DOMS muscle soreness

Still Sore Days After Your Workout? Learn How to Relieve DOMS Pain

We all know that second-day pain. Learn more about why it happens and how to prevent it.

By Lucy MaherUpdated March 7, 2024


If you’ve just done an advanced bootcamp class for the first time in a while or had several days of back-to-back workouts without a rest day, you’ve likely experienced several days of sore, achy muscles that make climbing stairs, getting out of bed, and even walking painful.

There’s a term for this condition: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. While DOMS may be uncomfortable in the moment, this temporary condition can be managed so your sore muscles feel sweet, sweet relief. Here’s what to know about DOMS and caring for delayed onset muscle soreness.

What Is DOMS?

Think of DOMS as a progression from your usual mild aches and pains after a workout. According to the journal Sports Medicine, you’re more likely to experience delayed onset muscle soreness when you’re just returning to working out after an extended break (or when just starting your workout journey) or when you suddenly switch to a new modality of working out (say, you take your first barre class after years just cycling). 

“Experienced athletes have built up the resistance to muscle fatigue, so they get less sore than a person who has not been exercising a lot,” or is undertaking a new regimen,” says Dr. Kristine Blanche, RPA-C, PhD. “When we first start working out we have yet not built up our resistance to fatigue so we feel a bit more sore.”

This type of muscle ache occurs 12 to 24 hours after a strenuous workout that stresses the muscle more than it is used to, resulting in tiny, painful tears that can last as long as 72 hours post-workout. 

Symptoms of DOMS

The most prevalent symptom of DOMS is, naturally, incredibly sore muscles that can be almost debilitating. However, there are a few more specific symptoms to keep an eye out for, especially when determining how to beat DOMS. Here’s what to look for if you think you might be suffering a case of DOMS, according to the Journal of Athletic Training:

  • Muscle tenderness

  • Reduced range of motion

  • Short-term loss of muscle strength

  • Stiffness

  • Swelling

If left untended, your other muscles may compensate for the reduced range of motion and strength, which could potentially lead to injury. 

Is DOMS a Good Thing?

You might be wondering if there’s a silver lining to extreme muscle soreness. Could the soreness be a sign that your workout was extra intense and you’re just reaping the (somewhat painful) benefits? Not quite. This is one instance when you should steer away from the ‘no pain, no gain’ mentality. That’s because DOMS isn’t a perfect correlation to workout intensity. According to an article in the Strength and Conditioning Journal, DOMS can be impacted by genetics, and some muscles are more susceptible to DOMS than others. 

Research from the International Journal of Molecular Sciences also suggests that DOMS originates in the connective tissue between—not the actual muscles you used in the workout that made you sore. Unless you’re actively trying for hypertrophy (that is, you want to bulk to the max), DOMS probably isn’t a reliable reflection of your workout. 

How Long Does DOMS Last?

Good news: DOMS is a temporary condition. Pain from DOMS typically dissipates after three to five days. During your recovery from delayed onset muscle soreness, you should lower the intensity and duration of any workouts you take on (and honestly, you don’t need to work out at all while you recover). If you must move a little while you wait for delayed onset muscle soreness to subside, stick to low-impact activities that don’t target the sore muscle group. 

How to Manage DOMS

If you’re experiencing delayed onset muscle soreness, you’re probably ready for the muscle pains to ease so you can complete your everyday activities pain-free. Luckily, you don’t need any fancy tools or services to get delayed onset muscle soreness relief. Here’s how to relieve sore muscles after an especially intense workout.


If jumping into a new workout regimen has resulted in delayed onset muscle soreness, you’ll want to take a step back and allow your muscles a few days to repair themselves. Suffering from DOMS doesn’t mean becoming a couch potato, though. If your bootcamp class has left you with heavy, stiff legs, focus on working your upper body and core until your legs catch up. Some light, low-impact exercise such as swimming or walking may help keep stiff muscles warm and allow for increased blood flow, oxygen, and nutrients to affected areas during an active recovery day. You can also try stretching to lengthen your muscles gently.

Ice or Heat

While you’re resting, apply ice packs to tender areas. Some people also benefit from soaking in a warm tub which can help ease pain and stiffness. Dr. Blanche has also recommended a topical CBD oil and magnesium cream to certain patients, and you can apply topical analgesics to ease symptoms as your muscles work to recover.


If you’re able to, foam rolling, also known as self-myofascial release, is another tactic for DOMS relief. Foam rolling may be too painful on sore muscles, but it can help alleviate the onset of DOMS if performed right after a workout. One study from the Journal of Athletic Training found that 20 minutes of foam rolling right after an intense workout and every 24 hours after may reduce the likelihood of muscle tenderness and decreased performance. You can also self-massage 48 hours after a tough workout to help ease muscle soreness and stiffness. 

How to Prevent DOMS

Trust us, we understand the temptation to commit fully to a new (or more intense) workout routine, especially with an array of challenging classes and engaging instructors available on the Peloton App. The best way to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness, however, is to listen to your body and allow your muscles to adapt over time to new moves or longer rides or runs. Yes, that means you shouldn’t work out if you’re super sore.

What’s also helpful to prevent delayed onset muscle soreness? Cross-training so you avoid overuse injuries. If you like to ride six times a week, try a yoga class every couple of days, or take a shorter ride and devote 10 to 15 minutes to a stretch class. Dr. Blanche suggests “working arms and legs on separate days since they are less resistant to fatigue and require rest.”

Finally, you can stop delayed onset muscle soreness before it develops by warming up and cooling down before your intense exercise session. Peloton Tread instructor Jess Sims recommends a dynamic warmup before your workout where you're constantly moving and getting warm. “This type of warmup will mimic movements you might encounter during your workout to prepare your muscles for a particular workout," says Jess. "You don’t want to do static stretching when you’re cold because you’re pulling on muscles that are currently stiff." However, static stretching is perfect for after a workout. A proper cool down elongates the muscles, increases blood circulation, and increases your odds of being able to rock out another workout tomorrow.

The Takeaway

While you may be tempted to push through muscle soreness, take DOMS as a sign that you did a little too much, a little too fast. Treat delayed onset muscle soreness with a combination of rest, cold and heat therapy, and massage. And next time you work out, remember that your muscle gains and faster paces are built gradually over time, instead of overnight.

This content is for informational and educational purposes only and does not constitute individualized advice. It is not intended to replace professional medical evaluation, diagnosis, or treatment. Seek the advice of your physician for questions you may have regarding your health or a medical condition. If you are having a medical emergency, call your physician or 911 immediately.


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