Etiology of exercise-induced muscle damage

Can J Appl Physiol. 1999 Jun;24(3):234-48. doi: 10.1139/h99-020.


Muscle damage is caused by strenuous and unaccustomed exercise, especially exercise involving eccentric muscle contractions, where muscles lengthen as they exert force. Damage can be observed both directly at the cellular level and indirectly from changes in various indices of muscle function. Several mechanisms have been offered to explain the etiology of the damage/repair process, including mechanical factors such as tension and strain, disturbances in calcium homeostasis, the inflammatory response, and the synthesis of stress proteins (heat shock proteins). Changes in muscle function following eccentric exercise have been observed at the cellular level as an impairment in the amount and action of transport proteins for glucose and lactate/H+, and at the systems level as an increase in muscle stiffness and a prolonged loss in the muscle's ability to generate force. This paper will briefly review factors involved in the damage/repair process and alterations in muscle function following eccentric exercise.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Calcium / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Glucose / metabolism
  • Heat-Shock Proteins / biosynthesis
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / metabolism
  • Lactic Acid / metabolism
  • Muscle Contraction / physiology
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Muscle, Skeletal / pathology*
  • Muscle, Skeletal / physiopathology
  • Myositis / pathology
  • Myositis / physiopathology
  • Pain / metabolism
  • Pain / pathology
  • Pain / physiopathology
  • Sprains and Strains / pathology
  • Sprains and Strains / physiopathology
  • Stress, Mechanical


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Heat-Shock Proteins
  • Lactic Acid
  • Hydrogen
  • Glucose
  • Calcium