“Yesterday I did my first gym circuit session in over a year. I’m a regular gym user and yet, dear me, it hurt! It still does!”
We have all been there. Whether it’s been after a gym session, a night dancing, or after moving house; if you do something you are not used to you will feel muscle pain. But what about those times that our muscles are killing us without having done anything in particular?
To start with, there are many reasons behind muscular pain that are not related to the muscle itself. Pain can be due to a medical condition or a side-effect of medications. Viral and bacterial infections, such as the flu, thyroid problems, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disorders such as Polymyalgia Rheumatica and Multiple Sclerosis are just some examples. Medications or drugs, such as statins (to treat high cholesterol), ACE inhibitors (to treat high blood pressure) and cocaine can also cause muscular pain. Mineral deficiency, such as low potassium, may also have this effect.
Muscles can also hurt when the structures and tissues that work together with the muscle are affected. These structures are joints, ligaments, connective tissue, veins and nerves. For instance, if you have ever torn your anterior cruciate ligament (unfortunately I have), you will know just how sore your quads can be for weeks. Injury to a joint, even if the surrounding muscles haven’t been injured can lead to muscle spasm, and ouch, that hurts. Similarly, tightness of the fascia, the sheath of fibrous tissue that encloses each muscle and group of muscles, vascular problems, such as Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT) or nerve damage and entrapment, such as sciatica, may cause pain or even severe muscle pain.
Another cause of muscle pain (unfortunately a very common one) is bad posture. We all know that; but why does that forward head and shoulder posture I adopt when working on the computer hurt? In this case, we can blame gravity. When our head is not sitting directly over our spine, the muscles of the upper back have to continually overwork to counterbalance the pull of gravity. After hours of sustaining this posture, our muscles get fatigued as they do after a gym session. If you have ever done isometric exercises – where you hold a static position (for example the plank) and you make your muscles work without moving – you know very well how hard that can be. If we are doing ‘isometric neck and shoulder exercise’ for eight hours a day, it’s not surprising those muscles will hurt.
A natural next question might be:“Why do my muscles hurt when I exercise?” Well, I’m glad you asked me that question. However, it is my intention to keep my posts short. I will talk about it in my next posts, “Is muscle ache after exercise really due to lactic acid?”
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