It is no secret that exercising is one of the best things that you can do for your body, hands down.
Regular exercising will reduce your dependence on your doctor and the over burdened health care system.
Regular exercising will keep you looking and feeling like you are 10-20 years younger.
Regular exercising, if done in the right way, will reduce your aches and pains and prevent them from progressing and getting worse as you age.
Along with all of these benefits, exercising can cause some irritation. The way that exercise makes you stronger is that when you exercise, you tear muscle fibers. These torn muscle fibers then repair themselves stronger and bigger than what they were prior to the workout.
When the muscle fibers tear during the workout, they produce inflammation and irritation. This will cause your muscles and joints to become achy, sore and have less range of motion.
Another way that muscle and joint inflammation and irritation builds up is from regular daily activities. Our days are loaded with repetitive motions that slowly cause the muscles to tighten up over time. Whether it is sitting at a desk all day typing away, or working on an assembly line, or working at home lifting laundry or washing dishes, our lives are full of repetitive motions that slowly cause muscle irritation.
When muscles are used over and over to perform the same motion, it slowly causes the muscles to tighten up until they get so tight that they actually tear on a microscopic level. When they tear like this, they tear so hard that they establish a neurological pathway, or scar, between the muscles and the spinal cord, which is called a reflex arc. This reflex arc can keep the muscles in a pattern of spasm and inflammation for literally months to years.
And anyone who has ha muscle spasm will tell you, it can be painful and debilitating. A torn and spasmed muscle can actually be more painful than, and take longer to heal than, a bone fracture.
So how do you prevent these torn, sprained and strained, inflamed and irritated muscles? How can you get them to calm down once they flair up? I specialize in treating muscle pain and injury. I treat it every day. Let me explain to you how best to care for these injuries, and how to prevent them.
One of the best ways to prevent muscle injury, spasm and pain, is to stretch on a daily basis.
Stretching will work out what I call a “daily accumulation of tightness” that we all get. Everyone has their repetitive movements that they do day in and day out. These repetitive movements slowly cause the muscles to get tighter and tighter until they get so tight that they tear on a microscopic level. Stretching on a daily basis is a great way to prevent these muscles from reaching the point of being so tight that they tear.
Exercise is another way that tight muscles will accumulate. If you stress a muscle that is slightly tight, you will make it tighter. Do this over and over again, and it will cause the muscle to tear and become spasmed and inflamed.
Most of the time when you injure something while exercising, it is usually due to that muscle or area being irritated from what you do repetitively, from 9-5, that set up that area or muscle to be injured. Not necessarily the motion or exercise you were doing when you injured it. The motion or exercise more than likely just put additional stress on the already irritated area, which pushed it over the edge and caused the injury.
Here is an example of what I see in my practice:
Chances are it wasn’t the squatting that irritated your hips, even though you hurt your hips while squatting. Chances are it was the 40+ hours that you have been sitting at your desk every week that caused your hips to tighten up and then primed you to pull your low back or hip muscles while squatting.
Regular stretching is a great way to loosen up those tight and irritated muscles to prevent them from getting so tight that they tear and become injured.
Certainly static stretching isn’t the only way to work out tight and spasmed muscles. As a matter of fact, if you look it up online, you will see that there is a debate about how effective static stretching is.
Static stretching is when you take a muscle and stretch it out, keeping it in the stretched out position for seconds to minutes. Some people feel that this is not healthy for the muscles, and that you are better off doing dynamic stretching.
Dynamic stretching is when you move your muscles through their ranges of motion in order to loosen them up. This can be safer and easier on the body that static stretching.
Dynamic stretching can be difficult to learn, and difficult to stick with. Static stretching, is still very effective, but you just need to make sure not to push it too far. With static stretching it is important to remember not to bounce, not to push it. Don’t take your muscles to their end range of motion and hang there for minutes at a time. That will cause muscle and ligament injury and damage.
Another great way to work out muscle spasm, soreness, irritation and injury, is to use a foam roller.
The foam roller was designed to work on trigger points. Trigger points are localized areas of muscle spasm and injury that occur when a muscle tears and goes into a pattern of spasm and inflammation.
I specialize in treating trigger points. I am chiropractor who specializes in a specific form of chiropractic trigger point therapy called “Nimmo” or “Receptor Tonus Technique”. I have been teaching this technique at a chiropractic college for over 10 years. Trigger points are common causes of most muscle and joint pain. Trigger points are involved in most pain processes. If you can eliminate the muscular component of an injury, you can help that injury heal much quicker than it normally would, and you will be able to reduce the pain very quickly as well.
One of the best ways to treat trigger points is by seeing your chiropractor who specializes in Nimmo, or Receptor Tonus Technique. If you can’t find anyone in your area who treats trigger points, then invest in a foam roller.
Even if you can find a chiropractor who treats trigger points, you still will want to get a foam roller.
It is an easy way to treat your muscles at home. You can treat most areas of the body with the foam roller, it just takes a little know how.
Here is a description to show you how to treat some areas of the body with the foam roller. It was written by Dana Santos, for CNN.
With both hands on the floor behind you for support, rest your calves (back of lower legs) on the roller. Cross your legs at the ankle. Roll from just above your ankle to just below your knee. Repeat on the other side.
Rest your hamstrings (back of upper legs) on the roller with both hands on the floor behind you for support. Bend one knee to place a foot on the roller. Roll your hamstrings from the fold of your glute (bottom) to just above the back of your knees. Repeat on the other side.
Sitting on the roller, bend your leg to bring your foot to the opposite knee. Place a hand on the floor for support. Lean your weight into the bent-knee side and slowly roll the entire glute area (back and outside of your hip). Pay special attention to releasing tension in your piriformis muscle (deep hip rotator), which is often responsible for sciatic nerve pain. Repeat on the other side.
From a side forearm plank, rest your lower leg on top of the roller and place your top foot on the floor for support. Roll from the outside of your hip to just above your knee. If the sensation is too intense, shift more weight into your supporting foot. To increase intensity, stack your legs.
From a forearm plank position with your core engaged for support, slightly spread your legs and open one hip to align the roller on a slight diagonal along your adductors (inner thigh). Roll along the entire length of your adductors from the groins to just before the knee.
Take a forearm plank position with your quadriceps (thighs) resting evenly on the roller. Engage core muscles and walk your forearms forward and back for support as you roll from just below your hips to just above your knees.
Important cautions when rolling your back: If you have any history of spinal injury, consult your doctor. Never roll your cervical spine/neck. If the roller presses uncomfortably against your spine, reposition your weight until you feel muscular support.
Upper/mid-back: Lie on the roller with it positioned across your upper back. Keep both knees bent with your feet down and core engaged for support. Maintain a neutral neck position with your hands placed gently behind your head. Roll slowly from your upper back to the base of your ribcage. To increase intensity, cross your arms in front.
Lower back: From the same position, roll from just above your hips to just below your ribs.
Learning how to recognize your aches and pains and treat them to prevent them from snowballing into a major injury is essential for consistent exercising and staying healthy.
Be smart about your injuries, treat them right and your body will heal quickly. If you ignore your aches and pains, then they will get worse and worse until they become so painful that you will have to stop exercising.
Exercise smarter, not just harder. This is the Pain Free Way.
Here is a link to the rest of the article by Dana Santos: