This is a Q and A with Dr. Mary Apiafi. Dr. Apiafi is a sports medicine physician practicing with the Community Orthopedic Specialty Care office in Kokomo.
Q: Why do muscles get sore after certain types of activities, like weight lifting?
A: Activities such as weightlifting put repetitive stress on muscles. This demand helps muscle increase its strength over time, however, if one is just starting an exercise routine, this repetitive stress can lead to muscle soreness. This usually peak in 24 to 48 hours and typically resolves in three to 7 days.
Q: Is a little bit of soreness a good thing or a sign that you over exerted yourself?
A: Soreness after an exercise routine, especially at the onset of a new exercise routine is expected. Allow the body some time to heal and recover. A good stretching regimen is important. Proper nutrition and fluid intake is key. However, if you have pain that persists or becomes debilitating, muscle swelling or urine that looks dark it is important to seek medical care.
Q: Are there symptoms a person can look for to know whether their muscle is sore versus strained or something more serious?
A: If you can identify an injury, a pop, a twist that led to pain, local swelling, a bruising pattern in an area, or difficultly bearing weight across a body part it could be time to see a doctor.
Q: How much time do your muscles and joints need to recover after intense workouts or long runs? For example, can you run five miles, or lift weights multiple days in a row or do your muscles need days off in between to recover?
A: Rest periods between exercises is dependent on the type of activity being performed, the intensity of the exercise, the frequency and duration, the nutrition state of the individual performing the activity, the amount of stress the activity imposes and how fast the individual recovers. Someone doing a light walk or jog for 30 minutes may be able to do this for five to six days without difficulty. However for intense exercise routines adequate rest in-between workout session is recommended. The exact number of days varies depending on the factors listed above.
Q: Can you explain the difference in using ice versus heat and when you should use heat or ice?
A: There is always confusion surrounding when to use ice versus heat. The simple answer is to use ice for new injuries. Using ice helps to calm down irritated tissues that are inflamed. Although the inflammatory process that occurs after a new injury is a natural process, it is also quite painful. Ice helps to numb this pain. Heat may be used for stiff achy muscles, chronic joint pain and trigger points. One can also alternate between ice and heat. Alternating between ice and heat is usually used during therapy for an injury.
Q: Is there a recommended amount of time that someone should stretch before they work out?
A: It’s recommended to stretch prior to a bout of exercise and after the conclusion of a workout routine. What’s important is the knowledge that you should never stretch when cold. A light warm-up session prior to an exercise routine is recommended. A nice long cool down period including stretching is recommended for more intense exercising.