No pain, no gain. Everyone's felt the effects of muscle pain at some point in their lives, and it often interferes with even simple daily tasks. Keep reading to find out what causes muscle pain and how to relieve it.
Causes of Muscle Pain
Muscle pain is caused by overexerting the muscles from a variety of activities. Most muscle pain is totally normal, particularly if you can attribute it to a certain activity. However, sometimes muscle pain is a sign of a more serious problem, so be sure to contact your doctor if muscle pain doesn't subside. Here are some of the top reasons why you may feel muscle pain:
- You're not used to an activity. Were you a couch potato who suddenly found the motivation to hit the gym? Or perhaps you're a runner who did a few extra miles on your Saturday morning route. Either way, you're engaging in an activity that your body isn't used to yet. Muscle soreness is common in both of these instances.
- You went overboard. Pushing yourself in exercise is a great way to continue to build up your stamina, improve your cardiovascular health, and develop stronger muscles. That intensity will likely lead to muscle pain for a couple of days as your muscles work hard to repair the damage the exercise caused.
- Lengthening your muscles. Any time you engage in an activity that lengthens then contracts a muscle, you're likely in for muscle pain. Walking downhill is a great example of muscle lengthening during exercise.
The key takeaway here is that muscle pain is your body telling you that it's not used to an activity, or maybe even that you overdid it a bit. However, the muscle pain is letting your brain know that the muscle worked so hard that it's now focused on repairing itself -- and it will come back stronger once it's healed. Typically, muscle pain peaks at the 48-hour mark, then it will get better.
Muscle Pain Treatment
Heat and then ice? Or ice and then heat? Everyone has a theory. The experts recommend icing first. But don't throw a baggie filled with ice directly on your sore muscles. Instead, wrap it in a towel to lessen the pain you could feel from the cold. And contrary to popular belief, heat won't do much to actually heal the muscle damage. Ice, on the other hand, can put a stop to the inflammation.
If the pain is really difficult to endure, take some acetaminophen, ibuprofen, aspirin, or naproxen to alleviate the pain. But be sure to check with your doctor first if you suffer from kidney or liver issues, or any other underlying medical condition.
Acupressure is another safe way to alleviate muscle pain. With an at-home acupressure tool like Q-Flex, you can apply counter pressure to the muscle and enjoy a deep tissue massage, all in the comfort of your own home and without an appointment with a professional. Q-Flex has a lot of information out there about the best points to hit to alleviate pain in specific areas of the body.
Preventing Muscle Pain
As previously noted, muscle pain is mostly unavoidable in certain situations. However, you can lessen the pain before it happens by stretching, warming up, and cooling down.