muscle pain

Why Do Muscles Get Sore?

Whether you’ve been hiking for the whole day or doing high-intensity exercises at the gym for 30 minutes, you can feel that all-too-familiar burn. Then, you start to wonder if it’s normal, what causes it, and how you can reduce the soreness and muscle fatigue.

You’re about to find out the answers to your questions today.

What Causes Muscle Soreness?

Muscle soreness, as long as it’s minor, is a regular occurrence and may resolve itself. It also happens to anyone engaged in many physical activities, including athletes who have been training for years.

For so long, medical experts and fitness enthusiasts blame it on the buildup of lactic acid. Exercises like running, plyometrics, or high-intensity interval training (HIIT) are considered aerobic.

They require a huge amount of oxygen to help break down glucose or blood sugar and glycogen or fat. Both are necessary to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy source of the cells, particularly the mitochondria.

But because you need to sustain aerobic workouts for a while, the supply of oxygen may not be enough to meet the demand for glucose and glycogen at some point.

The situation then forces the muscles to work anaerobically or without oxygen. Instead, it converts a chemical compound called pyruvate into lactate to continue breaking down glucose.

The changes, though, will decrease the body’s pH level by around 6 and increase the presence of lactic acid. It is a kind of environment the muscle cells are not used to, so the end product is a burning sensation or muscle pain.

While it sounds counterproductive, it may still be helpful. It can prevent you from overexerting yourself that may only result in significant muscle injuries.

Little Tears

Lately, however, some claim that the real reason for muscle fatigue is not lactic buildup but the little tears in the muscle fibers.

When you exercise a muscle, it stretches and contracts, creating tiny injuries to the tissues. It triggers the body to repair the affected areas, and over time, the repetitive process leads to increased muscle mass.

On the downside, injuries result in inflammation as the body tries to heal them. This inflammation then causes muscle pain or fatigue that can last between 24 and 48 hours after a workout or strenuous physical activity.

How to Recover Faster from Muscle Soreness

The bottom line is, as long as you exert a lot of effort on your muscles, you are likely to deal with soreness and fatigue. What you can do is to recover faster from it. Here are four ideas:


1. Get a Massage

Professional massage therapy, for example, is a must for anyone engaging in physical activity. In a study by the University of Illinois-Chicago, a workout injury can actually reduce blood flow.

The different massage therapies, therefore, can dilate the blood vessels that promote more efficient blood circulation. This change can also ensure that the damaged muscles receive oxygen and nutrients for healing more quickly.

2. Be More Consistent with a Physical Activity

Although muscle soreness can happen repeatedly, the pain tends to decline over time. Brigham Young University researchers may know why.

As mentioned, inflammation plays a key role in soreness and healing and relates to the immune system. The team discovered that a specific type of immune cells called T cells could penetrate the skeletal or muscular tissues.

T cells have been known to fight infections, and they can also trigger inflammation. But since they can already accumulate in the injured muscles, the cells’ ability to repair accelerates. Thus, pain the second or nth time around is often significantly less.

3. Rest

You need to be as committed to rest as you are to your workouts, and no, it is not a waste of time. Resting helps the body recover, replenishes the glucose you lost, and provides the muscles enough time to heal from the micro-injuries.

How long do you need to rest after a workout? Experts suggest taking a break a day or two. In between, you can engage in less-strenuous activities like walking.

4. Watch What You Eat

As most fitness specialists say, health is 80% nutrition and 20% physical movement like exercise. Eating right helps reduce the risk of obesity, which can add more pressure to the joints. Many studies also correlate it to inflammation, so you are more likely to experience worse joint and muscle pain.

Meanwhile, certain types of food can reduce inflammation and provide the nutrients the muscles need. These include protein-rich foods packed with amino acids.

As long as the muscle pain doesn’t last for more than three days or reduces your mobility, you’re all good. But since most don’t want to deal with pain for a long time, help yourself with these four tips to hasten the recovery.

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