Of all the different types of muscles in the human body, there are more than 600 muscles -- called skeletal muscles -- that are responsible for helping you move. Burning sensations in these muscles are associated with physical activities, such as stretching, in a number of ways. Burning while stretching may be normal, a sign of overexertion, or an indication of a biochemical process.
Aetna’s InteliHealth advises that stretching or flexibility exercises done on a regular basis will reverse and prevent muscles from becoming weaker, tighter and shorter. This is because stretching causes the elasticlike tissues that surround muscles and their corresponding tendons to lengthen.
While stretching, a slight warming sensation in the immediate area of the stretched muscle is normal. Run the Planet.com reports that this warmth may be accompanied by slight discomfort and tension as the muscles’ connective tissues are being stretched. However, when the mild warmth progresses to sharp, burning, spasmlike sensations, this indicates that you have overstretched or are on the verge of overstretching the muscle – which can lead to muscle strains.
When physical activity causes your muscle cells to require more oxygen -- for fuel -- than is available, you may experience burning and discomfort in the muscle that’s being worked, according to Scientific American. This is because during this state, your body converts other substances into lactic acid for fuel, which builds up within your muscle cells. Lactic acid buildup is not strictly associated with stretching, but is associated with general physical activity.
If you experience sudden muscle burning as a result of overstretching, you should decrease the intensity of the stretch or temporarily discontinue stretching for several minutes, according to Run the Planet.com. This treatment is usually all that’s required and may prevent muscle strains, which are actually varying degrees of muscle tears. The Body Project Australia reports that muscle burning caused by lactic acid stops when the physical activity or exercise stops, so no further treatment is required. However, generally, prevention is the best treatment for these types of muscle burning.
The Mayo Clinic reports that stretching cold muscles may lead to injury and decreases physical performance. It’s recommended to warm up the muscles before stretching by engaging in light aerobic exercise such as walking or jogging for five to 10 minutes, according to Mayo Clinic.
Bicycling.com and ABC-Of-Hiking.com report that becoming physically fit through consistent conditioning is the one way to prevent lactic acid buildup and fluctuation. (6, 8) This is because, as you become more physically fit, your body will become more efficient in using and producing fuel.
- InnerBody.com: Muscular System
- Aetna Intelihealth.com: What Happens During Stretching
- RunThePlanet.com: Stretching
- Mayo Clinic.com: Sprains and Strains
- Scientific American: Why Does Lactic Acid Build Up in Muscles?
- Bicycling.com: Lactic Threshold 101
- Mayo Clinic.com: Fitness – Stretching Essentials
- ABC of Hiking.com: What Hikers Should Know About Lactic Build Up
- Photo Credit Creatas Images/Creatas/Getty Images