What Does It Mean When Your Arm Swells Up After You Lift Weights?


Experiencing muscle soreness after weightlifting is not uncommon, but arm swelling can be a sign of an underlying problem such as lymphedema that requires a doctor’s attention. Sometimes swelling can be caused by delayed-onset muscle soreness, which can last for three to 10 days. Understanding the signs and symptoms of injuries or underlying disorders will help you differentiate a normal result of exercise from a more serious matter.

Muscle Building

  • According to Columbia University’s Health Center, post-workout swelling can be due to a number of factors such as overstretching, tissue micro-tear or muscle spasms, and not as a result of buildup of lactic acid as it was thought previously. As the muscle repairs after a workout, more fibers are added; the swelling that results typically disappears within 72 hours. The rush of blood and nutrients to muscles during weightlifting can also cause arm swelling. If the swelling and pain fail to dissipate after 72 hours, seek medical attention because the problem might be more serious.

Delayed-Onset Muscle Soreness

  • DOMS is a common cause of pain and swelling in arms after lifting weights. You cannot be assured of avoiding DOMS completely, but you can take preventive measures. The pain and swelling as a result of DOMS occur in 24 hours to 48 hours and can last for several days before slowly fading away. Other symptoms of DOMS include stiffness, muscle tenderness and loss of strength in the affected area. Respecting your limits is the best way to avoid delayed-onset muscle soreness. If you are a beginner, increase your workout intensity and duration gradually. Warm up with 10 to 15 minutes of activities such as jogging to increase blood flow.

Underlying Disorder

  • Painful and prolonged swelling could come from fibromyalgia or lymphedema. Tissue or muscle injury due to overstretching can also cause severe arm swelling after weightlifting. Signs of an underlying cause of swelling might be a fever, vomiting, rash or swelling of other joints after a workout.

Preventive Measures

  • You can avoid post-workout pain and swelling by warming up before you lift weights. Adopt correct posture when lifting weights to avoid straining your arms and also practice correct weightlifting techniques. Increase the intensity of your workout program gradually and keep your body well hydrated by drinking plenty of water.


  • Pain and swelling after a workout can be alleviated through a combination of several remedies including anti-inflammatory drugs such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen. Massage the swollen area and apply an ice pack to ease pain and reduce swelling. Ensure that you get enough rest to give muscles time to repair. Consult your doctor if you think there is an underlying cause of swelling or if the swelling and pain persist for more than 10 days.


  • Photo Credit Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
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