I thought I’d share with you something that I learnt on a course I was on last weekend – an 18-hole course, that is!

I hadn’t played golf for around a year so, aside from my game being a bit rusty, my body wasn’t very used to this type of activity either. Now I’d generally consider myself reasonably fit (for my age!) however the supposedly civilised and ‘gentle’ activity of golf knocked me for six!

I couldn’t believe it – after one round of golf my body felt like it had been run over by a steamroller. I could barely walk that evening due to the pain and stiffness in my low back and legs and was barely even able to to waddle around the pub, much to the amusement of my friend! I was still struggling considerably the next day, however come Monday morning I was absolutely fine – I had no pain or stiffness at all.

This phenomenon is known as as delayed onset muscle soreness or ‘DOMS’ for short. Although it usually kicks in a day or two days after an activity (hence the ‘delayed’ part of the name) it can come on more quickly – as it did for me.  There appears to be no real consensus as to what causes the pain and stiffness of DOMS however it seems to be generally accepted that it is due to some kind of sensitisation of the nervous system rather than any physical damage.

Essentially I’d participated in an activity that my body wasn’t used to and it had reacted by asking me “what on earth do you think you’re doing to me?” and had reacted by going into its protective mode of pain and stiffness.  Once the nervous system calmed down, its alert levels dropped and my pain and stiffness went away.  This experience of pain and stiffness after activity (DOMS) is quite common when people take up a new activity however the more the body gets used to the activity, the less the nervous system ‘worries’ and the less pain and stiffness is caused.

In a similar way to the pain and stiffness caused by DOMS, people’s bodies can sometimes get themselves into a continuous ‘sensitised’ state where they have pains and stiffness that won’t seem to go away – they start to have a chronic pain picture. Unlike with DOMS however, for these people the pain and sensitisation doesn’t go away after a few days – it lingers on.  They can get themselves into a ‘pain-loop’ where inactivity leads to stiffness, which leads to pain, which leads to inactivity and so on it goes…..

Help is at hand though as osteopaths are trained to deal with those suffering with chronic pain and are able to offer a number of solutions in order to help patients break their ‘pain-loop’.