Why Do Muscles Ache?

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Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness

  • The most common sources of muscle aches are those that result from physical activity. The tendency for muscles to feel sore or ache a day or two after intense exercise is known as delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS. When muscles are worked more intensely than they are used to, they become damaged at a minute level, forming tiny tears that create lactic acid in the muscles. It is not entirely known what causes delayed muscular soreness after physical activity, but the presence of lactic acid, the minute damage to the muscle fibers and the body's subsequent repair of the muscle fibers are all factors that may contribute to DOMS.

Severity of DOMS

  • The severity of muscular ache caused by physical activity will vary significantly from one individual to another and depends largely upon one's fitness level. A person who is physically inactive may experience muscular soreness from various physical exertions to which he is unaccustomed. For example, if a person rarely uses the strength of his arms and decided to go bowling, he may find that the muscles used to roll the ball will ache the next day. On the other hand, a fit athlete who is used to physical exertion will likely be able to perform fairly intense physical activity without any muscle aches at all, because his muscles will be powerful enough to perform activities without being strained. In general, if a muscle is worked to exhaustion, it is likely to ache to some degree within 3 days of the exertion.

Other Causes

  • While physical exertion that leads to DOMS is the most common cause of muscular soreness, other factors can lead to muscle aches and pains. Muscles, especially those in the back and neck, can become sore from poor posture while standing, sitting or sleeping. Sometimes viruses and diseases such as the flu, colds and other conditions cause aches in the muscles. Arthritis and infections can also irritate muscle tissue and lead to muscular aches. Muscle aches can even be caused by physiological conditions, such as depression or anxiety, and be exacerbated by lack of rest, malnutrition and drugs. If you experience inexplicable muscular aches that cannot be attributed to any routine physical activities, seek advice from a doctor.

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