Recovery and Exercise Go Hand in Hand
This article about recovery and exercise practices for pain relief was written by Dr. Marcello Sarrica of Sarrica Physical Therapy & Wellness
Proper Recovery and Exercise Techniques to Keep our Bodies Injury Free
Why is it that no one ever thinks about rest and recovery when it comes to exercising and wellness?
These are important aspects of any physical activity program, but people overlook them often. To understand why taking time off from exercising is important, there are a lot of things to consider. This is the first part of a two-part article about recovery techniques and exercise. It will focus on the things that you can do in the times between exercise days to promote better health and adequate time for the body to rest and heal. Pain relief is important to consider, especially when trying new options.
The do’s and dont’s of recovering from exercise programs
Many things get noticed over a long career treating thousands of athletes and weekend warriors. What is it?
It’s that they do not want to spend the time nor provide the effort it takes to implement proper recovery work.
What exactly does “recovery” mean?
Recovery is the process of restoration to a former or better condition. This means that you’re taking your body through a recuperation of muscle tissue breakdown post-exercise (intense strength training workout) or physical trauma (e.g. running a marathon). While this might seem simple to understand, the fact of the matter is that many athletes do not want to take time off from their activities. This is dangerous, and can actually lead to more stress and injury in the future.
Time off is not only recommended by doctors and physical therapists – it’s essential for the good of the body.
So how do you assist your body in recovering post-exercise? There are plenty of considerations to be made about what to work into your routine. However, some of the most important include mobility training, controlled stretching, Epsom salt baths, proper rest/sleep, and a proper diet.
This is defined as “the active and active assistive movement of the joints, muscles, and other connective tissues to allow for proper physiologic motion”.
You can do this at home by using a round foam roller on your legs and upper body. Do this within 24 hours post intense workout for immediate pain relief. It’s not just sitting idle. This is a gentle exercise that continues to stretch the muscles and keep them from tightening too much. Increased mobility is also a great way to limit the chances of sustaining injuries during regular exercise sessions. Using this method is a great way to promote better health and stay active, even if only in a simple way.
When people think of stretching, they often only think of the actions that don’t require any outside equipment.
These can be effective, but there are two kinds of stretching that utilize something commonly referred to as a ‘stretch out strap’. This is a tool that can be used on different muscle groups throughout the body. The two kinds of stretches are active isolated stretching (going into a stretch with this strap and repeating 10x to each targeted muscle group). The other is passive static stretching, or traditional stretching exercises using a towel or strap. Hold this for a minimum of 30 seconds before repeating 2-3x per leg.
Each of these types of stretches has different benefits, depending on what individual recovery goals are.
Don’t forget to breathe throughout your stretching routine!
EPSOM SALT BATHS
This practice has been used for years as a homeopathic remedy with little research to back up efficacy. However, the active ingredient in Epsom Salt is magnesium sulfate, which is an antispasmodic. Epsom Salt reduces muscle spasms, inflammation, and de-stresses the musculoskeletal system. Physical therapy professionals recommend that patients try this for 20 minutes with warm water in a bath, adding 1-2 cups of Epsom Salt. Not only does this help the muscles, it can be used as a relaxing break from the typical daily routine, too.
A little different from other methods for recovery and exercise, aquatic therapy involves warm water and patience. Unlike exercises that are done on land, pool exercises are varied to include all parts of the body. These exercises can be modified for different injuries and areas of focus. This makes them ideal for people suffering from injuries of all types. One of the types of injuries that responds best to aquatic therapy is arthritis. You may think pool exercise is only possible in the warmer months, but many physical therapy facilities have space for it. If this isn’t the case, consider using a fitness center or community center pool.
PROPER AMOUNTS OF SLEEP/REST
This is completely undervalued in our society today since everyone is so busy.
From mobile devices to video games and the Internet, the “blue” light is tricking our brains into thinking that it is day time all the time. Adults should be getting 7-9 hours of rest per night. If you don’t, your mental and physical performance may suffer.
Some tips for increasing the amount of sleep and rest include:
- Limiting the use of electronics while in bed or after a certain time of day
- Not consuming anything but water within an hour of bedtime
- Only using your bed for resting – not for things like watching TV, playing on your phone or computer and “hanging out”
Training your body to associate the bed with rest can make it easier to fall asleep – and stay asleep – when you climb in each and every night.
Foods can be inflammatory or anti-inflammatory to our digestive system. You need a good balance of fruits (lots of berries) and vegetables (lots of color in your dishes) to help in connective tissue recovery. What you eat after exercise is almost as important as the types of exercises you choose to do. Some other anti-inflammatory foods include but are not limited to:
- Dark leafy greens (kale and spinach)
- Blueberries, blackberries, and cherries
Also, in addition to thinking about what you eat, you need to drink lots of water. This assists your lymphatic system in getting rid of waste products efficiently. It also keeps your muscles hydrated and flexible.
Lifestyle Changes Also Impact Recovery
You may not think about it, but simple, everyday actions have an impact on your body. For example, the way you sit in your car or use your hands can cause pain and discomfort. Pain relief shouldn’t be difficult to choose – everyone wants to feel good as they go throughout their lives. Unfortunately, conditions like a pinched nerve or plantar fasciitis cause a great deal of acute pain. Luckily, with the right options for pain relief, they won’t always linger.
In order to keep ourselves moving properly and to prevent injuries, you need to consider implementing all the above in your weekly & daily routines. Part 2 of this piece will provide visuals and explanations of the mobility exercises and stretching techniques that clinics like Sarrica Physical Therapy & Wellness use daily to help patients improve and strengthen their bodies safely.
You can find and schedule your physical therapy appointment today without needing a doctor’s prescription by going to the Better PT clinic location tool or downloading the BetterPT mobile app to search for a clinic or network in your area.
The physical therapy professionals you find in this manner be able to work with you during your sessions. They’ll also be more than happy to give you advice about ways to continue the hard work even in the comfort of your own home. From athletes or new mothers to students and casual adventurers, knowing that pain relief options exist is a welcome bit of knowledge. Recovery and exercise do indeed go hand in hand; you just need to educate yourself about how this is true.
Don’t wait – make sure a physical therapist is part of your recovery and exercise routine!
Dr. Marcello Sarrica graduated from Long Island University in 2006 with his doctorate in Physical Therapy. Not only is he an orthopedic clinical specialist, he also holds other certifications that include a focus on strength and conditioning, orthopedic manual therapy and CPR/AED. In his work with patients of all ages, Dr. Sarrica has treated post and non-operative injuries and conditions, and believes that one-on-one physical therapy is the most effective method for treatment. In addition to working with patients, Dr. Sarrica has co-authored a medical textbook, enjoys family time, and keeps active by participating in baseball and softball.