Good pain enhances. Bad pain inhibits. Telling the difference between these pains comes with experience, and being able to consistently minimize inhibiting pain is a worthwhile goal. Athletes who train specifically for lower-body strength grow intimate with painful quadriceps, hamstrings and gluteal muscles. However, such muscle pain is not always caused by exercise, and athletes and non-athletes alike should be aware of other possible factors.
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Muscle strength improves only after a period of muscle fiber stress, rest and super-compensation. That is, muscles must incur injury, as minute muscle tears, to catalyze chemical reactions that drive new muscle-fiber formation, according to Space Research. When you exercise hard, your muscles ache and burn, and may do so not only during your activity but possibly for days afterward, due to a phenomenon called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. As long as this pain abates after two to three days, it is "good." Otherwise, you probably have an injury.
Leg and butt injuries occur when you apply too much force with too little recovery. Overloading the lower body with distance, weight or speed without sufficient rest periods ultimately backfires. In runners, the powerful quadriceps, hamstrings and glutes can overwhelm the smaller muscles and tendons, creating soft-tissue imbalances and strains. Torn calf muscles, shin splints or knee tendinitis can result, according to Sports Injury Bulletin. Weightlifters can injure glutes and thighs by attempting too much weight. Soccer, football and ice hockey players can suffer impact injuries including muscle bruises, contusions and tears.
Sickness can flood muscle tissue with inflammatory compounds that produce pain, and as anyone who has had influenza knows, these muscle aches can be debilitating. According to the National Institutes for Health, high fever, muscle abscesses, potassium or sodium imbalance, malaria, Lyme disease and fibromyalgia can all induce sore muscles. Fibromyalgia's symptomatic pain and fatigue used to be inadequately understood and was often dismissed, but fibromyalgia is gaining acceptance as a legitimate muscle disorder, according to the National Fibromyalgia Association.
Circulatory problems can inhibit blood from reaching your leg and butt muscles and cause pain. Mild symptoms of inadequate circulation include pins-and-needles, or the sensation of your muscles going to sleep. Without restored circulation, these sensations may develop into muscular numbness and loss of control. The American Diabetes Association recommends regular exercise to keep blood circulation strong throughout your legs; without it, diabetics run the risks of not only pain but possible leg and foot amputation.
Massage improves circulation. It also relaxes and relieves achy muscles. However, inappropriately rough massage can be injurious. Trained massage therapists know different techniques, how and where to apply pressure and for what purpose. They assess your muscle health and readily adjust force. In contrast, overly aggressive massages can create more muscle pain than before.