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  • Writer's pictureRobin Hill LMT, RN

Why are my muscles sore?

All of us are at risk for muscle soreness. Professional athletes and Body builders are as well. Normal muscle soreness is a sign that you are getting stronger. That is good news and is normal! When you exercise, your muscles get stressed and the muscle fibers begin to break down. Muscle fibers have the ability to repair themselves, they respond to the stress and become larger and stronger than they were before. As you continue to workout, your muscles get stronger and are better prepared to handle the stress.

When your muscles are sore, gentle exercises like walking or light stretching are the best way to get relief. The more you move, the faster the soreness will go away! Moist heat such as a microwaveable pack, rice in a sock or warm bath may also help to ease the soreness temporarily, however, ice is a better treatment because it helps to decrease the swelling and inflammation in your muscles. Your muscles get a buildup of lactic acid, which is a normal part of muscle metabolism. It is this buildup that makes your muscles feel sore.

Muscle soreness, for the most part, is a positive thing, but it can get a little complicated. Mild to moderate muscle soreness is common and generally harmless. Severe muscle soreness can be damaging and dangerous. It’s important to know the difference between reasonable muscle soreness caused by exercise, and pain due to overuse or muscle injury.

How can you tell how much pain is too much?

  • If the your pain prevents you from carrying out your daily activities with living or working, then the exercise was too much.

  • If the discomfort lasts for more than 72 hours, then the exercise was too much.

How can you tell if your soreness is the 'normal'? 

  • If the pain begins during or immediately after the exercise, it is not normal. Pain should not occur during exercise, if it does there is a problem with the exercise or your form. The body signals you to stop the activity by causing pain before serious joint or muscle damage occurs.

In severe cases, the muscles can break down so much that you can become very ill and cause damage to your kidneys. This is called rhabdomyolysis and you must seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following after a workout or activity that causes muscle soreness:

  • Severe unbearable pain

  • Severely swollen limbs

  • Loss of joint range of motion due to severe swelling

  • Dark colored urine or decreased production of urine

Keep up the good work as your muscles will adapt! I can also help you with muscle soreness by flushing the lactic acid out of the muscles.

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