I often get asked when and how often people need to do prehab/rehab stuff for aches, pains and even old injuries. They ask how often they need to foam roll, stretch and even do activation exercises.
And my answer….
Before you have pain!
If you’ve had an injury or you know you are prone to aches and pains in certain areas, you need to take care of those areas before pain arises or before you do things that could lead to pain if those areas aren’t loosened and activated.
And if pain has flared up in an areas, you need to be extra diligent to do everything you can to alleviate.
How often you need to do the prehab/rehab will vary. If you stay on top of things, a few minutes each day may suffice.
If you wait till things start to flare up, you may have to spend more time on prehab activities.
But I would like to point out that if you have neck, shoulder or upper back pain from sitting at a desk all day, rolling out for one minute every other day isn’t going to do it.
Just think about how long you sit with poor posture….Does one minute of pain prevention (aka foam rolling, stretching, activation) really seem like it equals the time you sit with poor posture?
Does it really seem like that minute can counteract the 9 hours?
So why do we all expect results when we basically spend only minutes a day doing the right things and hours doing the wrong things?
The thing is we can’t.
While there is no exact amount of time we need to spend doing rehab/prehab exercises and stretches, we do need to consider just how much time we spend each day doing things to counteract all the good we do in the gym.
That one hour each day we spend there with our 5-10 minutes of warm up (foam rolling, stretching and activation) simply isn’t enough.
But that doesn’t mean you need to spend hours each day to see benefit. Five minutes when you wake up, the occasional stretch or rolling at your desk, 5-10 minutes before you workout, a few minutes after your workout and maybe a minute or two before you go to bed.
If you did that every day…WOAH!
At most, what I outlined above, is like 30 minutes out of your day…AT MOST.
And yet we can’t find the time for that?!?
Suffering from pain and injury is our alternative and yet we skip those 30 minutes and wonder why we never get better.
30 MINUTES a day! An excuse to get up and stretch while sitting at our desk all day! Or heck simply a stretch in the doorway when we get up to go the bathroom. (AHEM…Look at all those stretches you can easily do at your desk!)
Or some balancing and leg swings when we brush our teeth to keep our ankles strong.
This is seriously not hard stuff. Shoot it isn’t even as hard as finding 15-30 solid minutes to workout! Almost all of these things can be done while doing something else.
Watching TV? Sit on a ball on the ground to roll out your glutes, hips and low back to get rid of your achy low back!
Simple little prehab/rehab things can go a long way to keeping an area pain and injury-free.
Because even if you did the initial rehab after an injury, you are never done.
You ALWAYS have to take care of that area and make sure to maintain strength in the muscles up and down the kinetic chain from that disruption.
Because every day we do things to create imbalances and potentially upset old aches and pains or create new ones.
So to live pain free…What is a few minutes each day on exercises to keep you balanced?
Are you diligent about doing prehab activities – foam rolling, stretching, activation, balance and stability stuff?
How do you fit those things into your day?
Here are some great tips and exercises to help you prevent and alleviate minor aches and pains:
- 5 Quick Fixes For Wrist and Elbow Pain
- Alleviate Low Back Pain
- The Complete Foam Rolling Video Course and E-Book
NOTE: This is discussing previously rehabbed injuries and minor aches and pains. If you suffer from an injury, make sure to do the physical therapy rehab prescribed to you!
So yesterday I had a new client that I was assessing, lay on her back and raise one leg straight up toward the ceiling. I wasn’t looking at hamstring flexibility, I was looking for asymmetry between her two sides. Asymmetry puts people at greater risk for injury and means that there are some imbalances that need to be taken care of.
When I had her raise her leg, she said to me, “Oh I’m not very flexible.”
I told her it was ok…that I wasn’t looking at flexibility.
She said, “Ok, but still…it is embarrassing!”
I smiled and thought…It’s crazy that people worry so much about their flexibility, especially when there are really bigger fish to fry!
How important is being flexible really? I mean is it really important that you are able to touch your toes?
Honestly, being able to touch your toes really isn’t that important, BUT that doesn’t mean you should be locked up and immobile.
Mobility is WAY more important than flexibility. Mobility means how well we are able to MOVE..to squat, jump, push, pull.
Being able to touch the ground with your head while standing with straight legs doesn’t mean you are going to be able to move well. In fact, it could mean that you have potential imbalances that are actually inhibiting you from moving well.
So while being able to do the splits is cool and something that you may decide you want to master, being that flexible really isn’t essential to being able to move well.
What is essential to being able to move well is mobility of the joints.
And to have mobile joints means much more than having crazy flexibility. Flexibility can mean different things for different people.
You are flexible enough to be mobile if you take care of all shortened and tight muscles. So if you sit a lot, you need to make sure that your hips, which have been tightened and shortened by sitting all day, have been stretched and loosened so that proper length-tension relationships have been developed between all muscles around your hip.
And on top of needing good length-tension relationship between all the muscles around a joint, to be mobile you must also make sure that all the correct muscles are activated. That means that if you expect to have good hip mobility, you can’t have shortened and tight hip flexors and UNDER ACTIVE glutes.
So you must make sure that on top of making sure tight muscles are loosened and lengthened that overactive muscles are relaxed and under active muscles are ACTIVATED.
If you want to be mobile, stretching or flexibility is just a piece of the puzzle. You also need to do SMR (self-myofascial release aka foam rolling) and activation exercises.
While stretching is GOOD it isn’t near as important as most people make it out to be. You don’t need to be able to touch your toes….It may be something you want to do, but it isn’t necessary.
And even when people do spend a lot of time stretching, they usually stretch muscles they LIKE to stretch, not the muscles that are necessarily tight from sitting or doing repetitive movements day in and day out.
So instead of spending a ton of time stretching each day, focus on only stretching the tight muscles and use the rest of that time to do SMR and activation exercises! You will become more mobile and therefore GET MORE OUT OF YOUR WORKOUTS!
The more intensely you work out, the more attention you must pay to your recovery.
Our bodies can get run down by daily life especially when we are working out hard on top of everything else. If we don’t take care of our bodies, then we won’t reap the rewards of all of our workout, and even dieting, efforts!
But recovery doesn’t simply mean taking time off and laying on the couch doing nothing.
Recovery can be active and includes more than just sleep and relaxing. Recovery means stretching and SMR. Recovery means eating correctly and staying hydrated. It can mean contrast showers and icing or applying heat.
It means taking care of any places that need extra TLC.
And it doesn’t mean five seconds of stretching or rolling out. If you actually have areas that feel worn out from the week or bug you from time to time, you have to take care of them.
Ice, stretch, roll out. Do all three and not just every once in a while. Do them every day, numerous times a day to help the problem correct itself more quickly.
More isn’t always better but not enough won’t get you anywhere. If you are a tight person, or have imbalances, rolling out the few times a week you go to the gym (for like a minute before you workout), isn’t going to be enough.
You need to spend time correcting the imbalances. You need to create a program and probably spend time every day for at least a few weeks to help correct the problem.
That can mean activation exercises for the muscles that are underactive. It can mean stretching tight muscles and rolling out knots. It can mean icing muscles that are particularly worn out or areas that get inflamed from lots of use.
It doesn’t mean ignoring the issue or just dealing with the pain. It also doesn’t mean not going to the doctor if your pain is severe or chronic.
BUT it does mean taking care of yourself so that some pain doesn’t become an injury – so that a little tightness or soreness doesn’t turn into an overuse injury or strain.
Even injuries you supposedly “rehabbed” can have long-term consequences if you don’t take care and make sure they are truly recovered. An ankle injury years ago could be the reason why you are now having knee pain, especially if you don’t take care to make sure everything has been rehabbed.
The best recovery program is the one that does something BEFORE you actually have issues!
The better your recovery program, the quicker you will heal from any injuries (or even prevent them from happening in the first place) and the more ready your body will be each week to handle the challenges you throw at it.
So what areas are tight on you? Where do you get knots and soreness? How is your posture? And remember, just because you have low back pain doesn’t mean your low back is tight…it could be a trigger point somewhere else around the area causing the pain!