Summer is here, which means we’re getting back into our favorite outdoor sports and fun activities. Whether it’s cycling, summer softball league, surfing, or just taking the dog on a long walk, the hot weather makes our bodies work a little harder. Often times that extra effort causes pain, and many will go to the medicine cabinet and reach for a bottle of Tylenol or Aleve to take away the muscle soreness and pain. My opinion on that is… LET ME BE YOUR PAIN KILLER.
Ibuprofen or Aspirin may relieve the pain you feel at the moment, but they do not address the source of that pain. Generally our muscles are used to working according to our regular routines, contracting and relaxing in a similar manner everyday. But when summer comes around and we decide to get into a new fitness plan and, for example, start cycling to work, our muscles are now called on to perform stronger contractions, longer ranges of motion, and to perform longer and harder than they are used to. The result is muscle pain and fatigue. Tiny micro-tears occur within the muscle fibers causing inflammation and that feeling of muscle weakness. When pain-killers are taken, their purpose is to sort of “numb” the nerve endings and therefore reduce your pain. But that fact is, the muscle tears are still there. And not only do pain killers not address the root cause of your pain, they actually can make it worse. How, you may ask? It’s simple. They give you a false sense of recovery. By numbing your pain you will be tempted to return to your new activity and activate those same muscles before they have properly recovered.
So what is a viable alternative? MASSAGE! Massage has many more benefits than pain-killers, and actually has lasting effects. The benefits are as follows:
INCREASED CIRCULATION – Tight muscles press on blood vessels causing them to restrict and the blood to flow through a narrower opening causing decreased circulation and also increased blood pressure! Massage relaxes the muscle releasing pressure on the blood vessel, and therefore increasing blood flow and decreasing blood pressure.
RELAXATION – As stated before, massage relaxes the muscles. It also stimulates the body to produce endorphins that naturally relieve pain and give you that “feel good” sensation.
HYDRATION – By increasing blood flow, the muscles becomes more saturated with blood, hydrating the muscles, and allowing them to move more fluidly and freely. This also reduces the possibility of adhesions or “knots” to form within muscle fibers.
FASTER RECOVERY – Increased blood flow brings more oxygen and nutrients into the muscles which are needed to help repair the micro-tears within the muscles, helping you to recover from you previous day’s beating on your body, and allowing you to perform sooner.
So now that you have learned a little more about the healing powers of massage, what will you choose next time your weekend bike ride has you down-and-out on the couch? Hopefully you will close that medicine cabinet and call Elements for a massage!