Guest Author - Elizabeth Brennan
If you use muscles that you have not used for some time you are likely to suffer from stiffness, soreness and even pain. While the best advice is not to overdo any new activity, sometimes despite our best efforts muscle pain and fatigue become a reality. This is caused by muscle tension, stress, overuse or sprain and strain.
There are three types of muscle pain which you may experience
• Acute muscle soreness during or immediately after exercise
• Delayed Onset muscle soreness which you will experience between 24 to 48 hours after exercise
• Muscle Cramps which are caused by intense active contraction of the muscle.
Before you start your walk you can take some precautions to reduce or eliminate the threat of muscle pain.
• Make sure you are well hydrated. Drink before your walk and during it as you become thirsty.
• Drink a sports drink after your walk to replace essential salts lost through sweating or urinating.
• Eat a banana after walking to replace lost potassium.
• Warm up before your walk and stretch afterwards.
If you get a cramp during exercise stop and massage the muscle affected. Gently stretch the muscle and keep in the stretched position until the cramp eases. Most muscle cramps are not serious but if they persist or occur frequently consult your medical advisor.
For acute muscle soreness after exercise apply an ice pack. Wrap the ice or ice pack in a towel and apply to the affected area for about twenty minutes. Never put ice directly onto the skin as it may burn the skin. If you are unfortunate enough to sprain an ankle or pull a muscle in your leg, run the cold water tap on it for as long as you can bear it. Repeat several times. This will prevent swelling.
If the muscle pain is localised for example in the calves of the leg massage will help. Cover the area with massage oil and using the palms of the hands, thumbs and fingers rub the area from the ankles up in the direction of your heart. Use every hand motion you can – pummelling, kneading, squeezing, or pinching the skin to untangle the muscles. Finish off by gently rubbing the whole area with the palms of the hands.
A hot bath to which you have added Epsom Salts and oil of lavender is a marvellous relaxant. Epsom salts is magnesium sulphate and when absorbed by the skin draws toxins from the body, reduces inflammation and relaxes the nervous system. Put two cupfuls into a hot bath with a few drops of lavender oil. Lavender oil relaxes and relaxation helps ease the tension in muscles. Epsom salts is also available as a gel for topical application. Caffeine taken in the form of tea, coffee, caffeine tablets or a caffeine loaded soft drink after your walk will help relax muscles and minimise pain and fatigue.
Some research suggests that muscle pain is caused by a build up of lactic acid in the muscles. While this has not been proven taking a bicarbonate of soda tablet after exercise may help to counteract the acid build up and reduce pain.
Delayed onset muscle soreness may only present up to forty eight hours after the exercise. Heat treatment in the form of hot water bottle, electric blanket or electric heat pads will help if applied to the affected areas. Face towels may be soaked in hot water, squeezed out and then applied. Repeat this several times until you notice a reduction of discomfort. A hot bath as described above for acute pain will also improve the situation. Heat relaxes the muscles and reduces pain.
If the pain and stiffness is really bad or persists, proprietary pain killers which include an anti – inflammatory ingredient taken in conjunction with some of the above remedies may be needed.
There are many heat producing topical gel rubs available from drug stores which will also help ease the pain.
Sodium Bicarbonate tablets neutralise lactic acid build up in the muscles and relieve pain.
Rugby Sodium Bicarbonate 10 grams tablets relieve heartburn, antacid - 1000 ea
Epsom salts is a wonderful pain reliever when used in a hot bath.