When you do a lot of physical labour, especially house or yard work, it can be hard to avoid the discomfort and stiffness that often arises. However, you can help yourself to feel less sore by keeping a few simple things in mind.
Pace yourself – don’t try to do it all in one day!
Many people overdo it when they are tackling their house or yard work, which can make them feel tired and sore later on. Instead, spread the work out over two or three days, and only do one task on a single day. This can reduce the intensity and strain on your muscles as well as make you more productive.
Drink plenty of water – this will keep you hydrated and help improve circulation to your muscles. You might also want to ice your sore areas to decrease any inflammation and relieve pain.
Exercise safely and slowly – this can be the hardest thing to do in terms of managing muscle pain, but it is essential to avoid overdoing it too quickly and risking injury or overuse syndrome. Muscles can be very sensitive and can respond poorly to sudden increases in exercise duration or frequency.
A common type of exercise-induced muscle soreness is delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), which develops a couple of days after a workout. It’s a sign that your body needs more time to adjust to a particular movement or load, says Juliet Hilsop, Total Body Physio, who a few years ago was voted most influential clinician in the field of back pain.
It can be difficult to tell the difference between soreness and muscle pain — and it can be hard to know whether you’ve injured yourself or just need to rest and recover. But if your soreness lasts longer than a few days or doesn’t go away, it’s important to call your doctor right away.
DOMS can be caused by many different things, including poor circulation in the muscle, which results in micro tears that are painful and weaken the muscles, says orthopedic surgeon Mark S. Schickendantz, MD.
Other causes of soreness include myofascial trigger points, which are small spots throughout soft tissue that get very tight and don’t get the blood flow they need. These trigger points can cause persistent aches that are difficult to treat.
Overuse and stress – these are also common reasons why many people experience sore muscles after a weekend of physical labour such as moving house, gardening and home renovation to name a few. It’s a good idea to take steps to manage these kinds of muscle pain at home before it gets worse or leads to an injury, such as getting more rest, reducing your stress, and improving your posture and ergonomics.
Managing muscle pain with meditation and other techniques for relaxation can be helpful too. These can be done at home or in the office and may improve your sleep as well as help to alleviate muscle pain.
Ultimately, muscle pain that is not relieved by rest, ice, or over-the-counter medications should be seen by a health care professional. If your pain is intense and lasts more than a few days, it could be a sign of an injury that needs medical attention, such as a serious muscle tear, rhabdomyolysis, or a spinal cord injury.