People who love exercise love feeling the ‘burn’. This shows we’ve pushed ourselves and had a successful session, right? But sometimes we overdo it and this pleasant ache becomes truly uncomfortable - if not downright painful. So how do we treat injuries or sore muscles? Is hot or cold therapy best?
People who love exercise love feeling the ‘burn’. This shows we’ve pushed ourselves and had a successful session, right? But sometimes we overdo it and this pleasant ache becomes pretty uncomfortable - if not downright painful, frankly. So how do we treat injuries or sore muscles? Is hot or cold therapy best?
First prize is that we never experience pain, stiffness or acute soreness after we exercise. But the reality is that most of us will - at some point.
We’re often asked advice about when and if to use our sports gels for sore muscles, joints or tendons.
There’s no simple, one-line answer to this question: For some injuries or soreness, we need to apply cold therapy. While others respond best to heat. And then some need both. Let’s break it down so you make the right choice for your complaint.
Types of sports injuries
Health and sports professionals distinguish between two types of sports injuries or complaints.
Acute or blunt injuries: These are sudden, traumatic events that damage your skin, muscles, soft tissues, cartilage, and fascia (your inner ‘body stocking’ that keeps your organs in place).
It could be a blow or impact from colliding with another player or falling off your bicycle, for instance. Maybe you've twisted awkwardly and pulled a muscle or tendon; or you've overstretched and strained your back. One wrong step and you've sprained your ankle. The best advice when this happens is to your activity immediately, rest and apply ice.
Chronic complaints: These are injuries that occur frequently or irregularly, and they are pretty common. If you battle with soreness or injury in the same area repeatedly, this is usually due to overuse or repetitive strain, especially if you’re doing the same sport all the time. It could mean you need to relook your training practice or technique, your equipment, or mix things up with other activity (like yoga) to relieve pressure on and strengthen your problem area.
Chronic aches and pain don’t even have to be as a result of sport. Your posture when you’re playing desk jockey, a bad mattress or sedentary habits can leave you with chronic back, neck and shoulder pain.
Our best advice is to address and treat this kind of injury promptly. If not, you could be in for long-term pain, inflammation and overall discomfort
Soreness or injury: How can do we tell the difference?
A tough workout can leave us feeling pretty sore, especially when we’re trying a new move or type of sport that uses muscles we don’t use regularly. So it’s not always easy to tell the difference between aches and injury.
Aches, tightness and stiffness are normal and should resolve in a few days.
Pain doesn’t necessarily mean gain, however. If it’s sharp, deep and consistent, it could mean you’re injured. Tell-tale signs also include swelling and hotness on the area.
Why do our muscles hurt after exercise?
Surprisingly, researchers are not yet 100 % agreed on what muscle soreness actually is. The majority, however, believe that it is caused by small hairline fractures of the muscle fibres. That's the reason you should cool down immediately after exercise. Pros use cold chambers that stop lactate formation (up to -110 degrees). If you don’t have access to your own cold chamber ;), a few cooling pads applied on sore areas work too. Heat should then be used afterwards for higher blood circulation, better self-healing and shorter regeneration phases.
Cold should be used immediately after an acute/blunt injury. Applying cold sprays, cooling pads and the like constricts blood vessels and slows down the metabolism - reducing swelling and offering pain relief.
Heat therapy isn’t suited to treating acute injuries. It would further inflame swollen regions and cause more blood flow to the areas, and bruising.
In acute or blunt injury, heat therapy should be started after swelling and possible bruising have been stopped.
CAUTION: You should not apply heat to open wounds. Only apply once the wound has healed.
For chronic ailments, stiffness or soreness, use heat to relax the muscles and stimulate the metabolism. Here, too, the support of local self-healing plays a role.
Heat promotes blood supply to the targeted body part, gets lymph flowing and supports muscle relaxation. This allows the focal area to start healing itself faster and directly.
Use heat therapy as prevention - before exercise. Using it on specific areas as part of your warm-up routine increases blood flow. This keeps muscles and joints flexible and supple, and the risk of injury is reduced.
After exercise. Applying heat to achy muscles will help them recover more swiftly.
Our solution: Our bestselling Pro Active Muscle. It uses heat-activation to boost the action of proven natural ingredients to help with muscle and joint relief and recovery.
PLEASE NOTE: The advice written here does not replace a trip to the doctor. It is only meant to serve as a guide. Hopefully you won't be needing it too often!
Do you have any questions or feedback for us? We’re here to help!
Wishing you healthy, happy and injury-free.