The answer to “why do my muscles ache?” is usually because they are tense. Now, muscles are supposed to be tense, at least some of the time, that’s how they work. They contract, become tense and then they relax. But sometimes muscles stay tense. Sometimes they just don’t relax and that’s when our body’s pain receptors kick in.
- They’ve been damaged somehow. The technical term for this is trauma. This trauma usually shows up as tiny tears in the muscle tissue and it can be acute, as when the muscle is damaged by, say, a blow during a rough game of football, or it can be chronic when the damage accumulates due to repetitive use like operating a machine in a factory.
- The muscles are responding to stress. This stress can be emotional as when a person is under constant pressure at work or at school or it can be physical, for example when someone spends a lot of time locked in a specific position like driving a long distance lorry.
- Poor posture can put unrelenting pressure on muscles because they have to work continuously against the downward pull of gravity and they get tense as a result.
Tension is not the only reason muscles hurt. There are some physical conditions like fibromyalgia which manifest as muscular pain. Some illnesses make our muscles feel sore as well, like flu. Another reason for achy muscles is a condition called delayed onset muscle soreness or DOMS. This is a very specific sort of problem where muscles feel tender and stiff about a day after someone has done too much of a particular kind of exercise where their muscles are forced to contract while they are in a stretched position. DOMS is thought to be due to microtrauma of the actual muscle cell filaments and/or associated connective tissue, no one knows for sure yet.
But for most us, most of the time, tension is the reason for muscular pain. And this is where bodywork comes in.