Whether you’re an athlete, runner, fitness enthusiast, if there’s one thing you need to know about it’s how to optimize muscle recovery. Muscle recovery is one of the most important aspects of improving performance and preventing injury. Patients ask our chiropractors daily, “what are the best things I can do to improve muscle recovery?” So, let’s break it down:
Static v. Dynamic Stretching
When it comes to static versus dynamic stretching, we always recommend dynamic stretching to our patients. Static is not nearly as effective as dynamic stretching. Dynamic stretching is much more effective as it more closely mimics real activity. It involves multiple muscle groups and allows the proper muscles to warm up for optimal performance. It is also extremely beneficial in helping to prevent injury.
Static stretching does not offer as much lasting results and does not prepare the muscle for activity. Static stretching can be used as a cool down process but should not be the sole method used to stretch and rehabilitative muscles.
Compression Therapy v. Foam Rolling
When used correctly, both can be beneficial for muscle recovery. Foam rolling is like stretching and self-massaging at the same time. Benefits of foam rolling include increase in circulation throughout the body, maintain normal muscle length, reduce pain and soreness, increases range of motion, restore function and reduce the risk of injury.
Compression therapy through devices like Normatec, is also great for recovery. Compression therapy uses controlled pressure to increase blood flow in certain areas of the body and increase blood flow to the heart. It also supports your veins and decreases swelling. Devices such as Normatec encourage circulation of blood flow and the lymphatic system to ease inflammation. Our athletes love it after a tough leg day!
Hot v. Cold Therapy
For muscle recovery, we recommend cold therapy. Cold therapy decreases circulation, to reduce inflammation. Specifically, cryotherapy is a great way to enhance muscle recovery and decrease inflammation. Benefits of cryotherapy include muscle recovery, pain management, enhanced mood & sleep and a boost in immunity.
Heat therapy should only be used in cases of chronic injury. Heat increases circulation, to encourage healing. This is great if you have suffered a true injury, but isn’t ideal for general athletic or performance recovery.
Rest v. Active Recovery
You have to rest! Trust us, it’s not for the weak. It’s actually extremely important and essential to muscle recovery. We find that our patients who are also athletes perform the best when they implement true periods of rest into their training.
Patients often ask if active recovery is better than rest. Activity recovery is light exercise such as walking, yoga, swimming, etc. The idea is that it provides gentle blood flow to your muscles. This is great but should never replace true periods of rest for your body to recover.
Sleep v. Nutrition
This is actually a trick question because BOTH are important! One of the best things you can do for your body and muscle recovery is to ensure you are getting adequate sleep every night. You should be aiming for 7-9 hours of RESTFUL sleep each night. When the body enters a REM sleep cycle, hormones are produced to help your muscles recover. Your body does the majority of its muscle repair and recovery while you sleep each night. Not getting enough sleep can hinder muscle recovery progress of damaged muscles induced by exercise. When you exercise, your muscle fibers break down. After you exercise, your body needs time to repair the muscles by a cellular process that fuses muscle fibers together to form new larger and stronger muscle protein strands. This is why sleep is not only important, but imperative!
Additionally, you must ensure you are fueling your body properly to aid in the recovery process. This means getting balanced and sufficient sources of protein, carbs and fats! Protein is extremely important as it’s the main macronutrient needed for muscle recovery. Carbs are also important as they are our body’s preferred source of energy.
What You Shouldn’t Do v. What You Should Do
Don’t rely on pain medication or muscle relaxers to help with muscle recovery. Taking medication to reduce pain or inflammation does not address the root cause of the issue and does not provide recovery to the muscles. This will only allow you to push beyond your body’s threshold and you could potentially do severe damage to your muscles and tendons. If you are finding yourself reaching for the bottle of Advil, it’s time to re-evaluate your training program and rethink how you can implement things that will benefit you, not harm you.
And last but not least, our #1 hack for muscle recovery: listen to your body! Your body will tell you when it’s tired and needs rest. Don’t neglect that. Your body can only become better and stronger once it has time to repair and rebuild. You are not weak for resting. You are smarter and stronger for listening and caring for your body.
Muscle Recovery is Essential
As you can see, muscle recovery is essential and should be implemented by everyone. If you want to perform your best and prevent injury, we highly recommend taking your recovery just as serious as your activity. In addition to the essentials listed above, we also recommend dry needling, cupping, scraping, active release therapy and other natural and holistic types of treatments that can help reduce inflammation, increase circulation and release tension in the muscles.
Get Treated at Kaizo Health
Our goal at Kaizo Health is to always get you back to feeling 100%. Not only will our doctors provide treatment to help you be pain-free, but we also have a dedicated team that will work with you and your insurance to make sure you get the most from your benefits so that you can experience relief for as little cost to you as possible. If you are ready to experience relief from the pain, make an appointment to see us now.
At Kaizo Health, our world-class team of chiropractors in Rockville, MD; Landover, MD; Fort Washington, MD; and Fairfax, VA, practices an evidence-based approach combining chiropractic care and guided, individualized rehabilitative exercises prescription. We provide the treatment and resources you need to recover your health and strength as best-in-class, state-of-the-art chiropractors. We are here to help! In the meantime, make sure that you check out our blog for more information on the chiropractic field, as well as our free virtual self-assessment chiropractic web app here.