If a person increases his or her activity level too quickly, there is a chance of muscle soreness developing during or immediately after exercise. This is called acute muscle soreness. In most cases, the discomfort will disappear within an hour of ending the activity. The condition is thought to be caused by micro tears in the muscle, although there is some dispute as to whether this is accurate. This type of muscle soreness is not the same as delayed onset muscle soreness, which is usually felt at least twelve hours after exercise.
Acute muscle soreness can be felt in any muscle placed under high levels of stress. The pain may occur during or immediately after exercise and can range in severity. It is often thought to be caused by small tears, either to the fibers or the sheath which surrounds a muscle. This symptom can affect any individual, but it is more likely to occur when a person increases the intensity of an exercise program. Those who spend a lot of time at a desk are often affected by the problem because the body is not accustomed to intensive physical activity.
Recovery from acute muscle soreness is often a quick process, although the pain can linger for up to an hour. Most people immediately get relief as soon as the activity is stopped. It is important to promptly cease any exercise which is causing pain because continuing with the activity can increase recovery time.
If muscle soreness develops into a longer period of pain, a strain may have occurred. When a muscle is strained, a buildup of lactic acid can cause soreness and aching for a few days. Recovery time for this sort of pain can be decreased using techniques such as stretching and massage.
It was originally thought that nearly all cases of acute muscle soreness were caused by small tears in the muscle. There is, however, a different theory as to why the pain develops. Muscles containing high levels of hydrogen can increase the amount of acid in the surrounding area of the body; this can result in soreness. Which theory is correct is not yet conclusively known.
Acute muscle soreness differs from delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), a condition which is probably more common because pain is felt during exercise. DOMS, as the name suggests, causes a delayed reaction to small tears in the muscle. Rather than during the activity, this results in discomfort and stiffness a day or two after exercise.