We all know the pain of sore muscles after leg day. There is nothing better than that heavy ache in your muscles when you know you’ve worked your body hard and had a good workout session. There is probably nothing worse however than feeling your sore muscles for the next few days and not wanting to move or exercise again! The aim is to get into a regular routine of exercise and fitness, so you don’t want a harder workout session to stop your momentum because you’re sore. If you’re an elite athlete then you will have massage therapists, ice baths, hot tubs, electric stimulation and more at your disposal. But what about us – the ordinary people – who just need to be able to get our arms through our shirts the next day? How do you look after your sore muscles and ease the pain at home?
Ease Sore Muscles: Don’t Stop Moving
A recent study has shown that light activity can help ease sore muscles just as well as a massage. Although it might be tempting to rest your muscles by not moving them too much, this actually isn’t the best way to look after your muscles. It is important to keep on moving and getting those muscles working. In the study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research, the researchers asked 20 women to perform shoulder exercises. Two days later, the women received a 10-minute massage on one shoulder and performed 10 minutes of exercise (a lighter intensity version of the original moves) on the other. Participants felt equal amounts of relief in both shoulders. It is thought that the movement created by light exercise is just as efficient in increasing circulation of blood and essential nutrients required for muscle repair. Furthermore, Professor Lars Andersen of the study says that, “physical activity may help speed up the body’s drainage of the metabolic waste and chemicals linked with muscle aches.”
So don’t stop moving! Get out and go for an easy jog or light walk. Anything that you find easy and enjoyable; nothing that makes you burn again. It is a good idea to pick movements that will get the sore muscles moving – this will ensure circulation will head to the muscles they need to go to. It is less helpful to go for a walk when your biceps are aching from those dumbbell curls the day before. Instead try going to the basketball court and shooting some hoops to get those arms moving and that blood circulating into your biceps. If your whole body is sore, then pick something like swimming or the elliptical machine that will get all your muscles moving in a gentle manner.
Ease Sore Muscles: Stretch
After a light warm up to get your body and muscles warm, get stretching. Target those sore muscles you will be particularly working and gentle move them through their full length. Do this before you workout to prevent your muscles from injury and after to keep that blood circulating. If you are unsure about how to stretch, ask your friendly Personal Trainer for some advice. A good way to learn some easy stretches is to join a group class and learn from the instructor what to do.
Ease Sore Muscles: Hydrate
Make sure you drink some water before you start exercising so your body doesn’t dehydrate and sip some water throughout your workout. Your body needs a lot of water to work well and will use up even more when you exercise, so for good muscle recovery you need to make sure you are replenishing your body of water. Grab a bottle you can sip and carry around with you for a couple hours after your work out and you will find rehydrating a lot easier. Avoid drinks that will do the opposite and dehydrate you like caffeine.
Ease Sore Muscles: Massage
Using the same principle as moving, massage gets that nutrient-rich blood flowing through your sore muscles again. Sometimes a massage can be more effective in targeting certain muscles that have particularly seized up with pain. If you can’t get yourself to a massage therapist, invest in a foam roller or a tennis ball to lie on specific muscles. Allow the foam or ball to press into the muscle and stretch it out as your body relaxes into the floor. Hold for a good stretch and gently move it around above and below as you feel your muscle loosening up.
Ease Sore Muscles: Ice It
While a hot bath or shower might be what you need to relax and get those muscles floppy again, ice will help to stop further injury and promote healing. “A hot bath will provide overall relaxation and mild pain relief, but icing actually prevents further muscle damage and speeds healing,” Joseph Bosco, M.D. a specialist in sports medicine.
Ease Sore Muscles: Eat
Your muscles are hungry after they are exerted, and in particular they are hungry for protein. Think smart about your first meal after a work out and incorporate some fish, poultry, lean meat, lentils, nuts or quinoa into your diet.
Ease Sore Muscles: Paracetamol
If the pain is unbearable and it is hanging around, you may be tempted to use a drug that will target the inflammation like Ibuprofen or other non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs. While these will help you feel better, they’ll also halt your body’s production of a group of lipid compounds called prostaglandins, which research shows help muscles heal. Physiotherapist Jaime Edelstein recommends that taking ordinary Paracetamol (Acetominophen) can help temporarily curb pain without preventing muscles from repairing themselves.
Unless you’ve actually torn or injured your muscle, your body will eventually repair itself and the pain will subside. If you have got unbearable pain that won’t go away, it is best to go and seek medical advice. You need to look after your muscles well and remember to keep your body moving to allow that blood to circulate. Try not to freeze up initially and as you start to feel less pain, gradually ease your way back into your usual work out regime. The goal is to get you moving more, not less!
At AJ’s we have sports physiotherapists onsite who can give you a massage or advise you on your muscle pain. Make an appointment today!
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