Whether you are a hard-core exerciser or someone who is health conscious and likes to feel better in themselves, we all know the frustration that an injury will provide to your daily life. But being human, it is all too easy to wait until something goes very wrong before seeking assistance. I know that I'm biased but you really could receive massage for injury prevention, and as Benjamin Franklin said:
“An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
I often use the analogy of a car – we all have to have an MOT, and it is advisable to have a regular service, but sometimes it is so easy to overlook the service and maintenance aspect of keeping a car, which can result in a whacking repair bill come MOT time. Or the dentist – I don’t know anyone who enjoys going to see their dentist, but those who REALLY don’t like going end up with an enormous amount of work and a hefty bill to rectify all the inattention. The same can be true of our bodies.
Tweak to twinge to twang – injury prevention
We've all had times when we have been aware of an occasional tweak or niggle and ignored it, only for it to turn into more of a persistent twinge. It doesn't have to be sports related either ... lifting the shopping into the back of the car, that niggle when you bend to tie your shoelaces. If this ‘alert’ signal is ignored it doesn’t take much for us to experience that heart-sinking ‘twang’. As the pain sinks in, so does the realisation that this is now going to take a whole load of work to resolve than if we’d dealt with the smaller issue of the twinge, or even the tweak!
These little niggles or tweaks might not seem much, but it is always wise to mention to your massage therapist when something just doesn’t feel quite right. However, if your next appointment is a while away, or you don’t yet have one in the diary, it is possible that in most cases you can help yourself to at least alleviate some of the symptom causing tension.
Roll with it
Get the area warm - so perhaps after a bath or shower, or if you have been to the gym or walked home from work despite the niggle - then get out your foam roller. Slowly and gently work that grumpy area until it is slightly less unhappy, so about 5-10 minutes depending on the size of the area, and then work around the area which are also likely to be tender, sore and uncomfortable.
Go with the flow
I would also recommend working to increase the blood flow to the area, so that the body can do it’s thing – bringing nutrient rich blood will help the body repair more quickly, and also remove any waste products and damaged cells. To do this, we need to move the affected area, but we don’t want to ‘stretch’ the muscle to the end of it’s possible range – think of a knot in a piece of spaghetti, if you pull it tight, the knot will just tighten until the strand breaks. Instead you want to dynamically lengthen the muscle, which will both pump new blood in but also ease any tension in surrounding muscles which have been overcompensating.
To do this, let’s imagine your calf has been tweaked. A great end of exercise, full length stretch would be to drop your heel off a step and lower your weight into the heel until it won’t go any further, and then just hold that for up to 30 seconds. A great way to dynamically lengthen a sore calf would be to sit in a chair and slowly point your toes away from you (shortening the muscle fully) and then raising your toes towards you (lengthening the muscle as far as is comfortable) taking several seconds to complete each move.
So key points when stretching an injured muscle:
- Non-weight bearing
- Only move within a comfortable range of movement
- Keep the muscle moving
- Also consider stretching the muscles around the joint above and below the tweak (if your calf is tweaked, keep a good range of motion in both your ankle and knee so these don’t compensate too much)
Keep going with this self-care until you have resolved the issue or until your next massage therapy appointment. But try not to forget to mention it … perhaps even put a note in your diary next to your appointment! Again, if the tweak returns make sure you discuss it with your therapist – there is likely to be a reason something keeps recurring. You might also want to book in with one of our sports massage team for a more in-depth postural assessment to see what compensations might be building up or causing this issue.
For more information on foam rolling, please read my article How Spending £10 Could Save You a Small Fortune.