why do you get sore muscles after exercise

Exercise is really, really important. You only have to look at to see why. But physical activity also comes with its fair share of aches and pains в and there's no denying that sometimes it can hurt. If we were to stop working out at the first sign of discomfort, however, we'd probably never do any exercise at all. So when it comes to keeping fit, when do you tell yourself to stop griping and keep going в and when should you actually rest? Carly Ryan, exercise physiologist at Exercise and Sports Science Australia, says it's important to differentiate between "pain" and "discomfort" when working up a sweat. "Effort and discomfort go together and that's what most people would call good pain в you generally expect to feel some level of discomfort," Ms Ryan explains. Dr Nathan Johnson, associate professor of exercise and sports science at the University of Sydney, says while discomfort from feeling fatigue during exercise is normal, acute pain associated with injury or illness is not. "If you're feeling joint or musculoskeletal pain, or anything associated with chest pain, then that's an indication to stop exercising immediately," Dr Johnson says. Both Ms Ryan and Dr Johnson agree the easiest way to tell if you are feeling pain or discomfort is to just cease the exercise. "A little bit of a burn that goes away when your muscles stop working is often just a result of the exercise, so it's OK to continue," Ms Ryan says. "But if it continues and you're getting, say, a sharp pain in your knees or you feel a painful twinge in your hamstrings that affects your ability to keep moving, then it's most likely pain because you've overdone it, so you need to stop. "
What is 'good pain'? Good pain в or discomfort в according to sport and exercise physician Dr Andrew Jowett, reflects positive change in the body, and is part of the body's adaption to an activity or physical load. "That injury stimulates muscle healing and hopefully replication of muscle fibres and ultimately strengthening. "So that's the good sort of pain we're after out of any workout в to prevent injuries or to improve our performance. " The chairman of Sports Medicine Australia says what's important is that you give your body some time to recuperate. "So backing up a load straight afterwards or the next day, you might go down the slope and cause further damage that you don't improve from," he says.


One of the most common forms of pain or discomfort we feel during strenuous exercise is a burning sensation in our lungs or muscles that goes away shortly after we cease the activity. This is caused by a build-up of lactic acid. Lactic acid is a by-product of the process your body goes through when it needs to create energy more quickly than it normally does, such as when you exercise. Your working muscles usually generate energy aerobically (i. e. using oxygen), but when you push yourself during a workout and sufficient oxygen isn't available, these muscles start generating energy anaerobically, and lactic acid is a by-product of this process. The harder you work, the bigger the build-up of lactic acid. The fitter you are, however, the better your body will be at clearing the lactic acid, so eventually you'll be able to train harder for longer. Serious athletes train to push through intense burning, but Ms Ryan says for us mere mortals, continue as long as you're able to breathe regularly and aren't feeling any pain in your joints or sharp twinges in your muscles. "We want people to push themselves a little bit outside of their comfort zone, but if it's starting to feel wrong and you're questioning it, then you're better off stopping and seeking the advice of an appropriately qualified exercise professional," she says. If you've ever done a gruelling workout after you've had some time off from exercise, chances are you were feeling a bit sore and sorry for yourself a few days after. This is called delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS), and is your body's way of letting you know you've done something it's not used to. "It should ease off over the next couple of days, but if it doesn't and you're finding it hard to sit or move, it probably suggests you've done too much," Ms Ryan explains. Although sitting on the couch until it goes away is appealing, the best way to overcome DOMS is with light exercise. "A gentle walk or swim в with less intensity than what caused the DOMS в will reduce the pain and speed up the recovery process," Ms Ryan says. "The blood flow to your muscles will help them repair and improve flexibility and mobility. " Getting the level of exercise just right to prevent excessive discomfort might take a bit of trial and error. "It's completely normal to do a slightly modified move or less than what you've been instructed to do, if you're in a class.


You'll still get great benefits without doing the whole range of movement. " It s normal to experience muscle pain after exercising if it s been a while since you were active or performed a certain movement. This type of pain called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS generally develops several hours later and exacerbates over the next few days. The exercise that induces DOMS consists of eccentric (lengthening) muscle contractions in which contracting muscles are lengthened. Walking down a set of stairs or slope, where front thigh muscles are lengthened when supporting the body weight, is one example of eccentric exercise. Another is using weights, such as a dumbbells. When lowering a heavy object slowly from an elbow flexed to an extended position, the muscles to flex the elbow joint perform eccentric exercise, since the external load (dumbbell) is greater than the force generated by the muscle. Exercise consisting of mainly concentric (shortening) contractions, where muscles contract and are shortened, such as walking up stairs and lifting a dumbbell, does not induce DOMS at all. DOMS is technically considered an indicator of muscle damage, as muscle function decreases and, in some cases, muscle-specific proteins increase in the blood, indicating plasma membrane damage. But it appears that very few muscle fibres are actually injured or destroyed (less than 1% of total muscle fibres). Interestingly, other structures such as fascia (the sheath of tissue surrounding the muscle) and connective tissue within the muscle appear to be more affected by eccentric contractions.


Structure of skeletal muscle. A study my colleagues and I tested the hypothesis that fascia would become more sensitive than muscle when DOMS is induced. We probed the muscles of volunteer eccentric exercisers with an acupuncture needle designed to introduce a steadily increasing electrical current from its tip, until they reported muscle pain. The results showed that DOMS was associated with the increased sensitivity of muscle fascia to the stimulus, suggesting the source of pain is fascia (connective tissue) rather than the muscle fibres themselves. We still don t know how eccentric contractions affect connective tissue surrounding muscle fibres. It s possible they have different levels of elasticity. So, as the contracting muscle is stretched, a may develop between muscle fibres and their surrounding connective tissue. This may damage the structure and cause inflammation. It s still a mystery why there s a delay between the exercise and muscle soreness. Researchers speculate that it s due to the time it takes for inflammation to develop after the micro-injury. It doesn t appear that DOMS is a warning sign not to move the affected muscles, since moving the muscles ameliorates the pain and does not hamper the recovery. It may be that DOMS is a simple message from the body that the muscle lacked a good stimulus for a while, which it received. But is it necessary for developing bigger and stronger muscles? There s no scientific evidence to support the theory of no pain no gain. eccentric exercise training produces greater increases in muscle strength and size when compared with concentric exercise training, but this is not necessarily associated with muscle damage. Don t be afraid of DOMS, although it could bother you for several days after exercise. DOMS reduces when the same eccentric exercise is repeated. If the intensity and volume of eccentric exercise are gradually increased, you can minimise DOMS. In the meantime, think of DOMS as a useful signal from your body. , Professor of Exercise and Sports Science, This article was originally published on. Read the.

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