Muscles normally respond to imposed loads by increasing their cross bonding and becoming stronger. However, severe trauma or excessive loads may exceed the muscles elastic limit and cause tearing of thefibres. Normal exercise often creates micro tears which the muscle then repairs, making the muscle stronger in the process. This is recognized as DOMS, Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness and normally peaks between 48 and 72 hours after the heavier than usual exercise session. Icing immediately after exercise or a gentle session the next day may reduce the symptoms, but such pain is a sign of strengthening muscles and should not be a cause for concern unless the pain is excessive, or last for several days.
Athletes may often, in the heat of competition, cause muscle damage. Sprinters are particularly susceptible to hamstring tears of varying severity. A protocol for management of such problems is available here.
Cramping under sustained load can also cause muscle damage if the load is not reduced quickly. This can be a significant issue for cyclists training for long distance events. Unloading the affected muscle for a few minutes and then restarting at a reduced pace can conserve the muscle and prevent damage which inhibits performance for several days.
Poor biomechanics and muscle recruitment to overcome a poorly functioning area may cause excessive tightness and pain. Frequently inexperienced runners training for their first marathon will hit this problem as they enter the last 3 to 4 weeks of training before their race. This is normally due to increasing the distance run too quickly, or upping the pace. First time marathon runners should take advice on training plans from experienced runners or from a reputable trainer or publication aimed at first time runners. Failure to do this may cause them to have a painful race or have to scratch at the last minute. Moreover, a gait assessment performed by an experienced practitioner, not a shoe salesman should be obtained.
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