What is Acute Muscle Soreness?

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  • Written By: Alex Paul
  • Edited By: R. Halprin
  • Last Modified Date: 02 January 2020
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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.


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Post 3

@Perdido – I am guilty of the same sort of thing. I was in fairly good shape, so when my new boyfriend wanted to take me canoeing, I thought it would be an easy thing to do.

The sneaky thing about arm muscle pain caused by rowing is that it sets in slowly, though it still occurs while you are doing the action. You think that you are doing fine, when suddenly, you are unable to row anymore.

After about thirty minutes of steady rowing, my arms suddenly got so sore that I could not continue. I felt a little embarrassed, because I thought I was in good shape.

At least we were sharing a canoe, so he could row me to shore. I don't know what I would have done if we had rented separate canoes!

Post 2

I tend to overdo it when I start a new exercise routine. I forget that just because my body has become used to one type of exercise, it doesn't mean that I can jump right into a different type with no warmup period.

I had been doing mostly aerobics with a few pushups scattered in the mix when I decided to start lifting small weights. I started out with ten pound dumbbells, and I did too many for a beginner.

I felt the soreness by the time I reached my twentieth rep. It was so intense that I had to stop working out. It was my body's way of saying, “Stop! You are putting too much on me!”

Post 1

I have experienced both types of muscle soreness, and acute muscle soreness definitely concerns me more. I know right away that I have overexerted myself, as opposed to knowing the following day when stiffness sets in.

I usually experience acute muscle soreness when I am climbing a hill or a long set of stairs. If I go up the incline too quickly, my legs become very sore and threaten to give out on me.

When this happens, I have to sit down and stretch for a few minutes. Once I resume my climb, I do so slowly, stretching my leg muscles as I go. This deliberately slow action keeps me from suddenly becoming sore again.

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