Take care of your body, and it will take care of you
Athletic aches and pains can make life miserable in and out of the gym. While it may seem like bodily pain is sometimes out of our control, there's a lot we can do to address our current problems and prevent future injuries.
Most non-contact injuries can be avoided through proper positioning and movement. Maintaining good form while working out is important, it's also necessary to be mindful of positioning and motion outside of the gym.
For example, if someone spends a lot of time sitting down with his or her shoulders slumped and head jutting forward, those errors will eventually cause muscular imbalances that restrict shoulder external rotation and other good things.
Small problems like this can easily become big issues when a demand is introduced (i.e., when this person attempts to overhead press with restricted shoulder stability), and then injuries occur. Keeping our postures and movements in check at all times will drastically reduce our susceptibility to injuries.
When something does go wrong, though, it's important to ice and compress the injury as soon as possible as cold and pressure treatment prevent swelling and decrease time needed to recover. Throwing a hot pack on a hurting area is a mistake that's easy to make, but doing this within the first 48-72 hours after injury can actually make the problem worse. "Heat increases swelling and could keep the injury from healing as quickly as it could," states the American Red Cross. "Apply ice [not directly on skin] for about 20 minutes to reduce swelling."
Self myofascial release is one of the best ways to address pain in a tender area or to restore mobility to an area that has been knotted up due to poor posture or poor exercise techniques. Basically, it involves stimulating the problem area with enough pressure to bust up knots and restore ideal function.
Foam rollers are popular tools used to do this, but they are sometimes used incorrectly. Quickly running the roller over muscles won't put them under pressure long enough to be fixed.
To get the most out of using a foam roller, pause for about 30 seconds every time a knot is found, allowing the roller to sink into the tissue and relieve the problem.
If foam rollers don't do the trick, barbells and tennis balls can deliver some seriously intense pressure.
A barbell can be rolled across tight muscles and is incredibly efficient when used like this on the quadriceps. It can also be set up in a rack and sat on with a single leg to apply pressure to the glutes, hamstrings, and calves.
Tennis balls offer more pinpointed relief. They can be laid on and used similar to a foam roller to relieve specific areas such as the chest, back, shoulders, and legs.
Stepping on them and applying pressure to the bottom of the foot can relieve plantar fasciitis pain, and cupping them in the hands and rolling them across the lower leg can significantly help tibial tendonitis.
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