Q & A Library

Print this page | Sign up for free e-bulletins
 | Bookmark This Page

Why Are My Muscles Sore?

What is delayed onset muscle soreness? My trainer told me about it. I'd never heard of it, and I wonder what can be done about it. 

Answer (Published 11/28/2011)

Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) refers to the aftereffects of strenuous exercise that come on 24 to 48 hours following a workout. Exercise physiologists say this is a normal consequence of overusing or stressing a muscle beyond its normal use and stems from microscopic tears in muscle fibers. The soreness usually occurs after using muscles to perform "eccentric" contractions - one example is the controlled extension of your arm after performing a bicep curl; another is running downhill. This delayed muscle soreness is common. It affects elite athletes who challenge themselves as well as newcomers to exercise, but almost everyone experiences it at some point after engaging in unaccustomed activity. It usually passes within a few days.

Related Weil Products
Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness for Your Healthy Body - It's the journey not the destination. Make each day count, with an outlook that is both serene and inspired. Dr. Weil's new website,, has everything you need to get on the path to optimal well-being including recipes, checklists and exclusive tools to track your walking. Learn more, start your 10-day free trial now.

There's no sure cure for DOMS and considerable disagreement as to what works best to ease the pain. You can try rest, ice, an over-the-counter anti-inflammatory drug, or heat (as from the packaged heat wraps you can buy in drug stores). Massage or stretching may also be helpful, and I've read one study that showed drinking tart cherry juice may help reduce symptoms. This study also found that loss of strength associated with the soreness was only four percent in those who received the cherry juice, compared to 22 percent in those who drank a placebo. The anthocyanin pigments that give tart cherries their color are likely responsible for their anti-inflammatory, analgesic effects.

If you're new to exercise, your best bet is to take it easy or stick to light exercise for a few days when you first encounter delayed onset muscle soreness. Don't let DOMS discourage you from continuing with your program.

Be sure to distinguish routine muscle soreness and stiffness from the pain of injury. Muscle sprains or strains due to exercise cause sudden, intense pain, often associated with swelling or bruising.

Andrew Weil, M.D.

Creative Commons License Some Rights Reserved Creative Commons Copyright Notice
A portion of the original material created by Weil Lifestyle on (specifically, all question and answer-type articles in the Dr. Weil Q&A Library) is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.

The Weil Vitamin Advisor
Get your FREE personalized vitamin recommendation & supplement plan today!

Dr. Weil on Healthy Aging
Your Online Guide to the Anti-Inflammatory Diet. Start eating for your health - begin your free trial now.

Dr. Weil's Spontaneous Happiness
Achieve emotional well-being in just eight weeks! Start your 10-day free trial now!

Vitamin Library
Supplement your knowledge with Dr. Weil's essential vitamin facts. Learn why they are necessary and more.

Dr. Weil's Optimum Health Plan
Your 8-week plan to wellness.
Begin your journey today!

Dr. Weil's Head-to-Toe Wellness Guide
Your guide to natural health.
Use the Wellness Guide today!

Dr. Weil's Anti-Inflammatory Diet
Food Pyramid

Our interactive tool can help improve overall health through diet.

Condition Care Guide
Learn about health conditions from acne to vertigo, and Dr. Weil's view of the best treatment options for each.

Healthy Recipes
Discover a treasure trove of healthy, healing foods and creative, delicious ways to prepare them.

Q&A Library
Over 2,000 questions from you and their corresponding answers from Dr. Weil.

Copyright © 2015 Weil Lifestyle
Information on this web site is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for the advice provided by your physician or other healthcare professional. You should not use the information on this web site for diagnosing or treating a health problem or disease, or prescribing any medication or other treatment.

Ad Choice
Advertising Notice

This Site and third parties who place advertisements on this Site may collect and use information about your visits to this Site and other websites in order to provide advertisements about goods and services of interest to you. If you would like to obtain more information about these advertising practices and to make choices about online behavioral advertising, please click here