One of the most popular summer pastimes is to head into nature to camp, hike and enjoy the great outdoors. If you spent the past Fourth of July holiday weekend like many Americans camping with friends or family, you may be coming back with lifelong memories of roasting marshmallows around the campfire, experiencing incredible sunset views and having some much needed, technology-free downtime. What you also might be experiencing – and maybe trying to forget about – is nagging soreness and pain from hauling firewood, hiking on uneven trails and sleeping on hard, uncomfortable surfaces. To help recuperate from your weekend camping trip and get your body in shape for your next outdoor adventure, it can be helpful for your overall health and well being to add regular massage therapy sessions into your summer camping routine.
Combat Camping’s Physical Stresses
Camping can be just what the doctor ordered for refueling your soul by giving you time to step away from the regular responsibilities and stresses of everyday life. But, camping also can be brutal to your body’s physical disposition as new movements and strenuous activities like hiking and hauling supplies to your campground can tax your muscles’ strength and flexibility. Getting a massage right after you return from your camping trip can help increase your body’s recovery time, while improving your muscles’ conditioning and stamina. A relaxing massage therapy session also can be a great way to help maintain the newfound calmness you gained during your camping trip as you rejoin your regular routine at home.
“Getting a massage after you return from a camping trip can help with increasing your body’s circulation, range of motion, oxygen levels and nutrients for your muscles,” explains Matt Paben, massage therapist at Elements. “Massage also can empower you to continue doing your favorite outdoor activities as it promotes faster healing and improved stamina. When you have more oxygen and blood going to the muscles, you can work out longer and move more.”
After Paben’s clients return from strenuous outdoor activities like hiking or camping, he always recommends regular massage to keep them active, as well as drinking a lot of water and soaking in an Epsom salt bath. Epsom salt works wonders to relieve muscle tension and soreness because it’s not actually a sodium, but rather magnesium. Soaking your body in hot water opens up your pores, allowing the magnesium to soak into your muscles to speed up recovery and naturally reduce inflammation, says Paben.
Be Proactive with Pre-Trip Massage Therapy
Once you're in pain it's harder to get rid of it after the fact. A much easier and more beneficial pain management strategy is to keep the pain from settling into your body in the first place. One way to keep the pain away is to get a massage a few days before you head into nature to feed your muscles with the oxygen and nutrients they need to perform at their best. It also is important to stay consistent with regular massage therapy sessions throughout the camping season so you can train your muscles to be in a more constant relaxed state, whether you’re lounging at your campsite or exploring in the woods.
“Definitely start getting regular massages before you hurt yourself,” advises Paben. “If you're going hiking or camping, get a massage a couple of days before and then get one right afterwards. If you do this, you'll have the best results and feel great.”
“It’s very important to stay consistent with your massages too,” continues Paben. “A lot of times clients will come see me when they’re in pain from doing a certain activity like hiking. We get rid of the pain during the massage, but because of muscle memory, the pain will return again after they repeat the activity. If they get a massage before they hike and they stay on top of it, we can retrain their muscles to relax so they won’t have extra pain each time they do their activity.”
Pack Camping Essentials for a Comfortable, Pain-Free Experience
While you’re out in nature soaking up sun and enjoying all of the simple things in life, you also can help reduce your body’s aches and pains from camping if you simply plan ahead. When packing for your trip, add some extra cushioning and pillows into your resting area so you can make sleeping on the ground or on a hard camper mattress as comfortable as possible. You also can sneak a foam roller into your sleeping bag sack so you can make sure to roll out and stretch your tense, tired muscles at the end of each day of your camping trip. And, just as you pack ice to keep your food nice and cold during your trip, you can cool off the burning soreness common in the legs, glutes and back muscles with some ice packs. As always, drinking an adequate amount of water throughout your day is important, but especially when you’re spending so much more time outdoors while camping.
Keep your body active and pain-free this camping season by incorporating regular massage and healthy lifestyle choices into your camping experience. Your trips will be much more enjoyable and it’ll take a lot less time to prepare and recover for your next adventure, if you stay consistent with giving your muscles the nutrients and attention they need.