Sun shining. Windows open. Flowers blooming. Spring has finally sprung! Aside from enjoying the weather, it is also the time of year for spring cleaning and gardening, which can leave your back, neck and shoulder muscles feeling sore and achy… but is the soreness you are feeling normal, or a sign of serious injury?
When we get back to activity after a long period of rest or inactivity, our muscles may not be ready for the increased work load and may howl in protest. Sometimes you may feel the muscles getting sore as you work. Other times you will not notice the discomfort until well after you finish the activity. Delayed onset of muscle soreness (DOMS) comes within 24-48 hours of the activity and typically lasts 48-72 hours before going away. If the pain you are feeling can be described as “sore” or “achy”, hurts more along the muscle itself when you flex or stretch it, and may be tender to touch, you most likely overdid your spring cleaning, weekend warrior sport, or gardening.
No need to worry – research shows that light exercise or activity and over-the-counter anti-inflammatories like Advil and Aleve, or analgesics like Tylenol and aspirin, can help you get through the period of soreness. You can also try using ice on the painful area within the first 72 hours of experiencing muscle soreness. After 72 hours, switch to heat. But most importantly, keep moving! Resting in bed, waiting for the soreness to go away is not the answer. Moving around will increase the blood flow to your sore muscles and help the discomfort to go away quicker.
If the symptoms are still hanging around after 10-14 days, you may have injured something more seriously, or caused more significant inflammation than a mild strain. If this is the case, make an appointment to see your health care practitioner for an evaluation. Your physical therapist is an expert in the musculoskeletal system and can determine if your injury needs additional medical attention. Primary care physicians and orthopedists are other medical professionals who can determine whether additional treatment is needed.
If you are concerned that your aches and pains are more than the “garden variety” and want to find out if there is anything else you can do or should do, call your physical therapist at Trinity Rehab to take a look. We are always happy to help.
Visit our locations page to find a New Jersey Trinity Rehab location near you!
By Valerie Dellocono, PT, MTC