Reducing Aches and Pains
I’ve discussed this before, but reducing aches and pains is a process. Simply taking time off isn’t enough and often doesn’t even heal the problem.
To reduce aches and pains, you need to do the following things:
- Massage or Self-Myofascial Release (foam rolling)
- Ice and/or Heat
While rest is important, often chronic aches and pains are caused by the muscles of our body being out of alignment. If we never loosen the tight muscles and activate the weak muscles, then we are going to continue to have problems no matter how much we rest.
All components of our body must be working together for us to move properly. If one part of our body isn’t working properly and efficiently, then other parts will have to compensate. And when other parts take on a load they aren’t supposed to handle, they break down. This overload and faulty movements lead to INJURY.
So those minor aches and pains could accumulate if you don’t do something to correct them!
MASSAGE OR SELF-MYOFASCIAL RELEASE (FOAM ROLLING)
I like to start my recovery routine with self-myofascial release because it inhibits the tight muscles and gets them to relax so you can stretch them.
Self-myofascial release or foam rolling allows you to relax muscles, reduce pain and restore them to their normal length-tension relationships and function.
Self-myofascial release does this by “autogenic inhibition.” Basically what that means is that the pressure you apply with your hands or a foam rolling tool (roller, ball or such) on the tight muscle forces the muscle’s own receptors to relax it.
Not sure you need to include foam rolling in your routine? Check out these benefits:
- Corrects muscle imbalances by loosening tight muscles to restore a proper length-tension relationship
- Improves joint range of motion because no muscles are tight and causing restriction
- Relieves muscle soreness and joint stress
- Increases extensibility of musculotendinous junction, giving you more flexibility and a full range of motion
- Improves neuromuscular efficiency aka a better mind-body connection so that you can recruit the correct muscles
- Maintains normal functional muscular length, muscles are at their proper length and not tight or short
The basic guidelines to foam rolling are – find areas of tightness and hold on those areas until pain lessens a bit and use the smallest hardest tool you can to dig out those areas.
You can also use different movements where you tighten and relax the muscle you are holding on to help you dig in further.
For more foam rolling techniques, check out these moves.
Stretching muscles is a great way to lengthen your muscles to their proper position and increase your joint range of motion.
However, if you lengthen them when you have knots, you are only going to make the knot tighter, like a knot in a shoelace.
If you don’t get rid of the knot in your shoelace and instead pull on both ends to “stretch” it, you will only make the knot smaller and tighter.
That is why after self-myofascial release, you will stretch.
Also, stretching is not recommended if you have a pulled muscle.
In regards to static vs. dynamic stretching, I recommend dynamic before you workout to help you warm up and loosen up while static is great for after.
Dynamic stretches really help improve your mobility for your workout by stretching your muscles as you move through a range of motion.
Static really works on the flexibility of each muscle group to help keep you limber for next time!
Here are some great stretching routines you can use:
- 15 Dynamic Stretches for a Full Body Warm Up
- Full Body Warm Up
- Full Body Cool Down
- The Lunge Matrix Warm Up
- Runner’s Warm Up
- Cyclist Warm Up
After you’ve loosened the tight muscles, you then need to activate the muscles that may have been under-active because of the tightness.
If you don’t get the correct muscles activated, you may continue to compensate and use muscles that shouldn’t be working.
Activation moves should be done before your workout to make sure the correct muscles are working when you move onto the big lifts.
Three areas that most people generally need to activate are – their abs, glutes and back (especially lower traps and lats).
Here are some great moves to improve your mobility and get the correct muscles working:
- 10 Glute Activation Exercises
- Scapular Wall Holds
- 10 Isometric Moves To Activate Under Active Muscles
- 10 Mini Band Glute Exercises
Ice can reduce inflammation and aid in recovery while heat can increase blood flow to also aid in repair.
Both can be great tools to help reduce pain and aid recovery.
Sometimes you may only need one or the other; however, sometimes using both is necessary.
If your feeling super tight, heat can help you relax. If something if feeling super inflamed and sore, ice may be a great option.
And if you use both together, you may want to ice then heat to first restrict blood flow and then flush back in a ton of fresh, clean blood to push out all the waste and toxins. Alternating heat and ice can be a great way to improve your recovery.
Also, ice is best used after a workout. Heat can be great before a workout or before you roll out and then stretch.
Don’t ignore the benefits of heat and ice when it comes to recovery. (Hot and cold contrast showers can also replace a heat pack and an ice pack).
These are great tools that don’t take up a lot of time to do. Heck, you can ice or heat while you eat or watch TV. There really is no excuse to skip this step!
So there you have it. The steps to reducing aches and pains and preventing injury.
What do you do to aid your recovery and get rid of pain?