Almost everyone has heard that they should "feel the burn" when exercising, but if the burn is due to overstretching, it's never a good sign. Stretching too much can cause burning in your legs, as well as virtually everywhere else on your body, and if you persist in overstretching, you can end up with some nasty muscle injuries.
Stretching With Injuries
Your doctor can recommend safe, healthy stretches for your particular injury. Gentle stretching can help loosen up the tense muscles that are frequently associated with an injury such as a sprain or strain. But if you push yourself too far, you can make an injury worse or injure a nearby muscle. If you feel burning when you try to stretch a muscle, stop doing the stretch immediately.
What Causes Burning Anyway?
Your muscles begin to burn when they become overextended, and it can be the muscles or the connective tissue around them -- including ligaments and tendons -- that are the site of the discomfort. If you feel burning, it's a sure sign that you're pushing yourself too hard. Sudden burning accompanied by popping or snapping could indicate a sprain or strain. If the burn is slow and steady, it's more likely that you're simply overextending your muscles.
Why You Shouldn't Overstretch
Stretching can help keep you flexible and limber, making it easier to do your daily workout. But if you overdo it, you can end up sidelined and unable to work out. Excessive stretching could injure muscle tissue, causing pain and inflammation. It can also make it so painful to exercise that you simply avoid doing it, resulting in the muscle stiffness that is often characteristic of a sedentary lifestyle. You can also cause serious injuries such as muscle, tendon and ligament tears.
How to Take it Slowly
Stretching cold muscles increases your chances of sustaining an injury, so warm up first by walking, cycling or even jumping rope for five to 10 minutes. Start with gentle stretches such as yoga poses, then gradually build up to more challenging stretches. Don't force a stretch, particularly by using your hands or an assisting piece of workout equipment. If you can't naturally get into the position, it's probably not a safe stretch.