Healthy Living

Sore Muscles and Joint Pain

Sore Muscles and Joint Pain

Causes of sore muscles

  • An activity you are not used to
  • A sudden increase in intensity or length of the exercise
  • Lengthening of the muscles, like walking down hill

Soreness starts after a day when these activities cause small injuries, called microdamage, in the muscle fibers and connective tissue. Ethel Frese, PT, DPT, CCS, associate professor of Physical Therapy at St. Louis University, calls this delayed onset muscle soreness. This increases within 48 hours of the activity and then it gradually reduces. Once the person starts to do the activity again the muscles get used to it causing the person no pain or less pain. “This is because the muscles and the connective tissue get strengthened when it is repeated," says Allan H. Goldfarb, PhD, FACSM, professor and exercise physiologist at the University of North Carolina, Greensboro.

Causes of Joint Pain

Osteoarthritis is one of the major causes of sore and achy joints; the condition tends to worsen with age. It is caused by the wear and tear of cartilage that cushions the joints, which results in inflammation and pain. Overuse and injury, and can also result in joint pain.

Treatment of sore muscles and joints

According to experts, using ice indirectly, as an ice pack wrapped in a towel, is the ideal treatment for immediate relief. “Heat gives a good feeling when it is applied, but it does not reduce the damage," says Frese. According to Goldfarb, inflammation can be reduced by using ice packs immediately after activity. Alternating it with heat will help to increase blood flow to the area. Heat is ideal to relieve pain in the joints.

One can use acetaminophen or non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) to relieve sore muscles, if it happens every so often. “Long-term use of NSAIDs can affect the normal repair of muscles," warns Goldfarb. One should discuss with a doctor about drug interactions, if another medication is being used.

Muscle injuries can be easily identified by muscle pain that starts suddenly and intensifies with time. Call a doctor if the pain is intense or if it remains for more than few days.

Prevention or sore muscles and joints

“Having a good warm-up before exercise and stretching after activity, when the muscles are warm, would be of help to prevent sore muscles”, says Frese. Antioxidants like vitamin C are considered to be good in preventing sore muscles.

One of the best ways to prevent sore muscles is to gradually build up an exercise routine, rather than suddenly increasing it. “This will prevent the microdamages that leads to soreness," says Frese. According to Goldfarb, it is better to increase exertion level by about 10% at a time. Always discuss with a doctor for a safe and effective exercise routine if you have a medical condition or if you are unsure about your health. “One might feel like taking rest when you have joint pain but one of the best things to relieve the pain is exercise”, says Frese. The ideal option would be weight-bearing exercise that can strengthen muscles to support the joint.