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Does Muscle Soreness Mean You Had an Effective Workout?

Updated: Aug 15, 2018

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You had an awesome Reformer session. Your body feels great with a boost of energy. You go about your day, but then you wake up the next morning with so much muscle discomfort that you feel like you cannot move.

This soreness is called delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. Depending on the muscles you worked beforehand, it can make everything from putting on your clothes to walking down the stairs feel unbearable.

We talked to a health care professional who works closely with collegiate athletes to find out more about the misunderstood delayed onset muscle soreness and what it means for your Pilates workout. Here’s what we found out.

What exactly is DOMS?

“The theory is that DOMS is caused by micro-trauma to the muscle fibers; some say it is metabolic in nature, others say it is neurological – the jury is still out on the cause,” explains W. David Carr, Ph.D., ATC., an assistant professor in the Department of Sports Medicine and Athletic Training (SMAT) at Missouri State University in Missouri.

Why does it occur?

While immediate muscle soreness is related to fatigue, Carr says the delayed soreness typically happens within 24 hours and is related to trauma as well as metabolic and neurologic sources. The delay is most likely due to the build up of lactic acid, carbon dioxide, and other materials.

What does DOMS mean for your workout?

If you are looking to build muscle, Carr suggests you fatigue and overload the system by progressively forcing them to do more than they are accustomed to. The lack of sore muscles after a workout may mean you did not fatigue and overload the muscles.

If you have not regularly exercised your muscles before, your muscles have no reason to make adaptations and therefore, DOMS can also occur.

How do you treat it?

“DOMS, in general, is not somelthing to worry about,” he says. “It should peak around the second day and then, dissipate.”

Doing a similar workout to what caused the soreness can help alleviate the symptoms. However, if you already have a fitness plan, doing another similar workout set does not help with its progression.

Carr explains that there are many treatments to help with DOMS. “Anything that feels good will decrease symptoms,” he suggests. “The best treatment, in my opinion, is exercise.”

FBP suggestions for sore muscles

Stretching is recommended with all exercises, whether it is gentle like Pilates or vigorous like weight lifting. A stretch routine will prepare your body for the workout and help reduce soreness.

Hydration is important, especially before and during your Pilates session. It helps to decrease inflammation in the muscles as well as prevent cramping.

Icing the area with a bag of ice or an ice bath helps prevent further muscle damage and speeds healing.

Deep tissue massage increases blood flow, which in turn, helps to remove the toxins that are responsible for soreness.

Eat or drink something that has anti-inflammatory benefits. Research has shown that tart cherries or tart cherry juice helps to reduce inflammation in the body.


Bowers, Elizabeth Shimer. “Quick fixes for sore muscles.”, 25 July 2018. <>

Goulet, Chris. “Progressive overload: The concept you must know to grow!”, 25 July 2018. <>

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