It doesn’t matter if you’re a professional athlete or a nine to fiver: nearly everyone has experienced muscle stiffness at some point in their lives. Whether it hits you in the morning the day after a serious workout or after a long day at the office, it can leave you with debilitating pain and discomfort that’s slow to fade.
Fortunately, muscle stiffness can be managed or even avoided altogether with a few preventative measures. We’ll outline some steps you can take to keep your muscles relaxed throughout the day.
THE SOURCES OF STIFFNESS
Muscle stiffness can be caused by a variety of sources. The most common, of course, is injury. Muscle strains can consist of partial or complete tears of the muscle fibers, resulting in moderate to severe pain and a general sense of stiffness or immobility in the affected muscles.
Muscle stiffness can also be caused by simply exercising. It’s particularly common after undertaking a new or unusually intense workout, since the muscle fibers are unaccustomed to the sudden stresses of the routine. While patients may not initially experience any stiffness or soreness, they will likely crop up in the days following the workout.
Muscle stiffness can also be a product of environmental and behavioral factors, including cold weather, a lack of sleep, poor diet, and a lack of regular physical activity. Common illnesses such as the cold and the flu can stiffen the muscles, as well, as can more serious diseases such as tetanus or multiple sclerosis. Medications, including statins and surgical anaesthetics, can further contribute to muscle stiffness.
In general, muscle stiffness can be prevented simply by avoiding the activities that cause it, or better preparing for them. Since cold weather increases the likelihood of stiffness, for example, wearing warm clothing in the winter can help to safeguard your muscles. Similarly, correcting your posture and sitting in supportive chairs when working can minimize the stress on your muscles and prevent them from tightening.
Since it’s most often caused by strenuous exercise, muscle stiffness is best prevented by taking some precautions before, during, and after workouts. Be sure to adequately warm up and cool down, wear correct footwear, and stretch before beginning your regimen. Avoiding long periods of inactivity and exercising regularly also keeps your muscles as relaxed as they should be.
While some patients may suffer from persistent stiffness in their muscles, most can enjoy quick and lasting relief with a few conservative measures. As obvious as it may sound, simply resting the afflicted areas can help the body repair any strains in the affected muscles, promoting a quicker recovery. Physical therapy and specialized stretches can also soothe tight muscles and restore their strength and flexibility. Over-the-counter painkillers and anti-inflammatories, applying hot and cold compresses, and massaging the affected areas can further facilitate your body’s recovery.
In more severe cases, muscle stiffness may be a symptom of a serious underlying condition. If your stiffness doesn’t respond to these at-home treatments, be sure to speak with an orthopedic specialist as soon as possible. Our team at New York Bone & Joint brings together orthopedic specialists, sports medicine experts, and physical therapists with decades of combined experience in treating musculoskeletal conditions. Call us today to schedule an appointment!