Whether you’re a competing athlete, a social sports person or someone who simply likes to keep fit, keeping your body well maintained and in good shape is super important for daily activity and injury prevention. We have all experienced the aches, pains and injuries that comes with physical activity at some stage or another, and thus we usually know what it feels like when we really need physical therapy, however do we know how to read the signs our bodies are telling us BEFORE the inevitable injury sets in!?
Well there’s a few ways to help you read these signs. Injuries often have precursors that can present themselves in different ways, some of these include physical and mental exhaustion, tired and aching muscles, loss of flexibility and mobility, muscle fatigue, poor posture and previous history of injuries. It’s sometimes easy to get caught up in the whirlwind of completing workout after workout, run after run, yoga session after yoga session, however we sometimes forget to press pause and recognize what our body is telling us. And when or if any of these signs present, it is so important to schedule your body some time for R&R (rest and recreation recovery!). All bodies are different and therefore require different amounts of time and different approaches to fully recover. The recovery time from bouts of physical exertion depends on factors such as nutrition, sleep, daily activity and therapy. For example, if you eat a well balanced and healthy diet, get enough sleep, spend time unloading the muscles and joints (stretching, mobility, swimming etc.) and get myotherapy regularly for muscle maintenance, you are going to recover much quicker than let’s say, a junk food loving couch potato, that doesn’t sleep a wink nor understands what physical therapy is.
The benefits of using Myotherapy for muscle maintenance and recovery is to flush the muscle of lactic acid and waste products as well as increasing circulation to heal the micro damage in the tissues caused by activity. A myotherapist will restore the muscle to its normal resting length, allowing it to function at its optimal best. Along with the physical changes, you will also be given training and advice on how to self-maintain your body so that you are feeling better for longer.
It is also helpful to know that we are creatures of habit. If you make exercise, rest and recovery a part of your weekly routine, you will find it much easier to schedule in those days to get your regular maintenance and check up. This also works the other way, where we can often try to squeeze too much exercise in succession, ignoring our bodies that are screaming for rest and end up pulling a muscle or rolling an ankle.
So to keep your body well maintained, get in a good habit of listening to your body, recognising early signs of injury and getting physical therapy.
Why a foam roller should be a part of your life, how to use one and other handy hints!
Foam rollers may have become a household essential for athletes, sporting clubs and gyms, however the benefits of this self-therapeutic tool may be great for anyone. Whether you spend hours on end slouching over a computer, you are a tradie grinding away on the tools or you are a new mum facing a world of new challenges, the foam roller can provide you instant relief that will have you in better shape. So whilst it is all well and good to throw on your latest sporting gear and have a roll around with this great tool, it’s also important to use it correctly and purchase the right foam roller for your body’s needs. I’d like to share with you a few key things to look for when purchasing a foam roller and also how to use it.
Types of foam rollers:
Firstly, you want to find a foam roller that is right for you. There are a range of different rollers, varying in degrees of density and texture. Due to the different materials used in the making of the rollers, the firmness can differ with each product. Along with different densities, you can also find rollers that range from smooth to dimpled, pointed bumps and even “finger-tip” surfaces, all of which can be very beneficial depending on your needs. So with that in mind, make sure to test a few out and get a feel for what is comfortable (and tolerable) for you. A mild density and smooth texture is a good place to start, you can always upgrade when you are feeling ready to.
The effect on the muscles:
Foam rolling is a form of self-myofascial release, a term used to describe the release of a tight muscle or trigger points (knots) in a muscle. By applying pressure through the muscle tissue, you are able to manipulate the fibres, restoring them to normal resting length and back to normal function.
The way foam rolling works:
Through the application of direct pressure to the muscle tissue, the roller acts in a similar way to deep tissue massage. The deep pressure helps to break up adhesions (which may be caused by exercise or stress) that are formed around the muscles, allowing the muscle to relax and feel nice and supple.
Whilst the “tenderizing” of the muscle is the main effect caused by foam rolling, there are also a few other benefits on the muscle:
When to use foam rolling and when to stop:
Muscle tension, reduced flexibility, sore or aching muscles, bad posture or an increased exercise regime, if any of this sounds like you, the use of a foam roller will be a great addition to your daily routine. If you are new to the sensation of foam rolling, it is important that you start off by applying light pressure with the roller and focus on a broader surface rather than a pinpoint hot spot.
When identifying an area to roll out, it is best to look for tightness in the muscle or trigger points in the muscle, both of which can present in the form of mild pain and discomfort- this is where you want to go to work. In these circumstances, pain isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but may be an indication that the muscle needs to be released.
As always when it comes to caring for your body, you should remain cautious and try to avoid boney areas and joints, this is particularly important around the hips, knees and shoulders. These areas have a lot of other structures like tendons, bursa and fat pads that don’t respond well to direct pressure. So stick to the main muscle groups to avoid getting yourself into trouble.
As you can see, there are a lot of things to look forward to when using a foam roller, but there are also a few things to be cautious of as well. To get the most out of your self- myofascial release, stick to the basics until you feel confident enough to dig a little deeper and experiment with you foam roller.
Winter is closing in on us and with that many of us are noticing more aches and pains throughout our body, in particular, back pain. Coincidence? I think not. Although there is little scientific evidence to support this correlation, there is most certainly a connection between the cold weather and the aches and pains we experience.
When we step outside on a chilly winters day, we tend to distort our posture and tense up our muscles to cope with the cold. This is done subconsciously as a means to warming up the body.
When your muscles contract, they burn energy that is released as heat. When we are in need of quick and efficient warming up, our muscles rapidly contract and relax, releasing energy fast. This response we know as shivering. Shivering is the body’s natural response to warming the body.
You may also notice that in the cold, you tend to drop your head and raise your shoulders, which causes your hips to tuck under and your lower back to flatten out. This allows you to share your shoulders body heat with your neck and ears. This is another natural bodily reaction, but a reaction that distorts posture throughout your back and pelvis.
Muscle tension is a common cause of back pain. Therefore, when tensing muscles in order to fight against the cold, the body may warm up, but will also alter the body’s posture and contribute to back pain.
Soreness in the neck, shoulders and lower back can all be a result of muscle tension, exacerbated by the cold weather. So in order to prevent this common occurrence, there are a few helpful tips to get you through the winter, pain free:
- Dress for the climate: By wearing the correct clothing, we can assist our body in maintaining an optimal core body temperature. So pop on a beanie and wrap your self in a scarf, it will help to ease muscle tension and hold a correct body posture.
- Exercise: Particularly indoor and swimming exercises are a great way to warm up the body and increase blood flow throughout the body, easing chronic muscular tension in the process.
- Stretching: Limbering up can be an easy tool to lengthen our short, tight muscles. When our posture becomes hunched over and cramped, the best way to combat that fixed position is to stretch.
- Soft tissue therapy and muscle manipulation: Sometimes our muscles have been held in a state of tension for too long, so the only way to release that tension is through physical therapy. Myotherapy will not only restore muscles to their optimal resting length, it can also correct any postural imbalances that may be causing associated chronic and acute pain. Including headaches, shoulder, neck, lower back, knee and leg pain.