It is common for people who do not have the habit of exercising regularly to have muscle pain and stiffness after suddenly doing a heavy sport or physical activity. Pain after football matches in the football field may be the most well-known example of this in our country. In fact, similar muscle pains are also seen in people who suddenly increase the intensity of exercise or move to movements that they are not accustomed to despite doing regular sports. Although these muscle pains are an indication of an increase in the person’s fitness, their severity can make it difficult to follow a regular exercise program. For this reason, it is necessary to understand muscle pain after exercise and know how to deal with it.
What Causes Muscle Pain After Exercise?
Muscle pain and stiffness after physical activity is defined as “late-onset muscle pain”. Occurs when starting a new exercise program, changing the exercise routine, or increasing the usual duration and intensity. Microscopic damage to muscle fibers is believed to occur when muscles are used differently or more intensely than they are used to. This leads to muscle pain and stiffness. Late-onset muscle pain is often thought to occur as a result of lactic acid accumulation, but lactic acid accumulation has little effect on this process.
Late-onset muscle soreness is more common in exercises involving eccentric contraction. In eccentric activity of the muscles, the muscle lengthens as it contracts. We can give an example of going downhill. Concentric contraction is an activity in which the length of the muscle is shortened as it contracts.
Who Gets Late Onset Muscle Pain?
Late-onset muscle pain can occur in anyone, from beginners to elite athletes. Especially those who are new to exercise may worry about these muscle pains and stiffness and may stop exercising. However, pain and stiffness disappear as the muscles get used to the new situation. This process is part of adaptation that increases strength and endurance.
How Long Does Muscle Pain Last After Exercise?
It usually takes 3 to 5 days. Pain occurs 1-2 days after exercise. Late-onset muscle pain should not be confused with pain felt during exercise. Sudden onset and sharp pain during exercise may be a sign of muscle or ligament injury. If muscle or ligament injury is suspected, exercise should not be continued; If the pain is very severe or does not decrease within a few days with rest, a doctor should be consulted.
What to do?
There is no simple way to treat muscle soreness and stiffness that occurs 1-2 days after exercise. Rest, cold application, pain relievers, and massage are methods that may be helpful. As you continue to exercise regularly, the complaints decrease. This type of pain usually does not require medical attention. However, in case of significant edema and swelling or dark urine color, you may need to see a doctor.
Is it preventable?
The best way to prevent late-onset muscle soreness is to start a new exercise at a low pace and gradually increase the intensity. Thus, the muscle fibers can adapt themselves to new movements and there is no stiffness. There is not much evidence that warm-up exercises are effective in preventing pain that occurs 1-2 days after sports. However, warming up can reduce the risk of injury during exercise and improve performance. Stretching or yoga movements before or after exercise may be helpful in preventing or reducing the severity of late-onset muscle pain, but the evidence supporting this is not sufficient.
Should You Continue Exercising With Pain?
It may feel a little uncomfortable to start exercising when there is pain, but this does not prevent exercise. Pain and stiffness usually disappear after the muscles are warmed up. It can be felt again after the muscles have cooled after exercise. If it is uncomfortable to exercise while there is pain, you can rest until your complaint goes away. Another option is to continue with different movements that will work the muscles that are less affected by the problem.
Does it continue to be a pain every time?
The pain felt 1-2 days after the sport is related to the adaptation process of the muscles. If the same intensity of exercise is continued regularly, less and less complaints are seen. Because during the movements at the same tempo, micro-damages are no longer seen in the strengthened muscles. However, when the intensity is increased, similar pains may occur again with a new adaptation process.