-term post-exercise strength recovery. International Journal Of Sports Medicine, 16(7), 478-483.


Weerapong, P., Hume, P. A., & Kolt, G. S. (2005). The Mechanisms of Massage and Effects on Performance, Muscle Recovery and Injury Prevention. Sports Medicine, 35(3), 235-256.

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