You may have heard of Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS for short. In our case, Post Exercise Muscle Soreness (PEMS) seems more appropriate, because if you haven’t heard of it, you’ve probably FELT it.

We’re talking about that horribly unpleasant feeling you get the first day after the first session at your CrossFit box or after a long run. When walking that day (and usually the next!) becomes your substitute for any lower-body exercise you thought about doing.


EVERYTHING hurts, and nothing seems to help.

When do we get PEMS?

PEMS occurs when, in a number of different situations, unfamiliar mechanical stress is placed on the musculoskeletal system.

This is especially the case after exercise that involved a lot of eccentric (lengthening of the muscle during contraction) movement such as the lowering phase of a squat or the initial contact phase during running.

This creates microtrauma to the connective tissues and muscles around that area, which causes the pain we call ‘soreness’.

It begins within 24 hours, and sometimes last up to a whole week. Situations such as beginning a new exercise program, exercising at an abnormal intensity or with the emphasis on the eccentric phases of each movement, like doing ‘negatives’ in an exercise, will usually cause PEMS.

Tips to manage PEMS

While not a fun experience, the onset of PEMS shouldn’t undermine your decision to exercise and doesn’t need to be a constant issue after each exercise session.

The following are five tips you can use to manage PEMS. While for one person, some may work well and others not so much, try out all five and then use what works to develop your own recovery solution!

1. Gradually work up to your desired intensity or volume

We all get ambitious about our new goals and working toward them, but remember that more is not always better.

Your body is designed to adapt, and if you give it time, it will, becoming more resilient to activities that cause PEMS.

Complete your first 5-10 workout sessions while gradually increasing the intensity and volume and fortify your tissues and muscles against damage from more intense activities in the future.

tips to help alleviate doms_2 2. Use heat therapy

When first beginning exercise, soreness is inevitable; painful PEMS certainly isn’t. The body uses inflammation in response in the body as a natural healing and recovery solution.

So, when you apply heat to the targeted area, you assist in this process, thereby helping to relieve the symptoms associated with exercise-induced muscle soreness.

3. Get a massage…or a foam roller!

Soft tissue massage is a great recovery solution in any case, but especially in regards to preventing and treating soreness and PEMS.

Muscle becomes more tense and swollen as part of the inflammatory in response to exercise and this causes ‘stiffness’ and weakness you may observe when trying to exercise that same muscle group the next day.

Massage, whether using a foam roller or professional masseuse, can help loosen and break up the inflammation caused by exercise as it enhances the recovery process.

4. Supplement Curcumin

Curcumin comes from the Turmeric and, in small amounts, Ginger.

Recently, research has found Curcumin to be significantly beneficial in helping to both prevent and alleviate the effects of PEMS.

Note: Curcumin has a low bioavailability, which means that it is not absorbed well enough to have significant effect in the necessary parts of the body. Combining it with Black Pepper Extract seems to do the trick in this case.

5. Supplement HMB

HMB, or β-Hydroxy β-Methylbutyrate is a metabolite of the amino acid Leucine, which is used predominantly to ease muscle damage and during muscle rebuilding.

HMB is more potent than Leucine and therefore has been studied in how it helps prevent excessive muscle damage.

It’s potential in helping prevent PEMS and associated exercise-induced tissue damage is promising.

 Connect with Expert Doug Hershberger

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