The extra stretch: Knowing how your muscles work and what could make them painful

Imagine a well-oiled machine. You know it will work smoothly. Our body muscles are no different. Under normal circumstances, they work well with the bones and other connecting tissues in our body to support a variety of functions ranging from arm and leg movements to beating of the heart.
In order to understand how wear and tear or injuries can lead to painful muscles, it is first important to understand how your muscles work.

Muscles are connected to other structures which help in their functioning
Body movements are facilitated by skeletal muscles. These muscles extend from one bone to another. Tendons are the structures that connect muscles to bones while ligaments are structures which connect bones to each other. Joints are the locations where bones are connected.

How do muscles function?
Skeletal muscles are usually present in pairs and arranged opposite to each other. These structures work in response to the signals of the nervous system in the body. The signal for movement is initiated in the brain and is delivered to the muscle in the form a nerve impulse. The muscle, on one side of a joint, contracts in response to this signal and as it contracts, it moves one bone relative to the other. This is how any body movement is brought about. To return the body part to the original position, the muscle on the other side of the joint must contract.

How can muscles become painful?
Overexertion or sudden pulling or twisting of muscles may result in muscle injuries which are painful. Some types of muscle injuries leading to pain:

Muscle strains - Muscles are composed of muscle fibers and when these get damaged, muscle strains may occur. Incorrectly performed, repetitive movements lead to muscle stains. Externally, this may be seen as bruising with tenderness and swelling.

Muscle tears - Muscle tears may occur when muscle fibers get torn. These injuries are very painful with swelling seen in the affected part. Surgery may be required to restore the muscles in these cases.

Muscle soreness - Muscle soreness results from any activity that is sudden or of increased intensity from your usual routine. These activities may lead to small injuries in the muscle fibers and connective tissues around the muscles. The pain peaks within 48 hours of the injury and may improve thereon. Generally, your muscles may get used to the activity if you repeat it.

Muscle sprain – Ligament tears cause muscle sprain. Incidents like falling, twisting and getting hit can cause sprains. You may hear or feel a ‘pop’ when the injury happens.

In some cases, muscle pain may also result from muscle diseases such as muscular dystrophy (weakening of muscles due to damaged muscle fibers) and myositis (inflammation of muscles).