Muscle stiffness, strength loss, swelling and soreness following exercise-induced injury in humans

J Physiol. 1993 May;464:183-96. doi: 10.1113/jphysiol.1993.sp019629.


1. In order to study injury-related changes in muscle stiffness, injury to the elbow flexors of thirteen human subjects was induced by a regimen of eccentric exercise. 2. Passive stiffness over an intermediate range of elbow angles was measured with a device which held the relaxed arm of the subject in the horizontal plane and stepped it through the range of elbow angles from 90 deg to near full extension at 180 deg. The relation between static torque and elbow angle was quite linear over the first 50 deg and was taken as stiffness. 3. Stiffness over this range of angles more than doubled immediately after exercise and remained elevated for about 4 days, and may result from low level myofibrillar activation induced by muscle stretch. 4. Arm swelling was biphasic; arm circumference increased by about 3% immediately after exercise, fell back toward normal, then increased by as much as 9% and remained elevated for as long as 9 days. 5. Ultrasound imaging showed most of the swelling immediately following the exercise to be localized to the flexor muscle compartment; subsequent swelling involved other tissue compartments as well. 6. Muscle strength declined by almost 40% after the exercise and recovery was only slight 10 days later; the half-time of recovery appeared to be as long as 5-6 weeks.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Edema / etiology*
  • Edema / physiopathology
  • Elasticity
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Muscle Contraction
  • Muscles / injuries*
  • Muscles / physiopathology*
  • Muscular Diseases / etiology*
  • Muscular Diseases / physiopathology
  • Pain
  • Physical Exertion*