Our muscles provide support to our bones. It holds our body’s framework that without the musculoskeletal system, we would be a huge grub or Jell-O on the floor. Knowing this helps us understand how our muscles work 24/7. Yes, even while we sleep.
You see, it comprises both voluntary and involuntary systems of the body that concerns both muscle groups that we control on top of what we cannot.
Voluntary vs. Involuntary Systems
These two systems involve the nervous system and how it controls the muscular system. The voluntary nervous system pertains to what we can control. Flexing and extending our forearm are examples of voluntary movements. Our heartbeat, respiration, and blinking of the eyes are examples of involuntary movements, ones that are beyond our control. Now that’s cleared out, yes, everything we do involves our muscles.
So, if the sole purpose of the muscles is to be used, why does it end up being sore?
When our body goes through different kinds of activities, it may encounter overuse, tension, fatigue, diseases, stress, and injuries (localized or systemic), which may result in muscles being sore. Let’s look at how it does so:
- Overuse – Our muscles compensate when we use it repeatedly. It gains mass and size as you build up each fibre accommodating the pressure it endures while undergoing training. This is the normal reaction to physical stimuli like cycling, dancing, or weightlifting. When there’s not enough rest to let it recover, it gets overused, compromising its elasticity, following a wear-and-tear theory. Soreness is one of the initial symptoms that certain muscle groups exude when it starts to get overused. It is the signal for the person to rest and this cannot be avoided unless a pain relief is found for these overworked muscles.
- Tension – Muscles develop strength depending on the tension it is introduced to. When it is too much for the muscles or the group of muscle’s capacity, it may result in getting strained or it could tear. Soreness results from torn tissues and muscle fibres.
- Fatigue – is a result of prolonged overuse. Though it could be a symptom of many illnesses, there’s Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS), a disease so complicated characterized by extreme muscle fatigue. It worsens with any physical or mental activity and cannot be relieved by rest. This condition is also known as Systemic Exertion Intolerance Disease or SEID and Myalgic Encephalomyelitis or ME. This greatly involves the neurologic transmission of signals to the muscles. While it needs thorough tests to diagnose this, it may also be triggered by a combination of many factors. It also comes with specific symptoms on top of sore muscles such as sore throat, enlarged lymph nodes in your neck and armpits, unexplained body malaise, unexplained muscle or joint pain, and extreme exhaustion lasting for more than 24 hours after any mental or physical exercise.
- Stress – Our muscles are built as it compensates with the physical demand it responds to. While the process of new muscle fibres developing helps your body in doing so, it needs rest to recover. But when it undergoes sudden stress, it tenses up. If your muscles are not conditioned or exercised enough, tension builds up leaving the muscles sore because microscopic muscle fibres break ironically that’s why you feel sore or slight pain. That’s why it’s important to stretch and cool down before and after any form of physical exertion.
- Diseases – An example of this would be cardiomegaly or enlargement of the heart. The heart is all muscle. It is the pumping centre of the body that helps greatly in transporting food and oxygen to the rest of the body via the blood. Sometimes, due to certain diseases and conditions like diabetes, hypertension, excess fluid in the thoracic area, and overfatigue, the brain has to order the heart to pump more blood to meet the body’s demand for more nutrients and oxygen in generating power. Like any muscle in the body, when it is overworked and is not given ample rest to recuperate, it becomes sore. In the case of the heart, it enlarges as it compensates.
- Injuries – Most injuries result from stress to the joints or arthritis, commonly known as joint inflammation. As surrounding muscles support the joint, accumulation of fluid into the area makes it hard for the muscles to work as it tries to perform a movement. Remember, getting it overworked results in soreness. Also, when a part of your body is sore the tendency is to immobilize it making other parts of the body compensate. Let’s say, when your big toe hurts, your walking gets compromised so you compensate by walking on your heel instead of doing so on the balls of your feet. This may leave your thigh muscles overworked as you avoid extending your calf muscles so that you won’t put weight on that affected area (the big toe).
Body conditioning helps in preventing sore muscles. You may consider using magnesium supplements for sore muscles which are proven to work wonders, leaving you feeling refreshed and revived. Heed to your body’s call if you feel it needs rest. Obtain proper nutrition to help your muscles perform efficiently. Be reminded also that soreness is just a symptom that may denote an underlying condition. So be keen in observing if it progresses significantly.