KEYS TO FITNESS: Understanding Muscle Soreness

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By SHEILA YONEMOTO, P.T.YONEMOTO, SHEILA-color

Acute muscle soreness starts during or immediately after strenuous activity and may persist for several hours. When you stop exercising, blood flow increases, and pain soon disappears.

Delayed soreness appears 8-48 hours after exercise and may result from tissue tears, irritation or local muscle spasm. A full warm-up helps prevent soreness. Athletes should gradually increase workload and duration, and cool down after exercise to dissipate wastes. Apply ice to exercised areas to lessen muscle spasm and follow with massage to rid the area of wastes using strong intermittent pressure to press out edema.

For muscular soreness, stretch statically to the point of pain and hold. With severe soreness, you may apply ice. At first you feel coldness, then aching. The area soon becomes numb. You may then begin stretching, performing one-minute stretches in sets of three, separated by five minutes of ice massage.

A full warm-up is the most beneficial activity you can do to prepare for exercise. A warm-up mentally and physically mobilizes you for activities. A general warm-up includes jogging, stretching, calisthenics and some resistive exercises. For athletes, the sport-specific part includes stretches and movements you will use in the sport, but not at maximum intensity.

We also need to warm up when we are going to do other kinds of strenuous activity. Psychologically, it relieves tenseness and tightness and relaxes you so you can concentrate. Physiologically, the warm-up increases circulation and respiration.

Muscle soreness may be avoided by a proper warm-up, which also promotes agility and alertness and decreases movement time. Joint range of motion increases, allowing better technique, new skill acquisition and reduction in injuries.

After any vigorous activity, you should cool down. The cool-down includes light jogging and stretching, which relaxes your body, lessens muscle spasm, and removes waste products. Soreness will be reduced, and you will feel better.

The regimen of the warm-up and cool-down done on a minor scale, 10 to 15 minutes each day, will help you “make it through the day” easier, and is recommended for everyone, with one caveat. If you are a patient who is now undergoing treatment, do not undertake any such activity until you have first cleared it with your doctor or physical therapist. You may worsen your present injury.

Remember, start gradually and build up slowly. If, for some reason, you have to miss several days, don’t take up where you left off. Start over again. Doing too much too soon is often as serious as doing nothing at all. Set your own pace.

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Sheila Yonemoto, P.T., has been a physical therapist for more than 30 years, specializing in integrative manual therapy, utilizing a holistic approach. She can be reached at Yonemoto Physical Therapy, 55 S. Raymond Ave., Suite 100, Alhambra, CA 91801. She offers a qigong “Chinese energy” exercise class. Your first class is free. Call (626) 576-0591 for more information or visit www.yonemoto.com.

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