Spring is sprung and it’s that time of year that all over the country people are rushing out to do some gardening after the long winter months and once again take up those outdoor exercise programs that have been so neglected since the Fall. Of course the problem with this sudden surge in outdoor activity is things like sore muscle pains and cramps – as we work those muscles that have been pretty well dormant for the last three or four months. So, what health and vitamin supplements should you be using to help cure those sore muscle aches and pains?
About muscle aches and pains.
Although a muscle ache or pain could be a symptom of a more serious underlying condition, by and large sore muscles and muscle pains like cramps will result from simply a physical over exertion and result in sensations ranging from an uncomfortable feeling through to almost excruciating pain. Muscle aches and pains are split into two main categories, the first of which is soreness. Your physician will probably use a fancy term like DOMS, which is their way of saying that you’ve got a delayed onset muscle soreness – which will be the sort of pain you’ll get through over-doing the gardening, carrying shopping that’s a little too heavy for you or trying to run that marathon before you’re really ready for it. The surprising thing about DOMS is that they can occur a couple of days after the damage has been done to the muscle, which can lead you to wonder why a muscle is suddenly hurting. A more sudden onset of muscle pain and soreness is when you get a cramp, although these too can set in a few hours after the muscle is damaged. Cramps occur when, usually, a thigh, calf or foot muscle contracts rapidly and is then unable to relax again.
Muscle aches and pain awareness.
Your body will often give you a warning of an impending muscle pain episode by causing muscles to tighten during physical exercise. Soreness or stiffness after physical exercise can soften be a prelude to muscle pain within the next 48 hours. Muscle spasms or a muscle feeling hard and knotty will usually mean that the muscle will cramp later on or, in more severe cases, go into spasm when it cannot seem to stop twitching. As well as taking vitamin and health supplements, preventative measures to avoid muscle aches and pains include stretching muscles prior to and after exercising or exerting them, drink plenty of fluid during the exercise and, if a muscle is clearly swollen apply a cold/ice compress to reduce the swelling.
What causes muscle aches and pains?
We’ve already said that muscle aches and pains are caused by a physical over exertion – but how come professional athletes can suffer muscle aches, pains and cramps? The answer in their case is still that they have over exerted themselves compared to what they normally do in their sport, perhaps having to play over-time or extra games in a tennis match etc. Alternatively you could be a super fit fun-runner, but helping that neighbour move his furniture could really give you aches and pains in your back and arms, as your fitness is really concentrated in your legs. So, any muscle that is not worked regularly and suddenly asked to do more work than it is capable of will get stretched more that they are used to and will quite quickly acquire minute tears – causing the pain later on. If the very act of stretching muscles causes the tear this in turn means that most muscle aches and pains arise not from lifting weights but putting them down and will more likely occur when running downhill than up one. Muscle cramps are more to do with the physiology of the body rather than a physical attribute. The ability of the muscles in your body to expand and contract correctly is driven by a balance of minerals and fluids in your body. If that balance is disturbed and you over exert the muscles – they can go into cramps.
Supplements to combat muscle aches and pains.
Ensuring a good balance of minerals and vitamins is essential to helping you avoid getting muscle cramps. This means making sure you’re taking in the correct daily amounts of Sodium, Potassium, Calcium, Magnesium and vitamin E. Sodium deficiency is rarely an issue for people living in America but you might want to consider taking a daily multi-mineral supplement with 2000mg of Potassium, 500mg of Calcium and 200mg of Magnesium. Providing you’re not taking an anti-coagulant a 250mg a day dose of vitamin E will also help you to ward off the cramps, especially calf cramps. If you have sore muscles the health supplement Bromelain, an enzyme produced from the pineapple plant, is an effective anti-inflammatory, which will also drain excess fluid, causing swelling, away from the muscles. Two natural pain killers you can employ are white willow bark, nature’s aspirin, and Valerian to help you sleep if muscle soreness is keeping you awake. For white willow bark take one or two tablets three times a day, using standardised doses with 15% Salicin and/or a single 250mg-500mg dose of Valerian as you’re going to bed. Finally, you could also consider a herbal oil massage rubbed gently into the affected muscles.
See you doctor if …
You get muscle aches, pains or cramps in your chest, any sign of numbness down your arms or legs or if you get any recurring muscle aches and pains. As a precaution you should always consult your physician before taking any supplements.