All of us come across having sore muscles at certain (and sometimes many) points in our lives. Most people attribute the onset of muscle soreness to occur after overexertion or injury physical activities such as exercise. When muscles are required to work harder than they are accustomed to, it is believed to cause microscopic damage to the muscle fibres which results in muscle soreness or stiffness.
While this is a common cause of muscle soreness, there are many more reasons why you are feeling aches and pains throughout your body; even those of us who live more sedentary lifestyles can still get sore muscles.
As physiotherapists we are evaluating and treating muscle pain all day, everyday.
In this blog post, we will discuss five reasons your muscles are sore.
Beginning a workout or exercise regimen can be especially difficult as our muscles have not yet adapted to the increased demands that such activities require.
It is common – and to some degree, actually normal – to experience muscle soreness, particularly when introducing something new to your body. Minor aches and pains in the muscle groups you are exercising, are likely an indication that your muscles are adapting to your fitness regimen and are on their way to becoming stronger.
Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) refers to post exercise muscle pain that starts within 8 hours post exercise and peaks 48 hours post exercise.
A mild case of sore muscles is a natural outcome of almost any kind of physical activity and is not necessarily a sign that you should stop what you are doing.
However, sometimes the symptoms of DOMS are really painful and make it difficult to reach overhead, put on socks or to bend down to the floor. These symptoms will improve rapidly after their 48 hour peak, but take this type of experience as a message that you should proceed with exercising at a modified intensity. Too much soreness post exercise can interfere with motivation, and that is counterproductive to the goal of improving strength and fitness.
Most muscle pain will get better on without treatment within a week. When muscle pain lasts longer than a week, it is time to seek advice.
Muscles can be injured by contusion (bruising), laceration, and traumas (such as car accidents or sports injuries). A muscle tear is called a strain, and classified into 3 degrees of injury. Once the degree of muscle injury is diagnosed, a treatment plan and recovery time lines can be determined.
Physiotherapy is an effective way to help heal your muscles and reduce pain. Learn more about physiotherapy for muscle pain and strains.
There are many studies which show that those who lead more stressful and demanding lives are more likely to suffer from aches and pains than those who do not. When stressed, your body produces stress hormones that increase muscle tension and pain sensitivity.
Muscle soreness caused by stress can affect any muscle or group of muscles in the body. The soreness can also randomly migrate to various muscles or groups of muscles throughout the entire body at any time.
Stress and pain share a complex relationship and it can be difficult to identify how it all started and how to fix the vicious cycle. Quality of sleep and breathing also react negatively to the presence of stress; poor sleep and breathing functions contribute to development of pain and stiffness in your muscles.
Physiotherapists are often involved in helping to manage pain and it’s relationship with stress.
Identifying the cause of stress and creating positive change is key to feeling better. Good stress management will reduce muscle pain and good pain management will reduce stress.
Many medical conditions and syndromes can also present with muscle pain and proper diagnosis is key to implementing a successful treatment program. If you have muscle pain that doesn’t respond to initial physiotherapy injury management, we may ask you to see your physician for testing.
Common painful conditions can include:
Disorders of the endocrine system (such as an under or overactive thyroid gland) and diabetes also present with muscular pain.
More commonly known as the flu, influenza is a viral infection that attacks your respiratory system. Common symptoms include fever, cough, runny nose and sore throat. You may also experience body aches and sometimes severe muscle pain – usually in the back, arms or legs. Thankfully, we recover with rest from the flu and the muscle pain is temporary.
Studies show that muscle soreness is often a symptom of not having enough of certain types of vitamins in our body. It is now common practice for physicians to test Vitamin D levels as part of the annual medical exams, and often we are advised to take vitamin D supplements to keep our levels at a healthy level. For most of us this is easy: take those supplements daily and follow a good exercise regime to keep muscles flexible and strong.
Chronic pain, as always, is a different animal. If you have chronic pain, it is best to talk to your physician to see if higher than typical doses of vitamin D are recommended as part of your treatment plan.
Vitamin D is also important to maintain good bone health. Lacking sufficient vitamin D negatively affect our body’s ability to absorb the mineral calcium from our diet. In this case, the body draws its calcium from the bones (which eventually leads to weaker bones). The medical term for the beginning of weaker bones is osteopenia, and this condition progresses to osteoporosis. Although osteoporosis is thought to cause pain only in the presence of a fracture, it is possible that when both health is poor, the muscles that attach to the bones are not as well supported, and can become weak and sore.