Bodybuilding & Severe Muscle Soreness

By John Mark

Experiencing muscle soreness during and after exercises is a common phenomenon, especially when you are a beginner or when you engage in a new workout program. Even if you are an advanced athlete, it’s difficult to avoid muscle soreness following bodybuilding exercises. Normally, muscle soreness lasts for three to five days, but prolonged severe muscle soreness may signify more serious underlying issues. Consult a doctor if the pain fails to subside after seven days.


According to American Council on Exercise, there are two categories of muscle soreness associated with workouts: acute and delayed-onset. Delayed-onset muscle soreness is experienced 24 to 48 hours after exercises and normally disappears after 72 hours. Acute muscle soreness can last a few minutes or several hours following a workout. You are more likely to experience delayed-onset soreness as a beginner or when you work muscles you normally don’t use. Understanding symptoms and the signs can help you distinguish between temporary pain and severe soreness that requires doctor’s attention.

Symptoms and Signs

Acute muscle soreness -- pain that occurs during or immediately after exercise -- is felt as a burning sensation or a mild ache. The sensation lasts a few minutes or several hours but less than a day, the American Council on Exercise explains. Delayed-onset muscle soreness is experienced in different ways, including pain, stiffness, loss of strength, muscle tenderness and swelling. If you have strained or torn muscles, you will experience swelling and redness on the damaged area. Fatigue, headaches, rash and fever may indicate an underlying problem such as fibromyalgia. Seek professional help if you experience these latter symptoms.

Causes and Prevention

There is no known exact cause of delayed-onset soreness, but the American Council on Exercise says eccentric contraction -- resistance against the lengthening of the muscle -- is the main contributor. This contraction when lowering a weight, for example, causes micro tears in the cell of the muscle, leading to severe soreness. Increasing the intensity of your workout suddenly also can cause delayed-onset muscle soreness. You can avoid this pain by performing a warmup and stretching your muscles prior to working out. Five to 10 minutes of light jogging stimulates your muscles for smooth contraction and gets your blood flowing better. Your warmup should target moving the muscles through motions similar to the exercise or lifting you are going to perform. Increase the intensity of your workout gradually to give your muscles time to get accustomed the new level of activity.

Treatments and Considerations

There is no instant fix to eliminate pain from delayed-onset muscle soreness or to consistently accelerate the healing; however, some self-care measures can offer some relief. Anti-inflammatory non-steroidal drugs such as ibuprofen or aspirin can help. Light massage and gently stretching the damaged area also may help relieve pain. Ice the damaged area for 10 to 15 minutes twice a day. If you experience muscle soreness accompanied my other symptoms such as fatigue and joint pain, seek immediate medical attention.

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