By Lawrence Labrique
Whether you’ve overdone it at the gym, been on a long run or just been standing all day, most people have experience stiff joints at one time or another.
But while muscle aches and pains are commonplace, if it is happening to you often or for no apparent reason, there could be an underlying cause.
Lauren Labrique from Healthista has been speaking to the experts to find out why it happens and exactly what can be done about it….
VITAMIN D DEFICIENCY
Studies have implicated vitamin D deficiency in nonspecific musculoskeletal pain and suggest that supplementation decreases pain in some people, says Dr Deyo Famuboni, a London GP and Healthista blogger.
‘Our bodies are made of cells, which have vitamin D receptors.’ she explains.
The receptors, found in muscles, can become hypersensitive in a deficient state and cause soreness.
‘In bone, the lack of vitamin D affects how we absorb calcium which makes the bones softer and can become painful.
‘The muscles are attached to these bones and as they aren’t well supported, can become weak and sore.’
‘Sun exposure on your arms and legs for 15-20 minutes a day will up your levels of Vitamin D and reduce symptoms of deficiency,’ reveals Dr. Famuboni.
There are also Vitamin D supplements available if it’s cloudy outside.
‘Women can sometimes get general weakness which they feel as aches due to iron deficiency from heavy periods,’ says Dr. Famuboni.
This common cause of muscle soreness can be eased with dietary sources of both iron and vitamin D, such as nuts, beans, and spinach for iron and fish, eggs, and mushrooms for vitamin D.
If you are concerned about these causes and symptoms, it’s worth having your levels checked, she says.
‘But if you are under chronic stress then they can be tense all the time because they do not get the release of running or fighting,’ she explains.
Relaxation techniques and certain nutrients can help reduce stress. B vitamins, magnesium, theanine, and Siberian ginseng have all been know to help with relaxation.
Dr. Marilyn Glenville uses these and NHP’s Tranquil Woman Support supplement in her clinic.
UNDERLYING MEDICAL CONDITIONS
‘Some more serious causes come from inflammatory joint and muscle problems such as polymyalgia rheumatic, arthritis, and mechanical joint problems,’ explains Dr. Famuboni.
‘Mechanical joint problems generally occur from chronic wear and tear. In the shoulders, this is often from heavy handbags; in the knees, back, and feet from inappropriate footwear’.
An underactive thyroid, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, viral illnesses and certain medications can also result in muscle soreness.
For all of these potential causes a professional opinion is recommended.
Muscle sprains from accidental injury, intense exercise, or manual work often set in 1-2 days after the activity.
‘When we exercise and strain the muscles, microscopic tears are created which the body will then repair in order to build new muscle mass, says Kelly Du Buisson, trainer and Healthista blogger.
‘The more lean muscle the body has the more weight loss or definition. So these tiny tears create soreness and stiffness in the body, which is known as Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS,’ she says.
6 WAYS TO HELP MUSCLE SORENESS
EAT PROTEIN AFTER EXERCISE
‘Make sure you include more protein after a workout or exertion such as fish, beans, eggs and quinoa as your muscles need protein,’ advises leading women’s health expert.
‘Drink more water so that you are not dehydrated and avoid coffee and alcohol as they will cause more dehydration’.
HAVE AN ICE BATH
Having an ice bath after exercise will slow blood flow and reset hormone levels or adding Epsom salts can help replenish lost minerals
Getting into a hot bath straight after exercise will only exacerbate muscle soreness.
Instead try an ice bath straight after exercise to slow the blood flow and reset your hormone levels, suggests Kelly Du Buisson.
Magnesium is important to relaxing the muscles, so you can take muscle relaxants or anti-inflammatories if the pain is severe.
Dr Glenville recommends taking a bath in Epsom salts and magnesium flakes to ease sore muscles.
….AND EPSOM BATH SALTS
You can also try Epsom salts baths. ‘Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts a few hours after exercise will help draw toxins out of the muscles and stimulate recovery,’ Kelly Du Buisson adds.
‘Sweating through exercise depletes the body of essential salts and minerals so Epsom salts, potassium supplements and taking magnesium supplements will help to aid muscle recovery.’
DON’T FORGET TO MOVE – EVEN ON REST DAYS
The more blood flow into the muscles, the faster the recovery time.
‘While it is tempting to do nothing and stay still to avoid muscle pain, gentle stretches and easing back into usual activities is best,’ insists Dr. Glenville.
Walking on rest days between tough exercise sessions is a great way of doing ‘active recovery’ – a big buzzword of the moment.
MASSAGE THE MUSCLES
Massaging the muscles can help with all these causes of muscle soreness and support the recommended treatments.
‘Sports massages have physical, physiological, neurological, and psychological benefits,’ explains Tim Paine, sports therapist and author of The Complete Guide to Sports Massage.
‘It’s the skilled manipulation of soft tissue that leads to the relief and treatment of muscle soreness and pain, the maintenance of muscle balance and improved flexibility; and enhanced rehabilitation from injury’.
Muscle massages can help relax a person before the stress response happens, or relax the muscles after the stress response tenses them.
The stress response happens during exercise and also obviously during times of stress.
During it, your body goes into ‘fight or flight’ mode and stress hormones such as adrenaline and cortisol flood into the muscles in preparation and this can cause the build up of waste products such as lactic and uric acid in the body that later lead to sore muscles.
Massage can also reduce swelling, increase blood flow, and get oxygen and nutrients to the muscles, making it easier for muscles to recover after being strained, according to Tim.