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Treating Sore Muscles and Joint Pain continued...

If you get sore muscles once in a while, you can take acetaminophen (Tylenol) or a nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drug (NSAID) like aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve)to help ease the discomfort. Just be cautious about using NSAIDs regularly. Long-term use can interfere with your muscle's ability to repair itself, Goldfarb says.

Check with your doctor or pharmacist about any interactions these over-the-counter drugs may have with other medications you take. Also, you may need to avoid some medications if you have ulcers, kidney disease, liver disease, or other conditions.

Sometimes soothing sore muscles requires more than an ice pack or over-the-counter pain reliever. Muscle pain that comes on quickly and feels intense is a sign that you've injured yourself. Call your doctor if your pain is severe or lasts for more than a few days.

How Do I Prevent Sore Muscles and Joint Pain?

Experts used to recommend stretching before a workout to prevent sore muscles. But research shows that stretching ahead of time doesn't do much to prevent soreness or injury. Frese says it's better to get in a good warm-up before you exercise. Stretch later, when your muscles are already warm.

A couple of natural substances are touted for preventing sore muscles, including antioxidants like vitamin C. But check with your doctor before taking high doses of any vitamin. Serious exercisers might find relief from post-workout soreness by taking in some protein. A study of marines found that protein supplements helped sore muscles after intense exercise.

Ease Into Exercise and Check With Your Doctor

One of the best ways to prevent sore muscles is by easing your way into your exercise routine.

"Start off with lighter exercise and gradually build up," Frese says.

If you have a medical condition or you're unsure about your health, check with your doctor before starting an exercise program. He can help you find an exercise routine that’s safe and effective for you.

When you have joint pain, you may be tempted to curl up in bed. One of the best things you can do for your joints, though, is to exercise. "Our joints need to move to get nutrition," Frese says. Weight-bearing exercises can help strengthen the muscles that support the joint. Just watch that you don't exercise to the point of pain.

It also can help to work with a physical therapist, who can show you how to exercise safely and how to keep good posture so that you don't get injured or worsen joint pain.

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