What is the Normal Muscle Reaction Expected after Pilates

Pilates is a strengthening based program, so our aim is to work your muscles in ways they are not used to and address your major needs and goals. From a biological perspective, this means that muscles are worked a little bit more than they are used to coping with so there is a small degree of disruption to the join (z-line) between each small unit (sarcomere) that make up the muscle.

This causes a release of inflammatory chemicals in the muscle which begin the process of muscle growth. This reaction can cause “soreness” and a heaviness feeling in the muscles from 24 to 72 hours after exercise and is known as DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness).

This reaction is normal and is the first step in your body’s process of building muscle. Your body will then repair and build muscle to a larger degree than the amount of disruption caused by the DOMS.

When we do any exercise process we are always on the edge of causing a degree of disruption to the muscle, a bit less than the body can compensate for and will grow above in the next few days and a bit too much damage, which causes “pain” and is more than the body can grow above.

This line is not always well defined, so we will always ask you how you feel on your next session to determine if the exercises were the right amount for you or too much

How Do I Know It Is DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness) and Normal?

DOMS is felt in the muscle itself, usually begins at it’s attachment and extends to the muscle belly, eg in the quadriceps, you will feel a soreness from the top of the thigh, through the front of the thigh up to just above the knee.

It usually starts the next day or two days after your exercise session and should feel like a “soreness” or a heaviness sensation. The muscles will feel a bit weaker for a couple of days and you may find it difficult to perform lowering type activities, such as walking down stairs, but this sensation will resolve over the next 2-3 days

How Do I Know It Ts NOT Normal and Should be Addressed?

What you shouldn’t feel is a “pain” sensation, such as a “sharp, stabbing or hurting” sensation. Pain should also NOT be felt on the joint line or areas other than the muscle itself, eg at the front of the knee cap or along the back of the knee joint.

If this has occurred, it can mean the lining of the joint has been irritated and we need to assess the area again or adjust your program so that it better meets your needs.

What Do I Do If I Have DOMS or I Think I Have an Injury?

If you have DOMS, the best thing to do is to come in for your regular Pilates session. Counter-intuitively, exercise will help bring blood to the area, help flush out the inflammatory chemicals and make the muscles feel better again.

If you think you have an injury, DO NOT CANCEL YOUR SESSION. It is important that we assess the area again and adjust your plan if needed. It is also a very important time to help you manage the issue so that the problem is resolved as fast as possible.

Michael Dermansky
Senior Physiotherapist & Managing Director of MD Health

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