First off, you may have noticed the new domain for the blog! You can now find me at blog.rawnstet.guru. Thanks to everyone who has helped get the word out.
In light of some muscle pain I’ve been experiencing from running, I wanted to remind everyone of the basic, yet effective, types of care for injuries and muscle soreness. In my last post about recovery, I talked a lot about nutrition and the importance of warmup/stretching, but I realized that doesn’t really help when you’re already hurting.
I’ve been through multiple broken bones, sprains, bruised tailbone, rotator cuff tendonitis, a chronic vertebral injury and lifelong knee pain, so I’ve learned a bit about pain management, and trust me when I say that nothing works as well as good old-fashioned TLC.
Hopefully you learned the RICE acronym in high school health class! If it’s been years since you used an ice pack on your sore muscles, it might be a good time to start up again.
- REST – Though seemingly a simple philosophy, many self-aware and athletic people still don’t listen to their bodies when they cry out for attention. Especially when you’re training for a big event or to lose some pounds, it’s really easy to get tunnel vision and lose sight of which soreness is normal and which is warning pain. Feeling “the burn” of lactic acid is fine, and shows your muscles are making gains, but if pain feels stabbing or as if something is about to tear, be aware and take a day off, or do a restful workout like swimming or yoga.
- ICE – Still icing with that leaky Ziploc bag from the freezer?! You gotta get a real ice pack. They make really awesome flexible ones filled with clay that you can either freeze, or pop in the microwave for some heat therapy on tight muscles (though heat therapy post-workout is not effective at reducing soreness). It’s important for your ice pack to have some kind of cloth cover, too, because leaving a cold surface directly on your skin can damage the nerves. You should ice an injury or sore spot for 20 minutes every hour for as long as you’re awake (might wanna get 2 ice packs).
- COMPRESSION – It’s really good to keep compression on key muscles both during and after your workout for optimal recovery. This is because the pressure causes the walls of your arteries to constrict slightly, enabling oxygenated and nutrient-rich blood to move through the muscles with greater velocity. Another reason – especially during running, your joints and calf muscles are taking a whopping impact. The muscles, and the pieces that connect them to your bones, could definitely benefit from a shock absorber. Personally, I wear compression leg sleeves or “marathon socks” out on my longer runs. They look funny, but if you suffer from calf pain, some sleeves could potentially be your savior. You can even sleep in them to avoid a lot of that next-day soreness. Post-workout, I’ll wear my knee brace sometimes, but I never wear it while running (to avoid overcompensating with the other leg). Rule of thumb when buying compression gear: if it feels really tight, it’s just right. A loose sleeve will do your muscles no good.
- ELEVATION – The oft-overlooked part of the acronym is the best part! Who doesn’t want to lay up on the sofa with a hot tea and their feet up on a pillow? It’s recommended to elevate for 2-3 hours at a time, with the injured area propped up to chest level or above (for proper blood flow). While this definitely takes time away from cooking dinner and other valuable chore time around the house, if you are really feeling an injury coming on, an elevated rest might just save you from painful swelling, or even a bruise. Tune into Netflix and drop out for awhile.
Bonus Round: Foam Rolling
Using a foam roller is something I learned from years of physical therapy, that has stuck with me because it is super-effective on my type of pain.
Often times you can feel when a particular muscle is too tight. What’s harder to feel is just how much it affects other parts of your body that the muscle is attached to. For example, a lot of times when my knee pain kicks up, it’s because my psoas and iliotibial (IT) band are too tight, pulling the wrong way on my hips and knees. So I lay on top of the foam cylinder and roll back and forth along the quads, focusing on the outside of the legs, and then
I also foam roll to reduce tightness in my lower back, glutes, and calves. Check out this intro to foam rolling by Prevention, or this more complete overview by USA Triathlon for some diverse moves for every body part.
Good foam rollers can be expensive if you don’t have one available to use at your gym, but I promise once you try it you’ll be addicted to how good it feels, and learning more about your body.