We all feel it now and then: the dreaded muscle pain. It comes seemingly out of nowhere and often goes away before we know it. But what about those instances where it lingers for days, even weeks? What do we do then? Do we ignore it and hope it goes away? Or do we try something to alleviate it?
This post will take an in-depth look at muscle pain, what it means, how we can avoid it, and what we can do about it. Let us dive in.
What is Muscle Pain, and what causes it?
You are going about your day, doing things as usual, and then it hits you: muscle pain. It can be dull, sharp, pulsating, or feeling like a muscle spasm. Whatever it is, you notice it. If you are in the middle of a workout, it can prevent you from going further.
The good news is that most muscle aches are nothing to worry about and typically occur due to regular exercise. The bad news is, they tend to be quite common and sometimes stay with us for days.
The most common causes are:
- Overworking a muscle group while exercising or doing manual labor;
- Injuring the muscle, with the most common type being a pulled muscle.
Muscle injuries are typically acute. In other words, you feel it immediately and know when it occurs. Pain from overworking a muscle typically comes later and is commonly dull, pulsating, or feeling like a spasm.
Three habits you should adopt to prevent muscle pain from occurring
1. Warm-up well
We wrote about the importance of warming up previously, and you can read that post here. The fact is, warming up well before physical activity is essential for your well-being, performance, and safety. A good warm-up routine prepares your muscles for the work you are about to do. Specifically, it raises their temperature, improves their elastic properties, and warms up the enzymes responsible for energy production. As a result, you can train better and drastically reduce the risk of muscle injuries like strains.
The best part is, your warm-up does not have to be anything special. As little as five to ten minutes of activity can be more than enough. For instance, do a few minutes of cardio, a couple of minutes of a dynamic warm-up routine, and a few more minutes on warm-up sets.
2. Train Moderately
Causing too much stress to our muscles is a significant reason for muscle pain. Think back to when you were a child, and you spent the entire day outside, running and playing with friends. You might not remember it all too well, but your legs probably had this dull ache in the evening as you were trying to fall asleep. This makes sense, intuitively. The more we stress our muscles, the more damage and metabolic stress we cause. At some point, the disruption can get so significant that we start feeling physical pain. It does not mean anything is wrong with us. It is simply a natural bodily reaction.
One of the best habits you can adopt is to train moderately. Your goal should be to cause just enough stress to see steady improvements over the months. How much training you need will be individual and depend on your recoverability, athleticism, age, stress outside the gym, and more.
But it is worth experimenting to see what works better for you. Who knows? You might find yourself making the same progress without dealing with muscle pain all the time.
3. Stay Hydrated
According to research, our muscles are a whopping 79 percent water. Meaning, each kilogram of muscle consists of 790 milliliters of water.
Staying hydrated is vital because it allows the body to function normally and can prevent muscle pain and spasms. This is especially important when working out and if you sweat a lot.
Recommendations are to drink between two (2) and three (3) liters of water daily. Water, not coffee - beer - soda...
Should you do something when you have Muscle Pain?
What you decide to do should mostly depend on the severity of muscle pain you are experiencing. For most people in most situations, muscle pain will go away in no more than a few days, so there is not anything special you should do. In such a case, you can also go about your training as you usually do. It might even offer active recovery benefits and help you get rid of the pain quicker.
But, should you find yourself experiencing more severe muscle pain that only gets worse with exercise, there is nothing wrong with taking a temporary break. Pain is your body's way of telling you that something might be wrong. For example, if you are dealing with some tissue inflammation, it is best to let it heal before stressing it again.
You can try some light stretching and low-intensity movement (like dynamic stretching, walking, and similar). You should also make sure you are eating healthily and staying hydrated. These things will provide your body with everything it needs to repair itself.
Do any supplements help with Muscle Pain?
The supplements industry is notorious for its many overhyped products that do not do anything for us. As far as muscle pain is concerned, some products appear beneficial, but only under specific circumstances.
Most notably, supplements can help us deal with muscle soreness, but mostly if we are not getting enough of the nutrients they offer. For example, electrolytes can help us resolve muscle soreness and keep cramps away. But, if you stay hydrated and get plenty of electrolytes through good nutrition, these supplements will not offer extra benefits.
Whey protein can also help us deal with soreness and pain. But, again, if we get enough protein through good nutrition, it w will not offer extra benefits.
The only three exceptions here would be taurine, caffeine, and omega-3 fatty acids. These supplements appear to help us deal with pain, but that typically means relieving muscle soreness. If the pain you experience is of a different kind, these supplements might not be beneficial.