Monday, July 25, 2011

Ask Us Anything: Should I Exercise Sore Muscles?

"With the summer weather, I'm spending more time outdoors and walking long distances. I notice that after I walk, my calves become sore to the touch and are very stiff. It hurts to walk, but moreso when I go up or down stairs. Do I need to give my legs a rest or is it best to keep moving even though it hurts? Will muscle develop in that area?"

Physical Therapist Richard Szabala Responds:

Physical Therapist Richard SzabalaMuscle soreness in the calves after walking is often due to two things: Muscle tightness and or muscle fatigue.

If you have tight calf muscles, they can become sore after long distance walking. One solution is to stretch your calf muscles after your walks using the traditional runners stretch or by placing a strap around the ball of your foot and pulling back to feel the stretch in your calf.

Muscle fatigue is usually caused by doing too much too fast.

If you are just starting a walking program and you are not accustomed to walking, say, for 30 minutes, your muscles can tire easily. You can gradually get your muscles into game shape by starting with a 15 minute walk and increasing the time or distance by five minutes until you reach your desired goal.

When your muscle soreness occurs can determine your stage of injury.
  • If it occurs after walking, while resting, this is normal muscle fatigue. Usually stretching will help.
  • If the pain begins during the walk, it is your body giving you a signal to rest. You should stop at that point and use that as your target distance. This may be a sign of over doing it.
  • If the pain comes on when you start walking, hold off on walking for 2-3 weeks and start again when you are pain-free. This may be a sign that you are developing an acute muscle tendonitis. 
Shoe wear can also be a factor. Generally a good running shoe offers good arch support and can take some stress off your calf muscles. Shoe wear with too little or too much support can affect your calf muscles. If you feel you are walking on the outside of your foot, it may be too much support. If you feel like your foot collapses, it may not be enough support. I would recommend trying on several pairs of shoes and finding the one that feels the best.

To improve your fitness, you should strive to walk for a minimum of 30 minutes a day or 60 minutes every other day.

— Richard Szabala PT, OCS

Richard Szabala is the senior physical therapist at AthletiCare Orchard Park.

If you have a question about your health, click here to ask our experts.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...