Q: When I leave practice at the end of the day, my muscles feel like jelly. How can I tell the difference between stress that will make me stronger and stress that could be damaging?
A: You’re right — some microtrauma is necessary for muscle growth and development. However, if your soreness lasts more than a few days and/or doesn’t improve with rest, you could have injured the muscle group or joint.
Any time we force our muscles to work harder than they normally do, or begin to use them in a new way, we cause microscopic tears to the muscles and surrounding connective tissue. The muscle soreness and stiffness that follows is called delayed-onset muscle soreness. It’s an inflammatory response and is a normal physiological response that occurs within the first few days after exercise.
However, if it’s extreme or simply won’t go away, you may have caused an injury. It’s great that you’re working hard at your sport. Just don’t push should any pain that causes you to limp or changes your mechanics, and don’t plan to beat your own personal record at the beginning of the season.
Dr. Jason Robertson is the Ortho Urgent Care Director at Center for Sports Medicine and Orthopeadics and a member of the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society.