Times of isolation such as winter, illness, and COVID quarantine can cause a pain flare of our old muscle and joint injuries. It is important to keep moving even when you feel like staying still. Even if scar tissue has been minimized, pain associated with the scar can still resurface when you get out of your rhythm and routine. It is best for your physical and mental health to avoid large fluctuations in your pain cycle.
Consider taking action to avoid, or at least minimize, those painful flareups by following these tips:
Avoid the hibernation trap of excessive sitting.
Drink at least 3 bottles of water per day.
Make a list of temporary nonpharmaceutical pain relievers that have worked for you in the past and keep the list handy if you need a quick reminder. Some things on that list might include:
o Light therapy
o Self-trigger-point release
o Electrical Stimulations
o Topical Creams or Gels
o Botanical Teas
Set up an area in your home where you can exercise, stretch, and roll out your muscles.
If you have chronic muscle pain, keep your muscles as warm and supple as possible.
If you are chronically cold, your muscles will tense up and worsen your chronic pain.
Lookup YouTube videos for meditation, Qi Gong, Tai Chi and Yoga. Following along can help relax your muscles.
Try some hot tea to keep you warm from the inside out.
Remember, always stretch after your muscles are warmed up. Tips to optimize muscle wellness:
Dynamically stretching before exercise. This means instead of holding a still stretch you would slowly stretch your muscles with motion, such as walking lunges or slow neck rolling
Save stretches that you hold for 5-10 sec for after exercise when your muscles are warm and supple.
Use foam rollers* after you exercise and stretch to further remodel any scar tissue in the soft tissues and to bring blood flow into the areas of tenderness or stiffness. The blood flow will bring in natural healing substances to prevent further injury.
Heat after exercising will also increase blood flow to help heal any damaged tissue. Moist heat tends to penetrate deeper than dry heat.
Don’t overdo the degree or time of applied heat to avoid skin injury.
*Tips about foam rollers:
Firmness of the rollers should be in the soft-medium range
Only roll over muscles that have a “bone-barrier” between the muscle and underlying organs. In other words be careful rolling over your back under your ribcage and above your pelvic bones.
Start rolling against the wall instead of using your full body weight onto the floor.
When you roll over tender spots, stop and hold the pressure for 5-10 seconds, then move onto the next spot. Come back to the tender spot after a few seconds and hold again. As you release you are bringing healing blood flow into the tender area.
Roll everyday and roll on both sides even if you are only tender on one side.
You can use a tennis ball for focal spots in the same way (see below for self trigger point releases)
Follow up your rolling with moist heat!
How to do a self-trigger-point release? First what is a trigger point? A trigger point is defined as a localized, usually tender or painful, area of a muscle that when stimulated gives rise to pain elsewhere in the body. So what can you do about those trigger points in the short term?
Find the tender spot with your thumb or a tennis ball.
Press on the spot so that you can feel it but that it isn’t excessively painful.
Hold still there for 12 seconds, release for 4 seconds, repeat 5 times.
Apply moist heat to the area. Hopefully, that will release the muscle tightness and relax the muscle.
If the underlying cause of the trigger point is scar in the muscle, it may require advanced manual therapy and ultrasound guided needle therapies/injections as well as kinetic chain evaluation and treatment to resolve these trigger points long term.
Daily stretches are a great way to keep your body supple and your mind focused. The stretches detailed below can be done multiple times a day and only take 3-5 minutes of your time! Remember don’t over stretch, everyone’s body is different, and your body may change day to day (some days more flexible than other days).
Try to make sure your muscles are warmed up before stretching
Follow it up with some foam rolling of the achy spots.
Finish up with some hot tea and a hot bath!
Stay warm and safe!