Athletes, weekend warriors and those of us who engage in less physical activity all can suffer from aches and pains related to our muscles, tendons and ligaments. Many of our daily activities encourage our muscles to tighten, like sitting at a computer, carrying heavy objects, or standing in place for long periods of time. Treatment of these aches and pains is not limited to the acupuncturist’s office – in fact we encourage at home treatments to expedite your care and prevent future injuries. In this blog, we discuss two ways to roll out sore muscles at home and Chinese medicine nutrition tips for healthy muscles, tendons and ligaments.
Foam rollers look like solid foam logs are are sold in a variety of sizes and colors. Some have a smooth surface while others have added texture, get whichever kind you like best. The textured type are intended to mimic massage fingers. Foam rolling is a simple at home technique anyone can perform. The idea is to gently use your body weight and roll out tight muscles. Larger foam rollers can be used on the back, calves, glutes, quadriceps, neck and shoulders. Smaller foam rollers are sold for feet and are extremely helpful for those with foot pain and plantar fasciitis.
Lactic acid builds up in muscles after working out. The lactic acid buildup is normal with exercise and is part of the reason for that sore feeling you get after – you know the kind that “hurts so good” with a massage. It’s called Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness, or DOMS. Scientists do not fully understand the science behind why DOMS happens, but we do know what makes it feel better. Foam rolling helps move lymphatic fluid and improve circulation to sore areas. This quickens recovery time and is crucial to joint and muscle health.
A good foam rolling routine doesn’t need to take a long time. Using whatever type of foam roller you like, roll over the sore areas for a few minutes. If it is difficult for you to lay on the floor try sitting in a chair or using the foam roller between your back and a wall.
The biggest mistake people make with foam rolling is pressing too hard. If you find yourself forcing your body weight into the foam roller you are pressing too hard – and pressing too hard can inhibit muscle repair. To get the most benefit from foam rolling do it after your workout but before your stretch. Foam rolling loosens up tight muscles and can act as warm up to deeper stretching.
Check out this link for video instructions on using the foam roller for common sore spots.
Tennis Ball on the Back: It feels so good
Your erectors are the two long muscles running vertically along either side of your spine. To most people they feel like tight bands and feel oh so good when someone else massages them. Unfortunately most of us do not have an on call massage therapist at hand – so it’s tennis balls to the rescue!
Tennis balls act just like the foam roller but because they are smaller they add direct focused pressure to the narrow erector muscles. Tennis balls also can get into the smaller muscles of the neck and feels really good on sore glutes. But make sure you use an actual tennis ball, not a racquetball or golf ball. Tennis balls are the right amount of flexible and have some give to them, if you use a harder ball you can injure yourself.
To try it: place a tennis ball on either side of your spine between you and a wall. Do gentle squats to roll the balls vertically, up and down either side of your spine. Make sure to avoid rolling over your spine with the ball. A simple trick is to place two tennis balls in an clean sock, then tie the opening off so the balls stay close together. Now roll yourself over both the balls at once getting at either side of the spine.
To use a tennis ball in the glutes (or rear end) place one tennis ball between your glute and the wall. Now “wag your tail” to roll the tennis ball side to side or horizontally from your sacrum to your hip socket. Find and roll out all the sore spots. Next do simple squats again, to roll the ball vertically across the entire gluteal. Go up and down and side to side, several muscles make up the glutes so it can take some wiggling to find just the right spot.
Nutrition and Health for Connective Tissue Health
Flavors are used in Chinese medicine to categorize the beneficial properties of food. In general terms, foods with sweet flavor promotes healthy muscle function. The sour flavor promotes healthy tendon and ligaments. Too much or too little of these flavors can be harmful – so this is not an invitations to eat a bunch of cookies if your back hurts. Refined sugar will be too sweet and actually harm both your muscle and tendon tone. Honey or maple syrup are great natural sweeteners, but the sweet foods that truly nourish your muscles are found in nutrient dense root vegetables, such as beets, carrots, sweet potatoes and yams. Sour flavored foods such as kombucha, vinegar, or citrus fruits promote flexible and strong tendons and ligaments. To get the most out of the sweet sour combo try beet kvass or drinking vinegars. They are a naturally sweet and sour drink and full of a plethora of good nutrients and probiotics to support a healthy body.
Foods that in general support the muscles are: pumpkin, yam, sweet potato, beets, celery, mushrooms, cinnamon, garlic, ginger, cloves.
Foods that in general support tendons and ligaments are: kombucha, kvass, drinking vinegars, grapefruit, oranges, lemon, lime, tangerines, fennel, dill.
Tennis ball in sock: http://backpainadvisor.com/instant-lower-back-pain-relief/