When it comes to exercising, it's not uncommon to hear workouts described as a pain in the butt. But for the most part, such commentary isn't a literal complaint. However, at times you may find that your workouts are causing literal pain in the form of muscle soreness. While such soreness can -- in rare cases -- be indicative of injury, experiencing soreness a couple of days after your workouts is fairly common and not a major issue. Consult a doctor if you suspect you've been injured in a workout.
Why Muscles Hurt
When you look into what your workouts do to muscle tissue, you may conclude that experiencing soreness and pain seems unsurprising. Simply put, to build muscle, you need to overload your muscles during workouts, as this forces them to become stronger. But the way your muscle tissue adapts is through being damaged and broken down during resistance training workouts. This damage causes you discomfort. Then, when you supply your body with nutrients following your workouts, your body begins to repair the damaged tissue, which results in stronger and larger muscles.
Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness
While you may experience some muscle pain right away, experiencing pain one or two days after your workout is so common it has its own name -- delayed-onset muscle soreness. DOMS is the direct result of the muscle tissue damage you incur during workouts. The pain, which tends to set in around 48 hours after workouts, indicates that you'e done enough damage to your muscle tissues to spur adaptation, and the sensation may last for between three days and one week.
Delayed-onset muscle soreness is far from a pleasant feeling, and experiencing the discomfort for up to a week can keep you out of the gym and even affect your everyday life. While it may seem counter-intuitive, 2003 research from the journal "Sports Medicine" indicated that light exercise is "the most effective means of alleviating pain during DOMS." The same research found that taking over-the-counter pain medication is also likely to be effective. You may also wish to obtain a sports muscle massage.
Other Potential Causes
Although delayed-onset muscle soreness is a very common reason for feeling muscle discomfort, there is a chance another issue may be causing the pain. Other potential reasons for muscle soreness and discomfort include muscle strains or pulls, muscle cramps or chronic fatigue syndrome. If your muscle pain is extreme or persists for more than a week, DOMS may not be the cause of your pain, and you should consult a medical professional.