I screwed up my calf muscles.
January 20, 2009 1:59 AM   Subscribe

What did I do to my calves, and is it ok to do it again this evening?

On Saturday I was leafletting some tenements - this means putting leaflets in the mail slots of doors in walk-up buildings 4 and 5 stories high, and did this for about 2 hours. I was fine the rest of the day, but in the evening my calves started to really hurt when I stood up from a sitting position or went up or down stairs. They are STILL hurting! Now yeah I am out of shape, but they've never hurt this much for this long!

Unfortunately I have to go out leafletting again today. Will I be ok if I take a Nurofen Plus beforehand and just go ahead and do it? Should I stretch before hand and if so how? Also I have a funny duck walk because I unconsciously am trying not to use my calf muscles when I walk.. Many thanks.
posted by By The Grace of God to Health & Fitness (19 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
I'm interested in the answers, because I have the exact same thing going on with my lower thighs after spending all Saturday SWAT-style crouch-running while playing paintball. They were happy and comfy until late that night.

It doesn't feel like there's lasting damage, and I've been wandering around (and driving stick shift) today. You know, playing through the pain and all.

I'm sitting here with a hot pad on them, which seems to help. Aleve (naproxen) didn't seem to help, but ibuprofen does seem to have some minor positive effect.

I don't know if stretching helps... I did stretch a little bit before playing, but either missed this muscle group or it doesn't help.

I'd say that if you can make it through the pain, you're probably fine leafletting some more... it's just going to hurt.
posted by Netzapper at 2:22 AM on January 20, 2009

delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS)

You'll be fine in a couple of days. Delayed onset muscle soreness is very common when starting a new exercise routine that features eccentric muscle contractions. Taking an anti-inflammatory is good; stretching, light aerobics, and massage should help keep the blood circulating.
posted by aquafortis at 2:25 AM on January 20, 2009

Take the pain BTG, it won't hurt anymore tomorrow night than it does now. It will get better. (Unless you have weird sharp hot or needle-like pain- in which case seek medical advice. The dull ache type of pain is just soreness as discussed above).
posted by evil_esto at 2:45 AM on January 20, 2009

It just sounds like your calves are telling you that they've gotten a workout. Unless the pain is excruciating, I think you can continue. I would recommend an anti-inflammatory and a nice evening soak.

After a few days, they'll adjust to the new exercise and will be less sore.
posted by zippy at 2:56 AM on January 20, 2009

After a few days, they'll adjust to the new exercise and will be less sore.

Is this true of intermittent workouts as well? I intend to hit up the rowing machine when my thighs quit bitching, but the machine definitely does not mimic the bizarre movement that crouch-running is. And I have very little desire to run around the neighborhood like an army man... so, will my muscles adapt to once-a-week abuse in this manner, or am I forever doomed to repeat this every weekend?
posted by Netzapper at 3:17 AM on January 20, 2009

Netzapper, I'm not sure, but my guess is that you'd have some pain each week.
posted by zippy at 3:39 AM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

If the pain is in your muscles, it's not a problem. The worst that could happen is you'd be "overtraining" your calves...they won't be getting stronger because you're not letting them recover. But that's not a medical problem.

DOMS can feel real bad and last for a long time if you do things you're really not used to. I'm in pretty good shape, but the first time I played a long game of basketball a few years ago I had huge soreness in my lower back for about a week, just because I'd never spent that much time leaning over. But it didn't happen a second time when I played a week later.

Stretching, ibuprofen, hot baths, etc. A few days later, a light workout can help alleviate the soreness. But it's not a medical problem.

If the pain is at the front of your shin, on the other hand, it might be shin-splints.
posted by creasy boy at 3:55 AM on January 20, 2009

Netzapper, in my experience you'll acclimate. Even when I was running once weekly to supplement cycling, the first week I ran on Saturday and was sore until Wednesday. The next week, sore until Tuesday. After four weeks, it wasn't a thing, even though I was only doing it once a week.
posted by The Michael The at 4:03 AM on January 20, 2009 [1 favorite]

Yeah, I'd say it's the pain from a "new workout"...my legs feel like jelly every time I get back into my running routine. For some reason I always seem to forget that the best way to get the soreness to stop is to eat some protein, and go back out there for a light run the next day.
posted by notsnot at 4:08 AM on January 20, 2009

I get DOMS if I go skateboarding or stomping around the SF hills after being lazy or not being active enough.

Here's how I deal with it:

Hydrate. This means water. Before activity - not just during or after. I'm also a huge fan of emergen-c, but don't over do it. The B vitamins and iron help with fatigue.

Light stretching. Don't make it hurt. You just want to warm up the muscles a bit, none of that silly now-deprecated stretch hard and hold it for 30 seconds crap - unless you're doing yoga, which is kind of the point. (And also good for this kind of stuff.)

Optional: Ibuprofen 30-60 minutes before activity. This helps a lot if it's high impact activities like skateboarding or snowboarding. Something on the order of 100-300 mg. It seems to work much better than having to take twice that amount after the exercise.
posted by loquacious at 5:32 AM on January 20, 2009

Oh, and seconding protein. Have some eggs or a nice steak or a whopping chunk of tofu with some greens and carbs or something.
posted by loquacious at 5:34 AM on January 20, 2009

Yes, DOMS. New activity will do that. The very name Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness indicates it sneaks up on you AFTER you've done whatever caused it, usually when you wake the morning after,but that depends on variables (extent & time of activity, your starting level). Should only last 24 - 48 hours. I wouldn't bother with pharaceutical pain releif unless you're in agony and have to do something that the DOMS is stopping you from doing. Considering you're planning to repeat the acticivity, and I am giving you a modified version of the script I give to many of my clients in the same postion (also considering I havent interviewed and/or assessed you) it is beyond my scope of practice to advise you on whether or not you should take any medications including ibuprofen and you should your physician/pharmacist. If I was your mother, I'd most likely give you ibuprofen, sans any contraindications.

Damp heat is what I recommend to my clients - heat back, hot wet towel compress, hot bath or shower.
Going up and/or down stairs, hills, ladders will tend to bring this on suddenly if you're not used to that sort of activity. Say a runner runs every day, if all of a sudden they move from a flat area to a hilly area, they will most likely suffer similar DOMS due to the different demands on the body - see isotomic/isometric exercise/eccentric exercise as aquafortis mentioned, and yes, massage. If you get a massage, be sure that the therapist is familiar with DOMS & sports people. Massage an actually cause DOMS in some people in some instances so make sure your therapist knows what they are doing.
posted by goshling at 5:35 AM on January 20, 2009

damn spellchkc suksc
posted by goshling at 5:37 AM on January 20, 2009

I find squeezing the muscles with my hands or kneading them with a tennis ball helps. It hurts while you do it, but it's a good pain.
posted by dame at 7:52 AM on January 20, 2009

The first time I did a really hard hike (after years of practically no exercise), my legs were sore for an entire week. This soreness time eventually became zero.

Some runners swear by doing an ice bath on their legs after a long run to prevent DOMS. I've had reasonable success just hosing down in the shower with relatively cold water. Might help you out, might not.
posted by 0xFCAF at 1:27 PM on January 20, 2009

update: Took two ibuprofens, was feeling no pain.
posted by By The Grace of God at 1:52 PM on January 20, 2009

Calcium, especially if you are female.

Also, if you can take aspirin, it's the best thing for muscle pains.
posted by Lesser Shrew at 6:54 PM on January 20, 2009

And wear a different pair of shoes tomorrow.
posted by gum at 8:12 PM on January 20, 2009

Potassium (or a banana) just in case you get some cramps in those muscles.
posted by kindall at 10:12 PM on January 20, 2009

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