Despite the drop off in weather conditions that we have just encountered in Geelong, I am pleasantly surprised to find that there a still a lot of people motivated enough to start a new activity, whether that be a boot camp, walking, going to the gym or starting their first training program for an upcoming 5 or 10km run. As a Myotherapist with a general philosophy of “move it or lose it”, it’s fantastic to see people exercising, which should lead to a happier and healthier musculoskeletal system.
The only down side to this new found activity or sport can be “beginner pain’s”. Beginner pain is a non clinical term that I use to refer to injuries or pains like shin splints, runners knee, ITB syndrome, bursitis and general hip and lower back pain that only begin due to a sudden and often pretty full on increase in activity level, or starting a completely new activity for the first time.
One of the main reasons for joint soreness when you take up a new activity is that the tendons, ligaments and cartilage are adjusting to the new forces and load being placed on them. Tendons in particular hate a sudden change in work load, they respond best to gradual increases in exercises, which is normally the exact opposite of what we do when we’re on a “get fit” campaign. Doing too much too soon, is the main reason a Myotherapist would see injuries in people taking up a new activity.
The second and more common reason for soreness after exercise is general muscular soreness known as DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness) DOMS normally beings the day after exercise, feels like your muscles are heavy and aching and usually resolves in 24 to 48 hrs. DOMS is a healthy and normal part of exercising your muscles.
How do I manage my exercise soreness?
- Loading is really important in the management of your pain, less is more when you are starting out. Aim for a one day on, two day off program for the first 2-4 weeks (eg. Exercise Monday, rest Tuesday and Wednesday, exercise Thursday). This gives your body time to recover and repair any micro damage to the soft tissue structures. After the first 4 weeks you can slowly add more exercise days into your week.
- If that knee or hip has been sore for over a week, and you are feeling that pain in an isolated area of your body consistently, then get is checked out by your therapist. It’s ok to feel like a truck has hit you a day or two after exercise. It’s the pains that are focal to a specific area of the body that raise injury concerns as opposed to general muscle soreness like DOMS.
- Ice any sore spots as soon as practically possible after exercise, 10 min of icing every hour or two is good practice. Ice reduces excess swelling that may occur within injured tissue and leads to a faster recovery time.
- Stretch! 5 min of stretching after you exercise can reduce muscle soreness, but is vital for overall muscle and joint health.
- How old are those shoes? Are you still wearing your runners from 3 years ago? The materials that provide the cushioning in your shoe compress down over time, so even if they look ok on the outside your shoes may not be providing you with enough cushioning any more.
The positive news is that if managed correctly these aching knees, ankles or hips shouldn’t keep you from doing your new found activity or hobby for long. The key though is to act quickly on aches and pains that have been present for 1-2 weeks, at this stage small courses of treatment and minor changes in your exercise routine will lead to fast and positive outcomes. This will see you looking forward to signing up for your next boot camp or fun run rather than dreading it.