Mature trekkers often suffering prolonged periods of aches and pains after a strenuous hike. Sometimes, even after a tough workout, they may take days to recover. Part of the soreness comes from muscles and part of it comes from joints. Muscle pain after exercise is called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness or DOMS. For an intense exertion like climbing Gunung Kinabalu, muscle soreness typically lasts for about 3-4 days. The first couple of days may see the trekker limping. A variety of advice has been given by gurus and other experts. Some recommend spa, massage, heat treatment, liniment, Voltaren gel, glucosamine…
Been there, done it and I don’t believe in any of that except for the Voltaren gel. While pain is nature’s warning sign for trouble, DOMS is not very useful. The key to reducing the debilitating effects of DOMS is suppressing inflammation. Topical Voltaren gel cannot deliver a sufficient dosage of the anti-inflammatory drug to the muscles to suppress inflammation. You need to take the drug orally. No need for diclofenac, though. I find 500mg Ponstan quite effective. It not only decreases the debilitating effect of DOMS on the first couple of days after an intense workout, it actually shortens the duration of DOMS.
There’s another type of pain which is joint pain. This is a little more sinister than DOMS and the best way of dealing it is prevention. Unfortunately, you can’t just fly down every mountain that you have climbed and most treks would involve lots of ups and downs. There are walking techniques that reduce the stress on our joins. One of the most commonly affected is the knee joint. High impact exercises are sometimes unavoidable, especially if you’re an adventurer like me, so to keep your knees in good condition, you must train the appropriate muscles to support the knee joint. Stretching also helps, but especially important are good shoes. Foam insoles used to be the in thing, but I find the newer gel insoles even better. Most guys my age have knee problems. I attribute my lack of them to insoles that I use on every single pair of shoes I wear.
Walking technique also helps to prevent knee strain. When walking down stairs, always land on your toes and not your heels or flat on your foot. When descending a steep slope, slant your feet sideways and descend diagonally. This technique spares your knees but transfers most of the stress to your calf muscle. The result – your knees hurt less, your calf muscle hurts more. The good thing is, DOMS is much easier to manage than joint pain. The metatarsal area is also frequently affected. Here again, your enemy is the inflammatory process. What’s my secret? Foot on ice. This area is easy to treat with ice, so always seize the opportunity to do it.
Metatarsal pads are available from some sports shops. You can try them, but make sure there is ample space in your shoes/boots.
Another area that can hurt quite a bit after workouts or trekking is the back. A lot of it has to do with the backpack you’ve been carrying. You will find lots of advice on how to pack your backpacks online. Some of them don’t agree with one another, but there is one important point that they should agree on and that is, the bulk of the weight from a backpack should rest on your hips. Make sure you choose a backpack whose size allows you to do just that.
Of course, backaches can occur even if you’re completely sedentary. For this, you’ll have to consult someone else. I only deal with backaches due to outdoor activities. If pain persists or recurs in spite of everything you’ve done to prevent it, you may consider retiring from adventuring. You may also consult your orthopedic specialist or acupuncturist for further treatment. With the proper care and medical clearance, adventurers in their 50s and 60s should have no problems keeping up with the youngsters.
© Chan Joon Yee