Medicine and physical therapy can strengthen your muscles, prevent stiffness, and improve flexibility. There are also a lot of things you can try on your own to make them work better.
Put yourself in motion. Exercise keeps your muscles flexible and strong. It's a good idea to combine three types of exercise:
- Strength training
- Range of motion
You can do these exercises alone, or you can work with a physical therapist who will show you how to do each movement safely and effectively. Here's what's involved:
- Strengthen. To keep your muscles strong, work them with light weights or exercise bands a couple of times a week. If you get a muscle spasm in the middle of your routine, stop and wait a few minutes for it to relax. Also stop if you feel any pain. Exercise should never hurt.
- Improve range of motion . To prevent stiffness, do exercises that take your joints through their full range of motion. For example, lift your arm up and over your head, or bring your leg out to the side and back.
- Stretch. Do a series of stretches at least twice a week. Pay special attention to muscles that tend to get tight and spasm, like the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. As you stretch, slowly move each muscle into position. Hold the position for up to one minute. Then gently release it.
Exercise as often as you can without tiring yourself out. If your workout takes too much effort, try exercising in a cool pool. You put less pressure on your joints that way, so you'll use less energy. Warm water also relaxes and soothes your tired muscles.
Rest when you need it. Stay active, but don't overdo it. Balance activity with periods of rest to give your muscles a chance to recover.
To help you sleep better at night, try relaxation techniques like meditation, yoga, or deep breathing before bed. Massage is another great way to soothe tight muscles so you can sleep.
Try a new position. Sometimes you can relieve muscle spasms just by shifting position. To ease spasms in your knees and hips, lie on your stomach. Or turn on your side and put a pillow or rolled-up towel between your knees.
Loosen up. Tight, heavy clothes limit your movement and make muscle stiffness worse. Dress in loose clothes made from light fabrics. Wear comfortable shoes that give your feet plenty of wiggle room.
Keep cool. Heat and humidity can also make your muscle problems worse. When it's hot outside, stay indoors in the air conditioning, especially when you exercise. Take lukewarm or cool showers and baths instead of hot ones. Try putting a cold pack or cool washcloth on your muscles to ease spasms.
Stay healthy. A cold, the flu, or other infections can set off your muscle symptoms. To avoid catching anything, wash your hands often with warm water and soap, and stay away from anyone who looks sick. Keep small bottles of hand sanitizers in your car, at your desk, and other convenient spots.