Muscle soreness is a normal part of a strenuous exercise plan. Normal muscle soreness should dissipate within a few days. If you are still feeling sore for days after a workout, then you may have pushed yourself too hard or may have a more serious injury.
Sore Muscles After a Workout
Sore muscles after a workout are commonly caused by delayed-onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. While the exact cause of DOMS is not fully understood, it is believed that when you strain a muscle by lifting weights or exercising, you create small tears in the muscle. These tears can cause some inflammation and swelling in the muscle, which causes the soreness you feel. When you rest, the body repairs the damage, making the muscle stronger.
You can ease the soreness from DOMS by resting, applying heat and getting a light massage. Light exercise, such as swimming or riding a bike, will also help to relieve the muscle soreness. If muscle soreness is severe, adjust your workout plan to do fewer reps or sets until your body gets stronger and adapts to the exercise.
Typically soreness from DOMS begins to resolve within three days. Muscle soreness lasting a week is likely something other than DOMS.
Consult your doctor if you have muscle soreness that is severe enough to interfere with normal daily activities or that does not improve. If it worsens, it may be caused by a more serious condition. Joint pain or pain that starts during a workout may also be a sign of a more serious injury.
Muscle or Tendon Injury
Muscle soreness lasting a week without improvement or that starts during a workout may be the result of a muscle strain. This occurs when a muscle is overstretched or, in more severe cases, torn. It can happen from repetitive motion or from a sudden or incorrect movement.
In addition to pain, you may also see redness and swelling and experience muscle weakness and limited range of motion.
Mild strains can be treated at home, in many cases. Mayo Clinic advises using RICE: Rest, Ice, Compression and Elevation to treat strains. More severe strains may require medical attention and even surgery.
Break Down of Muscle Cells
Rhabdomyolysis is a rare, but potentially life-threatening condition. This condition occurs when muscle cells break down in the body and leak a substance called myoglobin into the bloodstream. This can cause damage to the kidney and in severe cases lead to kidney failure.
Severe and traumatic injury is the most common cause of rhabdomyolysis, but other factors may cause the disease, including alcohol and drug use. An athlete who pushes his body beyond its limits may also suffer from rhabdomyolysis. This is most common in marathon runners and weightlifters who push their abilities to the extreme.
Symptoms include sore and painful muscles and dark-colored urine. Immediate medical treatment is required.
Sore muscles after a workout are most common when starting a new exercise program or activity. Ease into any new workout program. Pay attention to your body and take breaks as needed. Adjust your workout program to reduce soreness if you are pushing yourself too hard.
- PhysioWorks: DOMS - Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness
- WebMD: Sore Spots: 5 Ways to Ease Post-Workout Muscles
- Mayo Clinic: Muscle Strains: Symptoms and Causes
- Mayo Clinic News Network: Variety of Causes Can Be at Root of Rhabdomyolysis
- National Kidney Foundation: Understanding Muscle Soreness – How Much Is Too Much?