These are all symptoms of a condition called rhabdomyolysis, which can happen after severe dehydration, long surgeries, car accidents or earthquakes where people get crushed, or, believe it or not, going too hard at CrossFit. In rhabdo, as it’s known, muscle gets damaged and releases a protein called myoglobin into the bloodstream. The kidneys filter out the myoglobin where it breaks down, and the byproducts of that process can damage them, leading to kidney failure if not treated. (Myoglobin can make urine dark, but not everyone has that symptom, she says.) Rhabdo can happen to people starting or restarting a workout routine as well as extremely fit folks: All you have to do is overexert yourself, says Dr. Smith, who’s also a past president of the American College of Sports Medicine.

Of course, some post-workout soreness is normal since the stressing and repairing of muscles is how you get fitter in the first place, but rhabdo is the muscular equivalent of a stress fracture, she says. A refresher on how those work: When you start running, your bones adapt to the stress and get stronger. But if you do too much too soon, you exceed the amount of damage your body can repair overnight, so the bones start to break down. Hello, fracture.

Some people’s bodies can tolerate more myoglobin than others, so they can put themselves through seriously punishing workouts and never get rhabdo. Others face a higher risk of developing it because they either have a viral or bacterial infection, take cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins, or have a sickle-cell trait, that is, having one copy of the gene that causes sickle-cell anemia, says Dr. Smith, who’s also a clinical professor of orthopedic surgery and pediatrics at the Sidney Kimmel Medical College of Thomas Jefferson University. These factors can make you more likely to get rhabdomyolysis instead of regular muscle soreness.

You could safeguard yourself from rhabdo by never working out again, but experts don’t recommend that route. “It’s much better to go do some exercise than to sit around and be sedentary for millions of reasons,” Dr. Smith says. How can you avoid rhabdo? By following a legitimate workout plan. “You want to do things in moderation and then gradually increase the skill level, speed, intensity, endurance … whatever the parameters are for your particular activity so that your body has time to adapt.”

That’s why working with a certified trainer, or getting a workout plan from one online, is key. These plans won’t ask you to use the same muscles during consecutive workouts. They should also take into account your current activity level (so definitely don’t fib about that part). One-size-fits all workouts created by YouTube or Instagram trainers may not be up to snuff, so look for credentials before you try that trendy, high-intensity workout.

What about if you’re trying a workout you’ve never done before, like your first bootcamp or cycling class? Even if it’s a familiar workout you just haven’t done in a while, you may not know how much you can push yourself without hurting the next day (or the day after that — thanks, delayed-onset muscle soreness). A tip: don’t try to go all out the entire time. A well-designed workout includes a warmup, a cooldown, and recovery breaks between periods of hard effort. Serious soreness isn’t a badge of honor — it actually just prevents you from working out consistently.

You can also take care of your body by following best practices for sports nutrition, including eating something beforehand, staying hydrated, and refueling with a snack or meal that has both protein and carbs to help build and preserve lean muscle, Dr. Smith says. If your workout is especially hard, you should chug extra water afterward to help dilute any myoglobin buildup in the kidneys. If you’re really struggling, wait for the soreness to subside before pushing yourself again, though you could take it very easy on the bike or the elliptical if you’re dying to do something. But if you know you have one of the risk factors for rhabdo mentioned above, it’s best to wait until you’re fully recovered, she says.

“Like everything, the key in this is moderation and allowing time for adaptation,” she says. “This is a situation where truly the tortoise wins the race, not the hare.”

How to Use Post-Workout Inflammation to Your Advantage

Inflammation is one of the hottest health topics of the year. But until now, the focus has been solely on the damage it causes. (Case in point: these inflammation-causing foods.) As it turns out, that’s not the whole story. Researchers have recently discovered that inflammation can actually make us healthier. It has powerful healing effects and is a critical component of the immune system, says Joanne Donoghue, Ph.D., an exercise physiologist at the New York Institute of Technology College of Osteopathic Medicine. You need it to generate muscle, heal from injuries, and even power through a tough day. The way it works is this: “Whenever you strength-train or do cardiovascular exercise, you’re creating mini-traumas in your muscles,” Donoghue explains. That triggers inflammation, which prompts the release of chemicals and hormones to repair the affected tissue and leads to stronger muscle fibers. Your bones also benefit, says Maria Urso, Ph.D., a human performance consultant with O2X, a wellness education company. The load placed on your bones during strength training creates tiny divots in their weak areas, and inflammation kicks off a process that fills in those spots with new, stronger bone.

Inflammation is also crucial to recovering from an injury. Say you roll your ankle while running. “Within minutes, white blood cells rush to the injury site,” says Wajahat Zafar Mehal, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at the Yale School of Medicine. They assess the damage and fire up clusters of molecules known as inflammasomes, which activate small proteins that make your ankle turn red and swell. These inflammatory symptoms draw immune cells to the area to begin the healing process, Mehal explains.

Preliminary animal studies show that workout-induced inflammation may even cause the immune system to operate more efficiently. That means inflammation created by exercise could potentially help to fight colds. But, like most health issues, the process is complicated. Inflammation is healthy only in moderation. “When inflammation is at a high level all the time, it creates chronic wear and tear on healthy tissues and organs,” says Charles Raison, M.D., a professor of psychiatry at the University of Wisconsin–Madison School of Medicine and Public Health who studies the condition. Carrying excess weight, not getting enough rest, or exercising too much all can cause the good-for-you inflammatory response to veer into the danger zone. The key to reaping the benefits of post-exercise inflammation is to keep it at a balanced level. The following three techniques will help you use its power without allowing it to spiral out of control.

Stretch It Out

Rather than collapsing on the couch after a tough workout, take a walk, do some light yoga, or use a foam roller. After exercise, your muscles leak out a protein called creatine kinase, which your kidneys need to filter from the blood. If you sit still, the damaged proteins accumulate, and this may result in more inflammatory-control cells coming into the area and delaying recovery. “By moving your muscles, you increase blood flow to those areas,” Urso explains. “This helps flush out the waste products so your body can repair itself.” (And before bed, try these yoga stretches to prevent injury and help you fall asleep faster.)

Embrace the Ache

When the soreness from your boot-camp class is intense, you may be tempted to pop ibuprofen. Don’t. Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) such as these prevent normal exercise-induced inflammation from occurring, which could keep your body from building and strengthening your muscles, Urso says. Translation: Your workout is a lot less effective. Taking ibuprofen might even increase your risk of injury, Chinese researchers report. In studies, they found that NSAIDs interfere with bone rebuilding, leaving you vulnerable to stress fractures and osteoporosis. Save the medications for more severe injuries like muscle tears. For regular soreness, try menthol gels like Biofreeze Cold Therapy Pain Relief ($9; amazon.com), which have proven analgesic properties but won’t interfere with inflammation. (Or try one of these personal trainer-approved products for relieving sore muscles.)

Take a Break

Follow every super-intense workout with an easy or rest day, suggests Chad Asplund, M.D., the medical director of athletics sports medicine at Georgia Southern University. Exercise creates free radicals, unstable molecules that damage cells. Normally, the body releases antioxidants to neutralize those molecules, but if you keep pushing yourself to the limit day after day, the free radicals overwhelm your body’s defenses, creating a condition known as oxidative stress. This causes harmful chronic inflammation, which tears down muscles rather than building them up, Donoghue says. Watch out for symptoms like plummeting endurance, strength, energy, and motivation, as well as irritability, frequent illness, and trouble sleeping. These are all signs that you should take at least two full days off, Donoghue says, then dial back your exercise schedule by 30 to 40 percent for the next two or three weeks in order to recover. (Rest days aren’t just for your body either-your mind needs to chill too.)

Put Stress to Work for You

Mental stress, like trying to meet a crazy deadline at work, triggers inflammation the same way workout stress does. “When the brain perceives anxiety or danger, it kicks on inflammation,” says Raison. In small doses, your stress response can be good for you, according to Firdaus S. Dhabhar, Ph.D., a professor of psychiatry and behavioral sciences at the University of Miami Medical Center. It prompts the release of cortisol and other molecules, which deliver a jolt of energy and alertness and enhance the immune function to help you deal with the situation at hand. To keep stress short term and beneficial, and to prevent it from becoming chronic and harmful, try these expert-backed tactics.

Go green.

Getting outside can help you decompress. After taking a walk through nature, study participants were significantly less likely to dwell on negative thoughts than those who strolled through a cityscape, research at Stanford University found. (Better yet, take your yoga practice outside.)

Use the conveyor belt method.

“For a few seconds several times a day, imagine that your stressful thoughts are boxes on a conveyor belt, passing through your awareness,” suggests Bruce Hubbard, Ph.D., the director of the Cognitive Health Group in New York City. “This teaches you to let go of the things that worry you.”

Eat more yogurt.

Random, but true: Women who received a four-week course of probiotics, which are found in yogurt, ruminated less when they were sad than those who received a placebo, according to a study in Brain, Behavior, and Immunity. That’s because probiotics increase your level of tryptophan, which helps produce serotonin, a hormone that boosts your mood. Eat at least one serving of yogurt a day for the best results. (You’re probably also wondering, should I take a probiotic supplement?)

  • By By Hollace Schmidt

Is Workout Bloat a Thing? An Expert Explains

You’re just about to slip on that new dress you’ve been dying to wear, but you notice your stomach has suddenly inflated thanks to pesky bloating. We’ve all been there, and one influencer is shedding light on the fact that bloat can happen any time, any place.

“Bloating can be caused by SOOO many things,” Courtnee Leeper wrote in a September 9 Instagram post. She’s right. Eating too fast, chewing gum, and drinking through a straw can all cause your abdomen to puff out on you. Yet there are other causes as well, and the one Leeper focuses on might surprise you: working out.

Uh, we thought exercise was supposed to make our stomachs slimmer, no? Well, Cynthia Sass, RD, MPH, Health contributing nutrition editor, says that though you might feel bloated after working out, it probably isn’t directly caused by physical activity.

Rather, Sass says you’re probably huffing and puffing and accidentally gulping down air while trying to catch your breath as you exercise. That can trap air in the gastrointestinal tract and cause a puffy tummy. It’s similar to what happens when you eat too fast and swallow gas-producing air.

RELATED: Bloated All the Time? 11 Reasons Why

Another thing that can cause bloat after working out is eating too close to your gym session, especially if your meal contains fiber, protein, and fat, which take longer to digest, says Sass. “When you start your barre class or run, blood flows away from the digestive system toward your muscles, which slows digestion further and may lead to bloating,” she explains. So hold off on downing that protein bar or shake until after your workout.

Artificial sweeteners can also cause bloating because they’re difficult for your system to digest, and they hang around in your stomach for awhile. Before reaching for a sports drink, check the label to make sure it doesn’t contain bloat-inducing artificial sweeteners. It might be refreshing during your workout, but it could leave you with some serious distension afterward.

RELATED: This Influencer Posed in Her Bra and Leggings to Prove That Social Media Doesn’t Tell the Whole Story

Bloating might not be comfortable, but unfortunately, you can’t always prevent it from happening. Instead of being angry with your stomach for ballooning on you, accept that it happens to everyone…and it’s temporary.

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If yesterday’s workout is making your muscles scream today, take it as a good sign. You most likely have “delayed onset muscle soreness” (DOMS), and it means you worked hard enough to create tiny tears in your muscle fibers.

It can happen when you bump up your workout intensity, frequency, or length, or when you try a new activity. As your muscles heal, they’ll get bigger and stronger, paving the way to the next level of fitness.

The DOMS usually kicks in 12 to 24 hours after a tough workout and peaks between 24 to 72 hours. The soreness will go away in a few days. In the meantime, these tricks may help ease the pain.

Keep moving. You may want to cling to the sofa while your muscles recover, but moving your body could make you feel better. The trick is to do something light and gentle.

“My favorite is swimming or riding my bike, super easy, for an hour or so,” says Jennifer Rulon, a seven-time Ironman triathlete and triathlon coach.

Rest and recover. Some R&R is good, too.

“Rest days are crucial to recover,” Rulon says.

Taking a day off gives your body a chance to repair itself and replenishes your energy. Rulon says the second day after an intense workout can be the toughest. So she suggests doing light exercise the day after a heavy workout, then taking off the next day.

Apply heat (carefully). If your muscles still ache after 48 hours, try heat. It can stimulate blood flow to your muscles to ease tightness and help them feel better.

Try a warm (not hot) towel or heating pad. But be careful. Heat comes with a lot of red flags, Rulon says. “It can cause burns, along with further inflaming muscles.”

Avoid direct contact with any heating device.

Get a massage. It can relieve muscle tension, boost blood flow, and increase the range of motion in your joints, Rulon says. It’s also a great mood-lifter.

When your muscles are sore, a gentle massage is best. Choose one that uses light pressure, like a Swedish massage, which Rulon says is better for recovery than a deep-tissue massage. Or try tender-point acupressure: A massage therapist applies pressure and holds it directly on the tender areas.

Take an anti-inflammatory. Over-the-counter versions of these medications can reduce swelling and relieve pain. Try aspirin, ibuprofen, or naproxen.

Understanding Muscle Soreness – How Much is Too Much?

L. Nicole Krum, DPT
University of Maryland Medical Center

So you’ve decided to focus on getting a little healthier and you start an exercise program. Your first workout goes great, and you’re really proud of yourself. That is, until the next morning when you’re so sore you can barely get out of bed. You ask yourself, “What happened? Did I do something wrong? Did I do too much?” Don’t let muscle soreness after a workout get you down!

Here’s what you need to know to prevent that soreness from derailing your workout program.

Muscle soreness is a side effect of the stress put on muscles when you exercise. It is commonly called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS, and it is completely normal. DOMS usually begins within 6-8 hours after a new activity or a change in activity, and can last up to 24-48 hours after the exercise. The muscle pain is due to inflammation within the muscle, which is one of the main triggers for this muscle soreness.

You are most likely to experience delayed muscle soreness after one of the following:

  • Starting an exercise or workout program for the very first time
  • Adding a new activity or exercise to your workout
  • Increasing the intensity of an exercise already in your program (increasing the amount of weight lifted, number of repetitions, or speed)
  • Performing the same activity over and over again without a sufficient rest break

All people are at risk for muscle soreness, even body builders and other professional athletes. The good news is that normal muscle soreness is a sign that you’re getting stronger, and is nothing to be alarmed about. During exercise, you stress your muscles and the fibers begin to break down. As the fibers repair themselves, they become larger and stronger than they were before. This means that your muscles will be better prepared to handle the stress the next time you work out.

The best way to relieve muscle soreness is to perform some gentle exercises, like walking or light stretching. It may seem counter intuitive, but the more you move, the faster the discomfort will go away! A heating pad or warm bath may also help to ease the discomfort temporarily, but ice is a better treatment in the long-run because it actually helps to decrease the swelling and inflammation in your muscles.

It sounds like muscle soreness is a positive thing, but here’s where it can get a little complicated. Mild to moderate muscle soreness is common and generally harmless. On the other hand, severe muscle soreness can be damaging and dangerous. It’s important to know the difference between reasonable muscle soreness caused by exercise, and pain due to overuse or muscle injury.

How much pain is too much?

  • If the pain you’re experiencing prevents you from carrying out daily activities associated with living or working, then the exercise was too much.
  • If the discomfort lasts for more than 72 hours, then the exercise was too much.

How can you tell if your soreness is the normal kind of soreness?

  • If the pain begins during or immediately after the exercise, it is not normal. Pain that occurs during an exercise is a sign that there is a problem with the exercise. This type of pain should be seen as a signal from your body to stop the activity before serious joint or muscle damage occurs.

In severe cases, the muscles can break down so much that you can become very ill and cause damage to your kidneys. Seek medical attention immediately if you experience any of the following after a workout or activity that causes muscle soreness:

  • Severe unbearable pain
  • Severely swollen limbs
  • Loss of joint range of motion due to severe swelling
  • Dark colored urine or decreased production of urine

If you’re thinking about quitting your exercise program because of muscle soreness, try your best to work through the first few days without getting discouraged. It WILL get better and your muscles will thank you later.

Foods that fight inflammation

Doctors are learning that one of the best ways to reduce inflammation lies not in the medicine cabinet, but in the refrigerator. By following an anti-inflammatory diet you can fight off inflammation for good.

Updated: November 7, 2018Published: June, 2014

What does an anti-inflammatory diet do? Your immune system becomes activated when your body recognizes anything that is foreign—such as an invading microbe, plant pollen, or chemical. This often triggers a process called inflammation. Intermittent bouts of inflammation directed at truly threatening invaders protect your health.

However, sometimes inflammation persists, day in and day out, even when you are not threatened by a foreign invader. That’s when inflammation can become your enemy. Many major diseases that plague us—including cancer, heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, depression, and Alzheimer’s—have been linked to chronic inflammation.

One of the most powerful tools to combat inflammation comes not from the pharmacy, but from the grocery store. “Many experimental studies have shown that components of foods or beverages may have anti-inflammatory effects,” says Dr. Frank Hu, professor of nutrition and epidemiology in the Department of Nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health.

Choose the right anti-inflammatory foods, and you may be able to reduce your risk of illness. Consistently pick the wrong ones, and you could accelerate the inflammatory disease process.

Foods that cause inflammation

Try to avoid or limit these foods as much as possible:

  • refined carbohydrates, such as white bread and pastries

  • French fries and other fried foods

  • soda and other sugar-sweetened beverages

  • red meat (burgers, steaks) and processed meat (hot dogs, sausage)

  • margarine, shortening, and lard

The health risks of inflammatory foods

Not surprisingly, the same foods on an inflammation diet are generally considered bad for our health, including sodas and refined carbohydrates, as well as red meat and processed meats.

“Some of the foods that have been associated with an increased risk for chronic diseases such as type 2 diabetes and heart disease are also associated with excess inflammation,” Dr. Hu says. “It’s not surprising, since inflammation is an important underlying mechanism for the development of these diseases.”

Unhealthy foods also contribute to weight gain, which is itself a risk factor for inflammation. Yet in several studies, even after researchers took obesity into account, the link between foods and inflammation remained, which suggests weight gain isn’t the sole driver. “Some of the food components or ingredients may have independent effects on inflammation over and above increased caloric intake,” Dr. Hu says.

Anti-inflammatory foods

An anti-inflammatory diet should include these foods:

  • tomatoes

  • olive oil

  • green leafy vegetables, such as spinach, kale, and collards

  • nuts like almonds and walnuts

  • fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, tuna, and sardines

  • fruits such as strawberries, blueberries, cherries, and oranges

Benefits of anti-inflammatory foods

On the flip side are beverages and foods that reduce inflammation, and with it, chronic disease, says Dr. Hu. He notes in particular fruits and vegetables such as blueberries, apples, and leafy greens that are high in natural antioxidants and polyphenols—protective compounds found in plants.

Studies have also associated nuts with reduced markers of inflammation and a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Coffee, which contains polyphenols and other anti-inflammatory compounds, may protect against inflammation, as well.

Anti-inflammatory diet

To reduce levels of inflammation, aim for an overall healthy diet. If you’re looking for an eating plan that closely follows the tenets of anti-inflammatory eating, consider the Mediterranean diet, which is high in fruits, vegetables, nuts, whole grains, fish, and healthy oils.

In addition to lowering inflammation, a more natural, less processed diet can have noticeable effects on your physical and emotional health. “A healthy diet is beneficial not only for reducing the risk of chronic diseases, but also for improving mood and overall quality of life,” Dr. Hu says.

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Muscle Pain: Possible Causes

What are causes, symptoms, and treatments of muscle pain?

Causes of muscle pain fall into a few general groups, as follows: injury or overuse; stress; autoimmune disease; neurological and muscle disorders; infection; obstructed blood flow, or drug side effects.

Injury

Symptoms of muscle injury include pain, weakness, bruising, swelling, and cramping (involuntary muscle spasms and contractions).

Injury can result from:

  • Blunt force trauma caused by a strong impact to the body.
  • Muscle strains, soreness, pulls or tears are anything from a simple overstretching of a muscle all the way to a complete tear. Accidents, falls, sudden twisting motions, and athletic activities are frequent causes.
  • Repetitive motion injury as seen in occupations or activities that use the same movements day after day. Occupational examples could include data entry typists all the way to heavy manual laborers. Following the same exercise routine or focusing exclusively on one sport might also be a cause.
  • Overuse injury, often seen in athletes competing in sports such as hockey, football, boxing, wrestling, soccer, and track and field. The muscle fibers can be predisposed and are prone to injury when the same activity is performed, over and over, without any variation. Muscle are dynamic and need to move in many directions to remain functional. Exercises should be performed as such, to avoid exposing the muscle fibers to the same repetitive force.
  • Improper warm up and cool down is one of the most common causes of muscle strains in an athletic individual. The fibers in muscles are able to do their job based on their ability to lengthen and contract; the better their motion, the less chance of injury. Spending 5 minutes before and after exercise to focus on stretching muscles and performing low intensity activities (like a very light jog, or 25% of the weight you were just lifting) can help to prevent muscle strains from occurring.
  • Myofascial pain syndrome (MPS) is a chronic (long-term) condition characterized by inflammation and pain in the body’s fascia, the connective tissue that covers the muscles. MPS can affect one muscle or an entire group. Causes include injury or excessive strain on a particular muscle group, ligament or tendon; injured vertebrae; repetitive motion, or lack of activity (such as when a limb is placed in a cast). Treatments include physical therapy, massage, and injections of pain relievers and steroids.
  • Poor posture can cause muscle pain and tension, as unnatural body positions place strain on muscles and soft tissues. Poor posture includes slouching in a chair; extreme curvature in the lower back caused by wearing high heels or by excess weight around the midsection; leaning on one leg; hunching the back; thrusting out the chin; rounding the shoulders, and cradling a telephone between the neck and shoulder. Besides being aware to keep the body in line, specific exercises are available to assist in correcting poor posture habits.
  • Poor form while exercising can predispose to significant muscle injury, especially when a large force, such as weight lifting, explosive activities, or prolonged endurance of an activity is placed on top of poor form.
  • Compartment syndrome: Compartments are groups of muscles, nerves, and blood vessels in the arms and legs, covered by a tough fascia. Compartment syndrome occurs when an injury causes swelling and bleeding within a compartment, increasing pressure on surrounding blood vessels, nerves and muscle to the point of choking off adequate nourishment and oxygen. The front part of the lower leg is most frequently affected but the arms, hands, feet, and buttocks may be as well.
    • Acute: Occurs after a severe accident or broken bone and should be treated as a medical emergency. Surgery is often needed to relieve the pressure within the compartment.
    • Chronic (exertional): Exercise, particularly repetitive motion activity such as running, biking, or swimming, leads to pain or cramping. Discontinuation of the activity and cross-training will usually bring relief.

Stress and tension

Psychological or physical stress can lead to muscle tension, the body’s automatic reflex to guard against injury and pain.

Sudden stress may cause muscles to tense up but once the stress passes, the tension is released. In chronic (long-lasting) stress, muscles may remain in a near constant state of tension, leading to pain and headaches if tension is felt in the shoulders and neck. If a person reacts to stress by reducing physical activity, muscles may begin to shrink (atrophy) due to lack of exercise, thereby making it even more difficult to escape the cycle of pain.

Learning psychological coping mechanisms and taking part in adequate physical exercise can improve how one deals with stress or chronic pain, and in turn reduce the negative effects of stress on the muscular system.

Infections

  • Respiratory and viral infections, such as colds and influenza (flu): Muscle pain is one of many symptoms of these infections, which also includes fever, chills, sore throat, headache, cough, stuffy or runny nose, and general fatigue.
  • Malaria: A potentially serious to fatal disease caused by the transmission of parasites from the bite of the Anopheles mosquito. Overall body aches and weakness are accompanied by fever, sweats, chills, headaches, nausea, abnormal blood metabolism, and an enlarged spleen and liver.
  • Trichinosis: Caused by infection with the larvae of a species of worm called Trichinella, found in the meat of wild animals or undercooked meat such as pork. Initial symptoms include upset stomach, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, and fever. Later symptoms include joint and muscle pain, headache, fever, chills, swelling of the face, and possibly heart and breathing problems.
  • Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever: A potentially life-threatening disease caused by a tick bite. Rash is a common sign, usually developing 2 to 4 days after a fever develops. Other symptoms include muscle pain, vomiting, stomach pain, headache, and lack of appetite.
  • Lyme Disease: Caused by the bite of a tick found primarily in Northeastern U.S. states. Early signs and symptoms (3 to 30 days after being bitten) include fever, chills, headache, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, and swollen lymph nodes. A rash occurs in about 70% to 80% of infected people.

Treatments for each of these conditions will vary depending on the disease, its stage of development, and its severity.

Autoimmune diseases

An autoimmune disease is one in which the body’s immune system mistakenly attack its own tissues.

  • Myositis: A rare condition in which the immune system chronically inflames the body’s musculature. Over time, the inflammation results in weakened muscles, aches, pain and fatigue. There are different forms of the disease: Polymyositis (affecting many parts of the body, particularly those closest to the trunk); dermatomyositis (damages both muscle and skin); inclusion-body myositis (gradual weakening of the muscles, typically after age 50), and juvenile myositis (affecting children). There is no known trigger for these attacks and no permanent cure, although some treatments can prevent the condition from getting worse.
  • Lupus: An autoimmune condition of unknown origin that causes raised, scaly rashes on the face and other parts of the body, and may also inflame or damage connective tissue in the joints, muscles, and skin. Muscle pain and tenderness occur in up to half of people with lupus. The inflammatory nature of lupus is the cause of these aches and pains. Anti-inflammatory medications can thus help control some of the damaging effects of lupus.

Other diseases or conditions

  • Fibromyalgia: A common neurological (nervous system) condition of unclear origin that causes widespread pain, sensitivity to touch, severe fatigue, and sleep problems. Pain and tender areas may jump from one area of the body to another. Women are more often affected than men, as are people with rheumatic disease (health problems that affect joints, muscles and bones). No cure is available but certain medications can help.
  • Hypothyroidism: Also known as underactive thyroid, this condition results in too little thyroid hormone to meet the body’s needs. Since thyroid hormone controls the body’s use of energy, nearly every organ system is affected and overall body functions slow down. Common symptoms include fatigue, weight gain, feeling cold, joint and muscle pain, dry hair and skin, depression, fertility problems, and slowed heart rate.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome: A disorder of extreme fatigue and poor tolerance for physical exertion that has lasted six months or longer and cannot be explained by any other medical condition. Symptoms include sleep problems, taking a long time to recover from even mild physical activity, loss of memory and mental acuity, pain in muscles and joints, and headaches. Psychological counseling and closely monitored exercise are the best treatment options.
  • Electrolyte imbalance: Electrolytes are minerals such as calcium, magnesium, potassium, and sodium that are necessary for proper cell function, including normal muscle contraction. A shortage or imbalance of electrolytes due to strenuous physical activity or poor diet can slow muscle contractions and cause cramping and weakness.
  • Side effect of statin drugs: Statin drugs are used to control cholesterol levels, thereby reducing the risk of heart attack and stroke. However, some people have reported muscle pain and general flu-like aches when taking statin drugs. A change in dosage or a switch to another cholesterol-lowering drug can be managed by the patient’s physician if there are statin side effects.
  • Peripheral arterial disease (PAD): Fatty blockages (atherosclerosis) in the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs can lead to pain in the legs from exertion such as walking. These symptoms of pain, ache or cramps from walking can occur in the buttocks, hips, thighs or calves. Other symptoms of PAD include muscle atrophy, skin that is cool to the touch, decreased or no pulse in the feet, non-healing sores in the legs or feet, and cold or numb toes.

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How to manage exercise-induced edema in the lower legs

Some individuals are affected by exercise-induced edema which typically affects the hands or legs, but can also affect the ankles, feet and face. Edema develops once a large amount of fluid builds-up in the circulatory system. This is quite common among individuals above 60 years old, but anyone can develop the condition.

It is important to note that edema is not an illness, though long-standing edema can be an indication of other diseases such as kidney disease, heart failure or cirrhosis.

What are the possible causes of exercise-induced edema?

The potential causes of edema include low or high blood pressure, allergies, pregnancy, exposure to high altitudes or heat, exercise and hormonal changes during menstruation. The exact cause for exercise-induced edema is still vague, but it could be due to how the blood vessels respond while working out.

Since the flow of blood to the heart and the lungs increases while exercising, the diminished supply of blood to the legs and hands can lead to edema.

The potential causes of edema include low or high blood pressure, allergies, pregnancy, exposure to high altitudes or heat, exercise and hormonal changes during menstruation.

Those who sweat profusely might end up with edema or similar symptoms while exercising. This manifests as the blood vessels are pushed toward the skin surface. Individuals who engage in endurance sports can end up with low sodium levels that can also lead to exercise-induced edema since they tend to drink more water after a rigorous routine. This dilutes the sodium in the body which is called hyponatremia. Once followed by confusion and vomiting, immediate medical care is required.

Signs and symptoms

The evident engorgement in the legs or hands while exercising is the most prevalent indication of exercise-induced edema. Other signs might include muscle cramps, shortness of breath and changes in the mental status.

In such circumstances, a doctor should be consulted right away. The indications of exercise-induced edema can be relieved by allowing the individual to rest after a workout.

Preventive measures

The ideal way to prevent the condition is to instruct the individual to take a 5-minute break when switching between exercise routines. During this period, the individual should move the legs and arms in half-circle movements to increase the flow of blood. Take note that this will help reduce the edema effectively.

Considerations to bear in mind

A doctor should be consulted before starting any exercise program. It is recommended to start at a slow manner and steadily build up to longer workouts. If the individual experiences pain or swelling while exercising, a doctor should be consulted to pinpoint the causes or required treatment. When it comes to exercise-induced edema, the solution is to take frequent breaks while exercising.

Swollen muscles after workout

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