Treating DOMS aka Muscle Fever

Treating DOMS aka Muscle Fever

The body can be a fickle thing and just when you get into the groove of lifestyle changes such as an improved diet and exercise program, compromises could occur. One such challenge has been labeled delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) sometimes called muscle fever and the symptoms could be imposing. 

Learn how your body reacts to DOMS as well as some ways to treat this condition. By doing so, especially if you are an active person, there could be significant systemic improvement that addresses pain reduction, advanced healing and increased range of motion (ROM). Improve your quality of life by healing and preventing DOMS so you don’t give up on improving your health before you even get started. 


Delayed onset muscle soreness may sound like the typical experience many get when they visit the gym after a long absence (or never going at all) and feel like a truck hit them the next day. This can happen on many levels beyond a gym workout which may include a random physical activity such as bowling, bike riding, volleyball, raking leaves, shoveling snow, picking up a child, etc. However, DOMS is different from basic muscle soreness and can affect anyone from a novice to an athlete.

The American College of Sports Medicine lists some symptoms associated with DOMS which may include:

  • Muscle fatigue 
  • Muscles that feel tender to the touch 
  • Swelling in the affected muscles
  • Short-term loss of muscle strength
  • Reduced range of motion due to pain and stiffness when moving

These symptoms pinpoint how you may feel after an intense activity with some describing it as a fever to the muscles. Addressing DOMS correctly could mean the difference between repair or further injury.

Eccentric Exercise

Most of the time, DOMS can manifest as the result of an eccentric exercise. An eccentric exercise is often associated with high intensity interval training (HIIT). This is an intense cardio workout that goes beyond the normal running on the treadmill and really kicks up the heart rate several notches. When eccentric exercise such as HIIT is performed the body is challenged on a variety of levels including muscular, respiratory and mentally. This full spectrum activity can also result in DOMS. 

Physiopedia describes the biological process of how something like HIIT (or the like) affects the body,

“DOMS is thought to be due to temporary muscle damage and inflammation for which the most common trigger appears to be eccentric exercises…Eccentric contractions recruit fewer motor units and thus the force generated is distributed over a smaller cross sectional area of the muscle. This increased tension per unit area causes greater injury to the tissue…Neutrophils and pro-inflammatory macrophages are important in the removal of cell debris through phagocytosis [bacterial ingestion]. However, excess production of reactive oxygen species (ROS) by these inflammatory cells can cause collateral damage to healthy cells that were not involved in the initial trauma by means of denaturing the proteins, lipids and nucleic acids that make up those cells.”

Overall, this description shows how muscles can be firing on all cylinders during eccentric exercises and when completed, actually respond negatively several hours later. The Physiopedia description continues, 

“DOMS is considered a type 1 muscle strain injury that has a pain free period of 12-24 hours and muscle soreness peaks between 24-72 hours.”

If you think you have been affected by DOMS and want to avoid it in the future, there are some mitigating techniques that can be applied to reduce discomfort and get you back on your feet in no time.

DOMS Prevention

Although DOMS will clear within one to two days there are various studies of DOM prevention applications that may help. 


Examine reports on using possible supplements to reduce DOMS affects mostly through anti-inflammatory activity and increased nitric oxide for vasodilation (opening of blood vessels). However, it is recommended you check with your physician or naturopathic doctor before taking any supplement. This will avoid any contraindications that could be associated with your medical history or current pharmaceutical intake. The supplements recommended for DOMS include:

  • Curcumin
  • Branched chain amino acids
  • Tart cherry joice
  • Omega 3 fish oil 
  • Taurine
  • Vitamin C
  • Beet root


When DOMS presents there are several ways to reduce symptoms through various therapeutic applications. It may also be helpful to integrate one or more of these therapies into your daily routine to prevent DOMS from occurring in the first place. Some of these therapies include:

  • Deep tissue/sports massage (administered within two hours of activity)
  • Cold therapy
  • Heat therapy
  • Contrast bathing (alternating cold/hot applications beginning and ending with cold)
  • Vibration therapy
  • Kinesiology/K-Tape application before activity

Don’t let DOMS discourage you from HIIT or similar eccentric exercise activities. Treating DOMS aka muscle fever with these recommendations could mean the difference between being stuck in the sand or running across water. 


Photo by Genaro Servín: