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How to Manage Muscle Soreness and Joint Pain

Sometimes we have soreness or stiffness that shows up a couple days after working out or doing physical exercise. This soreness and stiffness doesn’t mean you’re doing anything wrong, and doesn’t mean you need to slow down.

Why am I getting sore muscles?

Sore muscles are normal and an expected part of working out, playing sports, or really any physical activity. This is especially true if you’re doing things you don’t do very often. For example, if you haven’t been running in a while and you go out and jog three miles, then you’re going to get some soreness because you’re working your muscles in a way they aren’t used to.

This can also happen if you work out longer than you’re accustomed to, or if you work out harder than you’re accustomed to. Changes in your routine can lead to small injuries or tears in your muscle fibers and connective tissue. This isn’t wrong! Your muscles will strengthen and get used to the activity. The soreness you’re feeling is a part of the process in these microinjuries repairing themselves.

Why am I having joint pain?

Joint pain is not as routine as soreness. Joints feeling achy and sore is usually a sign of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition that becomes more common with older age. The cartilage that normally cushions joints wears away. This leaves joints inflamed and causes pain.

Joint pain can also come about from overuse or from injury, such as a problem with a ligament or meniscus. Ligaments are bands of tissue that connect your bones to your body and a meniscus is a rubbery disc that cushions your knee.

How to treat sore muscles and joint pain?

Typically people think of two options for relief against sore muscles or joint pain – ice or heat. While heat will feel good when it’s being applied, it won’t actually help treat the issue or make it go away. Indirect ice – such as an ice pack wrapped in a towel – is best for quick relief. Many studies suggest that best practice is to ice the area directly after exercise, as this will help curb inflammation – and then apply heat at a later time to help bring blood to the area to help your body repair itself.

A more pain-oriented remedy is taking a pain relief product (such as acetaminophen) or an anti-inflammatory drug such as aspirin or ibuprofen. Be cautious with anti-inflammatory drugs though, as long-term use can weaken your muscle’s ability to repair itself. It’s also important to check with a doctor or pharmacist about over-the-counter drugs, especially if you have kidney disease, liver disease, or other conditions.

While some soreness and joint pain can be treated with ice and a couple days of time, is you have joint paint or muscle pain that is severe or lasts more than a few days, you should call a doctor as it may be more serious.

Can I prevent sore muscles and join pain?

One big way to help prevent sore muscles is stretching. One misconception is that you should perform static stretches as the first thing before exercise. Experts say it’s actually better to get your stretches in after warming up your muscles with light dynamic stretches and movement. Stretching your muscles with static stretches before warming up your body will not really stretch your muscles in a way that helps performance or prevents soreness.

One of the easiest ways to prevent sore muscles is easing into an exercise routine. If you’re not used to heavy workouts or long exercise, start lighter or shorter and build up gradually as your body adjusts. While sore muscles are a natural response to tearing muscles in strength training or in that building of an exercise routine, it shouldn’t be a severe pain if you slowly build your routine.

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