September 27, 2022
Have you ever participated in a sports game, ran around the yard with the kids and family dog, or even completed a physical therapy or training session and thought to yourself “Man! I am sore!”? This is a very common reaction the body may have to any sort of physical activity. As we use our muscles, whether it be in competition or with general exercise, small micro-tears occur within the tissues. This process is necessary in order to build muscle mass. As the tissues repair themselves, they repair in a stronger form than what they were previously, allowing the muscles to grow. But what do we do when we are sore? How do we get rid of the soreness or, at the very least, decrease the soreness so we can play again tomorrow? There are a few things to keep in mind when trying to help your body through the recovery process.
- Stay hydrated! Keeping hydrated will help the muscles during the repair process. Water assists in the transfer of nutrients to the cells. If the cells don’t have enough nutrients, it will be more difficult for them to repair, forcing a longer recovery process. Water will also take away any waste the body does not need to recover. Mountain Dew and iced tea cannot do this! I get the question all the time— “Can’t I just drink my iced tea or my pop? It helps quench my thirst.” The answer is no! While specific sports drinks have the ability to replenish electrolytes and assist in recovery, they do not have the ability to push nutrients and remove waste. So drink that water!
- Ice! Ice! Ice! Icing can have a couple different effects on the muscles and joints following a workout. The main contribution ice makes to the recovery process is decreasing edema, or swelling, in the area. After playing or exercising at higher levels, it can be common to see an influx of swelling due to the rate at which those body parts are working. Ice will constrict the blood vessels and decrease the amount of fluids to the area. Keeping swelling low will allow for greater flexibility and range of motion in the joints and muscles and decrease overall tightness you may be feeling.
- Stretch! This one may seem obvious, but it is important enough to mention over and over! As our bodies move throughout the day, our muscles are constantly contracting and relaxing. This repetition can increase the tension within the muscle bellies, creating stiffness in joints and muscles. Now picture that at a much faster rate as your running around the baseball diamond or squatting with weights in the gym. By stretching muscles for at least 30 seconds at time, we can effectively change the extensibility, or flexibility, within the tissues and improve the length of the muscle itself.
So next time you’re feeling tight and sore after a workout, take a few minutes to work through these steps. While completing one of these steps, you may feel a little relief, but it likely won’t be enough to make much of a difference on your body. Combining these three recovery strategies will not only help you feel better following a workout or game, but also get you back in the game faster. If you experience soreness and discomfort that lasts longer than 48-72 hours, there may be something more happening within the body that simple stretching can’t cure. Contact your doctor or local physical therapist to determine the issue. Us physical therapists here at Witte Physical Therapy can get you set up on an individual treatment plan that will get you down the road to recovery! Call us today at 402-234-3333 and we can help you schedule a consult or evaluation with a licensed therapist.