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Sore Muscles and Joint Pain

As any athlete who has ever engaged in a sudden burst of activity knows, the muscle soreness that can follow an early-season hike is no laughing matter. Muscle pain is common after engaging in new or out-of-the-ordinary activities, after upping the intensity of a workout, or after engaging in exercises that strained your muscles in some way.

What happens when we engage in any of these activities is that our muscle tissues actually experience what is called microdamage. Microdamage is minor damage to the connective tissue and muscle fibers, and it’s what causes soreness about a day or so after an activity has occurred.

Typically, if you engage in the same activity again, your muscles will begin to get used to the strain and will become more elastic, keeping you from feeling sore every time you work out. As your body becomes more accustomed to activity, your joints and muscles will too.

What about joints? When joints feel achy or sore, it can be a sign of osteoarthritis. Osteoarthritis is an inflammatory condition that increases in frequency as you age. When you are young, there is a great deal of cartilage that cushions your joints. As you get older, this cartilage begins to fade and break down, and the cushioning that was once available to your joints is no longer there. This results in inflammation of the joints, which causes you pain.

Preventing sore muscles and joint pain comes down to warming up before a workout and stretching, although researchers have differing opinions on whether stretching really helps joint pain. Antioxidants and Vitamin C have been reported to help with soreness, but it is unsafe to take vitamins in very high doses, so self-treating with Vitamin C is not recommended without consulting with a physician.

If you do have sore muscles or joint pain, ice wrapped in a cloth like a thin towel can be extremely helpful both for immediate and long-term relief. Although heat may help in the moment, it has little impact on long-term healing. You may treat other infrequent incidences of sore muscles by taking a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAIDs) or something like acetaminophen. Of course, if you have long-term pain or pain that occurs frequently, you should consult with a doctor about possible issues and how to treat them.

Ultimately, it’s important to ease into any exercise regimen that you plan to engage in. Too much activity too fast will inevitably lead to sore muscles, joint pain, or other issues. If you want to begin an exercise program after a long time of not exercising at all, it’s a good idea to start out slow. Exercise for twenty minutes a day, and increase the amount of time that you exercise for in small increments. The best way to keep yourself away from pain is to get the body used to the types of activities you’re going to be asking of it.

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