Why do Muscles get Sore?

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  • Written By: J. Beam
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 08 December 2018
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As nearly anyone who has ever implemented a new workout routine or taken up a new sport knows, muscles get sore when they are used to perform anything beyond everyday activity. Sometimes, the soreness comes from activities an individual didn’t consider physical, such as painting a room. In other cases, an infection or virus can cause pain in the muscles, and rarer yet, soreness can be a side effect of certain medications. In most cases, however, muscle soreness is the result of minor, microscopic injury to the muscle tissue due to strenuous physical activity.

During exercise or other activity, muscles stretch and contract. During the stretching phase, especially if the muscle is being stretched beyond its current capacity, tiny tears can occur in the muscle tissue. Along with these tiny tears comes minor swelling. It is believed that these minor injuries are what causes the muscle soreness people feel after strenuous physical activity. In the case of routine exercise, the muscles begin to adapt to the repeated use and stretching. As they adapt, they strengthen and heal and the soreness goes away — at least until the person stretches them beyond their limit once again.


In the previous example of painting a room, the up and down movement on a ladder or step stool coupled with reaching up and down, may cause the muscles in the arms, legs, and back to stretch beyond their normal limits. The result is the same as with exercise, except the muscles will contract back to normal after a day or two because the movements are not regularly repeated.

Muscle soreness is also a common symptom of colds and flu. The cause is most likely associated with minor inflammation of the muscles caused by the virus or bacteria attacking the body’s cells. Additionally, as the body’s cells are busy fighting the infecting virus, muscles and joints may become deprived of the normal flow of blood and fluid levels, causing soreness.

Most of the time when muscles get sore, it is the result of muscle strain and it is not serious. Exercise and muscle strengthening should be introduced and accomplished gradually to avoid more severe or permanent muscle injury; however, individuals should not let muscle soreness deter them from their exercise goals. Other causes of muscle soreness, such as illness or medication side effects, should be discussed with a medical professional.


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Post 8

I usually know if I am coming down with something like a bad cold or the flu when my muscles get achy and sore. When this happens all I want to do is take a pain reliever and go to bed. Over-the-counter pain relievers work great for this and my muscle soreness usually goes away within a few days.

Post 7

I will often watch my friends dog when they go out of town. I had to put my dog down a couple of years ago and haven't got another one yet, so I always look forward to watching their dog.

She is a yellow lab who has a great disposition and is a very sweet dog. One of her favorite activities is catching a frisbee, and she is very good at it.

After throwing this for several times during the first day of her visit I will have shoulder muscle pain the next day. I am not very good at throwing with my left arm, so my right arm is always the one that is sore for a

few days.

The soreness does not totally go away until a few days after the dog has gone home. If I worked these muscles more often I might not get so sore, but I really don't mind because both of us have a lot of fun.

Post 6

I don't have to be doing strenuous physical activity to get sore muscles. Recently I spent an afternoon washing my outside windows and woke up the next day with neck and shoulder muscle pain.

I knew this was from using muscles that don't often get used. I was sore in some places where I didn't even realize I had muscles!

Post 5

When I was younger I seldom took the time to stretch my muscles before working out. I was always in a hurry to get right to the routine and didn't want to take the time to stretch or cool down at the end of my workout.

Even though this is not recommended, I was able to get by with this for awhile. This isn't the case anymore. If I don't take the time to stretch my muscles before doing any kind of workout, I am more apt to pull a muscle or have muscles that are really sore for a few days.

When I have muscle soreness from working out, I know it is not serious and will heal within a few days, but it is much better if I try to avoid some of the muscle soreness in the first place.

Post 3

@ysmina-- I'm going to agree with @burcidi. There are several different types of muscle soreness and the article already went over these. "Delayed onset muscle soreness" and "acute muscle soreness" have to do with strenuous activity. And then there is also muscle soreness caused by various illnesses and medications.

If you do some stretching before you start exercising, you will be less likely to have soreness afterward. This is one of the first things I learned while training for track. My coach taught us how to get rid of sore leg muscles which is stretching, resting and eating.

As you do this, your muscles will get used to stretching out more and you will not have as much muscle soreness as you used to in the beginning. And it's important to get enough rest and eat well (lots of protein) to heal faster.

Post 2

@ysmina-- Yea, it's normal to have muscle soreness after doing a new type of exercise. Usually this kind of soreness lasts about three days, it does for me anyway.

I don't think that our muscles are necessarily torn every time we have soreness. Muscle tears are quite serious and take a very long time to heal. I know because I have had a couple of them. I think the soreness you're feeling is simply from your muscles stretching and contracting too much.

Post 1

Oh wow, I didn't know that when our muscles are sore, it means that there are actually little tears in them. No wonder sore muscles can be so painful!

How long does it usually take for muscles to heal the tears? Is a couple of days enough or does it need more time than that?

My arm muscles are really sore right now because I started doing these new arm exercises at the gym. The weird thing is that I didn't feel that I over-exerted myself and I certainly didn't have any pain during the exercises. But when I woke up yesterday morning, my left arm was very sore It even ached during the night last night.

I'm not going to the gym since then to let the soreness pass. I just hope my muscles heal soon so I can get back to my workout routine. I'm guessing that when the pain and soreness is gone, it means it has healed. Am I right?

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