Ice or Heat for Relief?
Here's a common question people have about treating their injuries: ice or heat? To answer that question, you first need to determine the stage of the injury: acute or chronic?
An acute injury will typically cause pain at rest and intensify with movement. Pain may be felt over a diffuse area and difficult to pinpoint. There may be swelling, tenderness to the touch, elevated temperature and redness. Ice is best used immediately following an acute injury - 20 minutes on, 20 minutes off - to decrease pain and swelling.
If the injury is chronic, no pain will be felt at rest but rather with specific movements and activities. If there is no swelling or inflammation, it is safe to apply heat. Heat works well to relax tight muscles and decrease stiffness.
Why Muscles Feel Tight
People often ask me why their muscles feel tight or stiff.
Overuse of muscles or prolonged activity can lead to shortening of the muscles. When muscles become shortened they are not able to easily contract or relax during movement. The results will give you that tight feeling because the muscles are less flexible. Decreased flexibility makes you prone to injury and strain.
Blood is pumped through your muscles during normal activity, which gives you increased muscle tone, but there is a reduced flow of blood through shortened muscles. This means there is less oxygen to muscle tissue and less elimination of toxins.
Massage therapy can help alleviate that tight feeling by relaxing and stretching those shortened muscles and allowing an increase in circulation that will help your body heal itself.
Vitamin D: from the Sun!
Vitamin news these days are all about vitamin D. Healthy people synthesize it when they're out in the sunshine, and most dairy products are fortified with it, yet many people, especially in northern climates, don't have enough of it in their bodies.
Vitamin D deficiency is associated with weak bones and a growing list of chronic disease conditions – including high blood pressure, tuberculosis, cancer, periodontal disease and multiple sclerosis – its simply good sense to make sure you get enough of it.
Foods containing vitamin D include oily fish and mushrooms, although fortified dairy products, supplements and sunshine are still great sources. So get out in that sun and soak up some vitamin D. 15-20 minutes without sun block is a good daily dose. After that, don't forget to apply the sun block!
Building Fitness - Gradually
Have you recently started strength training, a walking of jogging program, or a regular fitness routine? That's fantastic! Don't let anything get in the way of your commitment.
Be careful, though, not to increase weights, reps, or miles too quickly, as that's asking for an injury. Add no more than 10 percent every week to see how you feel. Joints adapt to increased activity more slowly than muscles. Your body will adapt to greater demands if you give it a reasonable amount of time.
Pain in the Neck
A painful stiff neck with difficulty moving is often the result of a tight Levator Scapulae. This incredible muscle located deep beneath the Trapezius has several actions. It elevates the scapula, rotates the scapula downward, and laterally flexes the head and neck. No wonder it hurts! Common causes of pain are long periods of time on the computer and/or telephone, driving, playing tennis, swimming and, of course, stress. Applying heat, stretching, changing positions often, and getting a massage are easy ways to relieve the pain.
Simple effective stretches can help quickly.
First Stretch (You will feel a stretch along the back of your neck.):
-Place right hand behind back (without flexing the elbow). -Look down toward your left foot (chin to chest). -Gently pull your head in that direction with your left hand. -Repeat on opposite side.
-Reach behind your back holding the right wrist with the left hand. -Slightly pull right arm down and bend head to the left. Hold for 20 seconds. -Repeat opposite side.