If you're new to weightlifting or just started a new exercise, you may find it difficult to dress yourself the next morning. This is probably due to muscle soreness, and if that's not bad enough, it often comes with swelling and stiffness. Muscle swelling could be a sign of hard-earned muscles recovering after weightlifting, or it could be a case of your exercise session going overboard. By getting to know your muscles, you can keep a lid on the swelling.
Doing the Exercise All Wrong
It may look right in front of a gym mirror, but an improper technique subjects your muscles to undue stress. Rocking your hips or not using the full range of motion is a no no. This can lead to joint swelling -- which can be mistaken for the muscle swelling -- and muscle strains or pulls. Consult a personal trainer or an experienced trainer to demonstrate the proper technique. Or, make use of online resources such as ExRx.net and the American Council on Exercise website, Acefitness.org for instructional exercise technique articles.
When it’s Nothing to Worry About
Post-exercise swelling without injury occurs two ways. There is the soreness and swelling you feel right after a workout and then the delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) that occurs the day after working out. The American Council on Exercise suggests that micro-tears to the muscles and connective tissue are the most likely cause. Lengthening contractions of the muscles, which occur with exercises such as biceps curls, increase the likelihood for swelling and soreness. Increasing the intensity or frequency of an exercise or performing a workout for the first time can also cause swelling and soreness. This form of swelling usually disappears on its own after three days and doesn't require treatment.
Signs that Something is Wrong
Swelling from tearing of the muscle fibers is a result of a muscle strain or pull. And unlike DOMS, a muscle strain requires treatment. Look at the source of the swelling for bruising, redness and tenderness. MayoClinic.com states that you may not be able to use the muscle at all and may experience pain when resting or using the muscle. Apply heat or ice packs to the muscle over a towel and consult a doctor to examine the injury for further treatment.
Prevention is Better than Treatment
Always start each weightlifting session with a five-minute warm-up by cycling or jogging at a moderately intense level. Warming up increases your muscles' flexibility and endurance, which helps prevent muscle pulls and strains. However, it does not prevent DOMS-related swelling. Start with light weights and gradually increase the intensity to prevent “shocking” your muscles with heavy weights. The American Council on Exercise recommends you use light weights three times a week for one or two months before increasing the weight.
Frank Yemi has been a professional writer since 2007, and has contributed to several health and fitness magazines. He has worked as a medical fact checker and sports nutritionist in the United Kingdom. Yemi holds a Bachelor of Science in medical physiology, as well as a Master of Science in applied sports nutrition.