We all know the feeling – you feel great after a tough class just a little tired, but then you wake up the next morning stiff and sore. This is known as DOMS or Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
DOMS is the gradually increasing feeling of muscle soreness that occurs between 24 and 48 hours after exercise, but don’t worry it’s not uncommon. As dancers we’re typically pretty fit, and flexible, so what it takes to make us sore is generally a lot more intense than your average person. That said we’ve all had the grueling class that pushes us to our limits, and it’s when we hit these limits that we typically experience DOMS. In fact for students studying at vocational (pre-professional) level, it can be a regular part of life.
DOMS typically occurs when muscles are worked harder than they usually are day to day, and is particularly common after a break of holiday from dance or when increasing the frequency or intensity of your dancing increases. It is part of your body’s natural response and adaptation process to working harder. The good news is that it leads to increased stamina and strength as your build up muscle.
It’s important to realise that gradual soreness of DOMS is different to the tiredness and fatigue that can happen during exercise or the sharp, sudden pain of a muscle strain which often causes swelling and bruising. Doctors believe that DOMS is the result of microscopic tearing of the muscle fibers. The amount of tearing and soreness you feel depends on how hard you exercise. Although any movements can lead to DOMS, eccentric muscle contractions such as push ups, plies and squats seem to cause the most soreness.
So, what can you do to help with DOMS?
Unfortunately, there is no one solution, however the following things may help alleviate some of the soreness:
- Drink lots of water
- Try yoga or gentle stretching
- Make sure you are eating enough protein so that your body can repair muscle
- Listen to your body – rest if that’s what your muscles are telling you
- Elevate your legs – lying with your legs up a wall can help reduce soreness
- Ice any parts that are particularly sore, alternating with heat
- Wear a compression sleeve, or compression or tight clothing
- Foam roll or use a tennis ball to gentle massage muscles and increase blood flow
- Make sure you warm up properly before your next session
American College of Sports Medicine. Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
Dance Spirit Magazine. Your Aches and Pains Addressed: Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness.
Sports Medicine. About.com Muscle Pain and Soreness After Exercise.
Fitness and Exercise. Webmd.com Coping with Soreness After Exercise.