Being a former athlete I understand the demands and the rigor that the body undergoes throughout season and off-season. With how competitive sports have become there seems to be no time for our athletes to take a break. We seem to be pushing our athletes more and more while not giving our athletes the opportunity and time to slow down and let the body recover.
Let’s address one of the most common things that athletes and athletic trainers do when an athlete complains of pain or soreness.
Icing tends to be the go to for almost all pain. While ice has a lot of benefit it is not the solution for everything. Ice is used when the injury has just happened; what we call the acute phase. Ice is also used when there is swelling. Ice acts to decrease the amount of blood flow to an area and provides a mild pain relief. Ice should be used when an injury has occurred within one week or there is swelling in an area. Research shows ice to be most effective when used in these situations.
Stretching helps with pain and soreness in a few ways so let’s break that down. First, stretching helps improve the blood flow to the muscles; helping improve recovery of the muscle tissue as well as move out some of the body’s metabolic waste that can accumulate with an injury. Stretching also impacts the nervous system; stimulating the branch of it that calms you down and will allow a deeper relaxation of the muscle.
Lastly, when you stretch you elongate the muscle allowing for the muscle to move through a greater range. To find the appropriate muscle to stretch, it is often times as simple as knowing where the pain is and what muscles are there and needing to be stretched. Stretching is not always the best option for pain and should be always done in moderation. If you are unsure of how to implement or whether a stretching program is appropriate for you, please consult with a healthcare provider.
The last way, and often most overlooked way, to help alleviate pain is simply to rest. Athletes are often playing their sports year-round and have little opportunity for the body to rest and recover. Rest allows the body to have a break from the stress and demands of whatever sport they are playing. This allows the natural healing processes of the body to occur. Rest is often the most overlooked aspect of relieving pain because coaches don’t want the athletes to take a break; or the pressure of making the team or getting playing time are motivating the athlete to continue playing.
These are just a few simple ways for alleviating pain. All of these should be used with caution and if any new pain or symptoms arise, please consult with a medical professional.
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