You work hard all week, so when the weekend finally rolls around you want to play just as hard. There's nothing like a few rounds of golf, a hike in the mountains, or an intense workout at the gym to reinvigorate you.
Weekend warriors be warned, though -- Saturday and Sunday activities can lead to Monday soreness.
What's Causing My Sore Muscles?
It's normal to have sore muscles after you work out, play sports, or even do housework, especially if:
·You did an activity you're not used to (like running a marathon when you normally jog just a few miles).
·You suddenly kicked up your exercise intensity level or increased the length of your workout.
·You did eccentric exercises, in which you lengthened instead of shortened your muscle (like walking downhill or extending your arm during a bicep curl).
These changes to your exercise routine can lead to tiny injuries called microdamage in the muscle fibers and connective tissue. About a day later, you'll start to feel sore.
"We call that delayed onset muscle soreness," says Ethel Frese, PT, DPT, CCS, associate professor of Physical Therapy at St. LouisUniversity. "It peaks within about 48 hours and then it will gradually get better."
The good news is that when you do the same activity again, your muscles will start to get used to it. "You will actually have no soreness or less soreness, because now you've strengthened the muscle or connective tissue," says Allan H. Goldfarb, PhD, FACSM, professor and exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.
What's Causing My Joint Pain?
When your joints feel sore and achy, that's usually a sign of osteoarthritis. This inflammatory condition becomes more common as you get older. The cartilage that normally cushions the joints wears away, leaving the joints inflamed and painful.
Joint pain can also be caused by overuse or injury -- for example, tennis elbow or a knee injury caused by a ligament or meniscal problem.
Treating Sore Muscles and Joint Pain
One big question a lot of people have when they're nursing sore muscles is whether to use heat or ice. Experts say indirect ice is best for immediate relief. "Heat will feel good while it's on, but it's not going to lessen the damage or make it go away anytime soon," Frese says. Goldfarb recommends icing the sore area right after the activity to reduce inflammation, then using heat later to increase blood flow to the area. Heat also can help relieve joint pain.
If you get sore muscles once in a while, you can take a couple of nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) like ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve, Naprosyn) or aspirin to help relieve the discomfort. Just be cautious about using these drugs regularly. Long-term NSAID use can interfere with your muscles' ability to repair themselves, says Goldfarb.
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) is another over-the-counter option for pain management.
Check with your doctor or pharmacist about any interactions these over-the-counter drugs may have with other medications you take. People with a history of certain medical conditions (such as ulcers, kidney disease, and liver disease) may be advised to avoid some medications.
Sometimes soothing sore muscles requires more than an ice pack or over-the-counter pain reliever. Muscle pain that comes on quickly and feels intense is a sign that you've injured yourself. Call your doctor if your pain is severe or lasts for more than a few days.
How Do I Prevent Sore Muscles and Joint Pain?
Experts used to recommend stretching before a workout to prevent sore muscles. Yet research has shown that stretching ahead of time doesn't do much to prevent soreness or injury. It's actually better to get in a good warm-up before you exercise and save the stretching for afterward, when your muscles are already warm, Frese says.A couple of natural substances have been touted for preventing sore muscles, including antioxidants like vitamin C, but check with your doctor before taking high doses of any vitamin. Serious exercisers might find relief from post-workout soreness by beefing up on protein. A study of marines found that taking protein supplements reduced sore muscles after intense exercise. One of the best ways to prevent sore muscles is by easing your way into your exercise routine. "Start off with lighter exercise and gradually build up. Then you're much less likely to cause the microtrauma," says Frese. Goldfarb recommends increasing your exertion level by only about 10% at a time.When you have joint pain, you may be tempted to curl up in bed. Actually, one of the best things you can do for your joints is to exercise. "Our joints need to move to get nutrition," says Frese. Weight-bearing exercises can help strengthen the muscles that support the joint. Just watch that you don't exercise to the point of pain.It also can help to work with a physical therapist, who can show you how to exercise safely and how to maintain good posture so that you don't get injured or worsen joint pain.
Bob Zunino, B.A., A.F.A.A. Personal Trainer Tel/Fax: 510.530.3748 Email: email@example.com