Is "Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness" a False Friend? The Potential Implication of the Fascial Connective Tissue in Post-Exercise Discomfort, 2021

Topics: DOMS; athletes; eccentric exercise; fascia; pain.

Authors: Jan Wilke, Michael Behringer


Strenuous and unaccustomed exercise frequently lead to what has been coined “delayed onset muscle soreness” (DOMS). As implied by this term, it has been proposed that the associated pain and stiffness stem from micro-lesions, inflammation, or metabolite accumulation within the skeletal muscle. However, recent research points towards a strong involvement of the connective tissue. First, according to anatomical studies, the deep fascia displays an intimate structural relationship with the underlying skeletal muscle and may therefore be damaged during excessive loading. Second, histological and experimental studies suggest a rich supply of algogenic nociceptors whose stimulation evokes stronger pain responses than muscle irritation. Taken together, the findings support the hypothesis that DOMS originates in the muscle-associated connective tissue rather than in the muscle itself. Sports and fitness professionals designing exercise programs should hence consider fascia-oriented methods and techniques (e.g., foam rolling, collagen supplementation) when aiming to treat or prevent DOMS.

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