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  1. Muscle Pain After Workout: How to Reduce Pain

    Muscle Pain After Workout: How to Reduce Pain

    Delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS) is the medical term for when you feel sore following a tough workout. The soreness is part of the body’s healing response to micro muscle tears resulting from rigorous activity. Most active people have confronted DOMS and know firsthand that it can be as frustrating as it is uncomfortable. No doubt you will want to overcome the pain and get back at your full fitness level as quickly as possible. Find out how to relieve muscle pain after working out with these 10 tips below.

    1. Get Cold

    There has been some debate over the years as to when to use cold or hot therapy when your muscles are sore. The general consensus, based on recent studies1, is that cold therapy is generally better for acute healing periods, particularly the first 24 hours after an intense workout. The reason being that cold combats inflammation, the body’s protective response to injury. Cold therapy, known as cryotherapy, can make your muscles stiff, so be sure you are counterbalancing ice therapy by staying mobile while you recover. Icing with an ice pack is ideal for localized pain. If you need a full-body cooldown, consider taking a cold shower or bath at about 55 degrees. Cold therapy sessions should last about 15 minutes.

    1. Elevate

    Elevating sore muscles above the heart can help to prevent sore muscles by combating inflammation and associated discomfort. Prop up your legs while resting on the couch or in bed. If you have just finished a leg-heavy anaerobic workout, like sprints or other explosive leg movements, elevate your legs right after cool-down. This will help recirculate the blood quickly and flush out lactate released during anaerobic exercise. You can sit next to a wall and simply raise your legs up the wall so they are perpendicular to your body. You can also do a free-standing leg inversion. A good example is the classic yoga pose shoulder stand. Lay on your back and lift your legs and hips off the floor, while supporting your lower back with your hands. This is also a great way to stretch your upper back and neck when you’re feeling sore.

    1. Compression

    You likely have seen compression garments on professional athletes and runners jogging around your neighborhood. Compression garments have become popular in recent years for improving athletic performance and facilitating recovery. Wearing compression garments after a workout alleviates discomfort and expedites healing by way of accelerating blood flow. Specifically, compression garments improve blood flow in the veins. By constricting the surrounding tissues, venous blood moves faster back to the heart. Metabolic waste is then removed more quickly and oxygen is delivered to muscles faster,  both crucial components of muscle repair.

    1. Taping

    Taping has long been used in physical therapy to support injured muscles and soft tissues and prevent further injury. More recently, taping is used as part of recovery protocols to improve lymphatic circulation to sore muscles. A taping technique that lifts up the skin and decompresses the underlying fascia allows lymphatic fluids to better circulate through injured tissues for efficient metabolic waste removal. Kinesiology taping may also change the pain signals your nervous system sends to the brain, thereby reducing perceived pain associated with sore muscles. When an area of soreness is lifted and decompressed by the tape, a different signal is sent to the brain associated with a lifting of tension.

    1. Topical Treatments

    Unlike the other mentions on this list, topical treatments do not directly assist with muscle recovery; rather, these treatments minimize or mask muscle soreness. Your local drug store likely has an entire shelf devoted to topical muscle soothers, from balms and creams to sprays and patches. These treatments typically produce hot and/or cold sensations that instantly and temporarily alleviate discomfort by altering or blocking pain signals. Formulas vary, but most topical therapies rely on menthol or camphor. Alternatively, all-herbal formulas are available and CBD-based topical treatments are seeing a boom in popularity.

    1. Take a Magnesium Salt Bath

    While there is no conclusive data on how effective magnesium salt baths are at relieving muscle pain, the anecdotal data can’t be denied. Many an athlete swear by the rejuvenating effects of a good soak in a magnesium salt bath. Despite its popularity, many people do not realize that there are actually two types of magnesium soaking salts: Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) and magnesium flakes (magnesium chloride). Epson salts are the more popular and cost-effective of the two. However, magnesium flakes are thought to be more efficacious for topical absorption. Whichever soaking method you try, the warm water will help relax muscles, thereby reducing discomfort.

    1. Drink Cherry Juice

    Studies have shown that drinking tart cherry juice following a workout can reduce muscle soreness and damage2. The antioxidant anthocyanins, found in tart cherries, is a powerful anti-inflammatory that reduces swelling and discomfort in over-worked muscles. You can simply add raw cherry juice to a smoothie, drink it straight, or take a tart cherry supplement. The idea is to get this naturally-occurring antioxidant in a concentrated form via juice or supplements, rather than trying to the equivalent in cherries. 

    1. Self-Massaging Tools

    Massage is a powerful modality to relieve sore muscles, besides of course to feeling amazing. Having a self-massaging tool for use at home, in the gym or wherever you are in need of a massage, is a must for athletes of all levels. Specifically, massage reduces painful muscle contractions, spasms, knots, and nerve compression. Manipulating muscles also increases blood and lymphatic circulation to reduce inflammation and pain and help your muscles heal. Getting into the habit of massaging yourself with a massaging tool at least a couple of times a week can be a game-changer in your recovery routine. 

    Self-care massage tools can be divided into two general categories: non-electric and electric. Non-electric includes massage balls, massage sticks, and foam rollers. These tools help loosen tight muscle tissues, but have the downside of requiring physical exertion to use them. You may need to lay against the object, as is the case with a foam roller, or press the object against you, as is usually the case with a massage stick. On the other hand, electric massagers don’t require as much effort on the user’s part. They are also more effective at normalizing and penetrating deeper into muscle tissue. 

    A percussive massage gun expedites and enhances muscle repair by providing bursts of concentrated pressure. Look for models with adjustable intensity levels to accommodate your massage and recovery needs. Our Compex massager, for example, has three levels:

    • Soft - good for small or over-worked muscles that can benefit from blood circulation and gentle manipulation.
    • Medium - ideal for medium-sized or tired muscles that need some release.
    • Firm - great for larger muscles or muscles that need deep tissue manipulation. 
    1. See a Massage Therapist

    Seeing a massage therapist carries all of the benefits of self-massage: enhanced blood and lymphatic circulation, pain reduction and improved healing times. Additionally, there is a critical relaxation component to receiving a massage. Studies show that massages elicit an involuntary parasympathetic nervous system response that allows you to de-stress, conserve energy and reduce your heart rate3. In other words, receiving a massage puts you in a relaxed state of mind that is necessary for healing. 

    Regularly seeing a massage therapist is a cornerstone to any athlete’s recovery routine. It is a key step to reduce inflammation and in helping to recover quicker after workouts. Professional massage sessions should be supplemented with at-home care, including regularly using massage tools. It’s not a matter of either/or when it comes to professional massage and self-massage; think of the two working together to keep your body and mind balanced.

    1. Keep Moving

    A common mistake people dealing with delayed-onset muscle soreness make is to become sedentary while their body heals. It may seem like your sore muscles need a time-out, but you actually want to do the opposite and keep moving around, albeit lightly. This approach to helping relieve sore muscles is called active recovery. Rather than curling up on the sofa for a day or two, which can cause your muscles to stiffen and become more tender, choose a light form of exercise. Engaging in physical activity will keep the muscles and joints loose, thereby reducing pain as you heal. Choose an activity that has little or no impact, like walking or swimming. Yoga, pilates, stretching, and light resistance training are also great forms of active recovery. Just be sure to keep it at a low intensity.

    How to Reduce Muscle Pain After Working Out

    With these ten tips on how to reduce muscle pain after working out, you’ll be back to full strength before you know it. Keep in mind that these treatments are best used in combination, not in isolation. Using two or more of these recovery methods creates a synergistic effect that will dissipate muscle soreness faster than relying on one therapy alone.

    Sources:

    1 Petrofsky, Jerrold S; Khowailed, Iman Akef; Lee, Haneul; Berk, Lee1; Bains, Gurinder S.; Akerkar, Siddhesh; Shah, Jinal; Al-Dabbak, Fuad; Laymon, Mike S. Cold Vs. Heat After Exercise—Is There a Clear Winner for Muscle Soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 11 - p 3245–3252. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/11000/Cold_Vs__Heat_After_Exercise_Is_There_a_Clear.33.aspx

    2 D.A.J. Connolly, M.P. McHugh, O.I. Padilla-Zakour. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/40/8/679.short

    3 Diego M.A., Field T. Moderate pressure massage elicits a parasympathetic nervous system response. Int J Neurosci. 2009;119(5):630-8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19283590

     

  2. How to Relieve Sore Muscles Fast

    How to Relieve Sore Muscles Fast

    Stepping up the rigor of your workout, or working your muscles in a different way, can cause muscle soreness. This condition is medically known as delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). The longer your muscles are sore, the more likely you will be sidelined from physical activity as your body takes time to recover. When active people find themselves in this situation, the question at the fore of their mind is usually: how to relieve sore muscles fast? To get you back to form, below are eight tips on how to help sore muscles recover as quickly as possible.

    What Is DOMS?

    As the name suggests, delayed onset muscle soreness is a condition characterized by muscle soreness starting 24-48 hours after unfamiliarly difficult physical activity. Many an athlete has had this happen: they give themselves a well-earned pat on the back after a tough workout, initially thinking soreness is avoided, and are hit with discomfort and reduced mobility a day or two later. 

    While DOMS can be uncomfortable and prevent peak performance for a few days, it does have an upside: it’s a sign that your body is becoming stronger. When you push your body with a higher intensity workout than normal or move differently than usual, the exertion causes micro tears to your muscle fibers. Your body responds to the micro tears by sending lymphatic fluids and electrolytes to the area to heal the tissue. The tissue ultimately heals stronger than before the micro tears. Unfortunately, the cost of this healing process is inflammation and soreness. DOMS lasts about two to four days. Any soreness longer than five days may be a sign of muscle strain or another injury.

    How to Help Sore Muscles

    Keep in mind that any recovery modality comes with a big caveat: don’t do it if it feels uncomfortable. As your body heals during DOBS, the intensity and location of muscle soreness can alter. Be aware of these changes. You can injure your healing muscles, rather than support them, if you pursue a therapy that hurts. In other words, listen to your body.

    #1 Active Recovery

    Actively recovering from DOBS can include stretching, light resistance exercises or low-intensity, low-impact cardio like walking, jogging or swimming. The idea behind active recovery is increasing blood flow to the affected muscles. Delivering oxygen-rich blood to assist with repair and encouraging lymphatic removal of waste connected to muscle-building expedites the recovery process. Active recovery keeps the muscles and joints moving too, preventing them from getting stiff. Light cardio exercises will also help maintain endurance levels.

    #2 Eat Right

    A key element of any training program is nutrition. You probably already know that protein-rich foods like cottage cheese and fish provide muscles the fuel they need to repair. But you may not know that studies show a couple of cups of coffee can reduce muscle soreness by half. Recovering athletes may also want to reach for tart cherry juice, which reduces post-workout discomfort, expedites recovery time and minimizes muscle damage1. Curcumin, the active ingredient in turmeric, delivers similar benefits to cherry juice in improving muscle performance and decreasing muscular discomfort. Adding curcumin to your diet is easy, either by sprinkling turmeric on your food or taking a curcumin supplement.

    #3 Ice Therapy

    Icing sore muscles for 15-minute intervals sporadically during the days you are sore reduces inflammation and discomfort. Most at-home cryotherapy, or cold therapy, involves applying an ice pack to the affected area. If a head-to-toe ice-down is needed for full-body soreness, consider a cold bath or shower. No ice cubes are needed, as long as you can get the water temperature to the mid-50s.

    #4 Compression Garments

    Compression garments are tight-fitting clothing that, as the name suggests, compresses the underlying area of the body. By constricting the muscles and connective tissue, swelling is reduced and lymphatic and blood circulation is improved. There are different compression garments available for the lower and upper body, providing DOBS recovery support wherever you need it. 

    #5 Kinesiology Taping

    This type of tape is designed to lift the skin, allowing lymphatic fluids to better circulate through the area to remove waste byproducts from muscle repair. The tape is worn for about a day. Taping also has the advantage of supporting the adjacent muscles, which may be weaker than usual as they heal, thereby helping to avoid injury. 

    #6 Self-Massage Tools

    Massaging sore muscles is an effective post-workout recovery modality as any in terms of relieving discomfort and facilitating muscle recovery. Self-massaging tools come in all shapes and sizes. There are massage balls, massage sticks, and foam rollers on the non-electric side. On the electronic side, massagers may come in shiatsu, massage wand or massage gun styles.

    It probably goes without saying that an electric massager requires less effort to use than a non-electric massager; you simply hold the electric device to the area of discomfort and it does the work. Non-electric massage tools, on the other hand, require you to physically exert yourself in order to create tension against the massage device. Besides being more relaxing, electric massagers are faster and more effective in breaking up tight connective tissue and relieving soreness. The most effectual electric massager will have varying speeds and specialized movements, such as percussion.

    If you are considering an electric massager, and we recommend everyone have one from the not-so-active to the elite athlete, consider the following in the device you choose:

    1. Battery Operated - besides the convenience in not having to deal with cords while you use it, battery-operated massagers allow for go-anywhere portability. This is especially important for an active person wanting a handheld massager that can be brought to workouts or competitions. Be sure to review the battery life on the model. Some lower-end models have a short window of use before they need to be rebooted.
    2. Noise Factor - some massagers, especially massage guns, are excessively loud. A massager as loud as a blender isn’t going to provide a very enjoyable experience overall, even if it does massage you well. Consider a low-noise model for a more relaxing massage.
    3. Speed Variability - when your muscles are super sore, you’ll want a lighter touch massage than when your muscles are healthy. Your handheld massager should provide varying speed levels so you can get the exact massage you need when you need it.

    #7 Get a Professional Massage

    Spending time on the massage table is pretty much always a good idea. Having a professional massage therapist work out the knots, flush out toxins and improve the circulation in your muscles and soft tissues will go miles in hastening post-workout recovery, relieving soreness and loosening tight muscles. Keep in mind that if you are in the throes of DOBS, you should forgo a deep tissue massage. Too much pressure when you are still sore can end up hurting, rather than helping. A lighter massage will still confer the benefits of rejuvenation and improved circulation.

    Pro Tip: Professional massages shouldn’t be a stand-in for self-care massages at home. The smart athlete knows to get a professional massage regularly and maintain a self-massage routine for best outcomes.

    #8 Use an EMS/TENS Device

    Applying low-frequency electric impulses to overworked muscles via an electric muscle stimulator (EMS) unit increases blood circulation and relaxes muscles. EMS devices emit frequency through stick pads that are applied to the area of concern. Portable EMS units with multiple programming capabilities allow for muscle recovery, as well as training purposes. 

    Many EMS devices also feature transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) functionality. Rather than sending electrical impulses that target motor nerves, as in the case of EMS, TENS electric impulses block pain signals and stimulate endorphin production and release. Since an EMS/TENS machine can be used for muscle relaxation, repair, and pain management, it is a favorite recovery modality among athletes. Maybe you have used an EMS/TENS device as a patient during physical therapy and experienced its benefits firsthand. You may want to consider getting one of your own. Being able to use this highly effective treatment whenever you need it, rather than only when you see your physical therapist, is a worthwhile investment in your health.

    Combining Therapies for the Best Results

    If you find yourself torn about how to let your muscles recover faster after a workout, try combining at least two of the recovery therapies mentioned above to reduce inflammation and muscle pain. It’s best to combine modalities, creating a multi-pronged approach to improving blood flow and lymphatic circulation to weary muscles. By going for a synergistic recovery process, you will feel better sooner and be back on top of your game faster.

    Sources:

    1 D.A.J. Connolly, M.P. McHugh, O.I. Padilla-Zakour. Efficacy of a tart cherry juice blend in preventing the symptoms of muscle damage. British Journal of Sports Medicine. https://bjsm.bmj.com/content/40/8/679.short

  3. How to Relieve Sore Muscles After Workout

    How to Relieve Sore Muscles After Workout

    Athletes of all stripes confront muscle soreness following an intense workout. Besides causing discomfort, sore muscles can compromise athletic performance and set back training schedules. To put you back on top of your game, below are our tips on how to relieve sore muscles after workouts and how to recover faster after workouts. 

    How to Relieve Sore Muscles After Workouts:

    1. Use compression modalities, like taping or garments.
    2. Ice sore muscles, or take a cold bath or shower, after a workout.
    3. Go for a massage, or give yourself one with handheld massage machine.
    4. Use an electric muscle stimulator (EMS) machine to enhance healing and reduce inflammation and soreness.
    5. Try a TENS machine for temporary relief of localized discomfort.

    The Science Behind Sore Muscles

    In order to appreciate muscle recovery therapies, let’s take a step back and review why it is your muscles are sore in the first place. Despite those tales of lactic acid you might have heard in your youth, lactic acid is not to blame. Instead, it’s your body’s healing responses to the micro muscle tears that cause soreness. 

    Microscopic tears occur when muscles are pushed to perform at a higher level than usual, or are worked in a different way. This muscle damage causes an increase in fluids to the area, including the accumulation of electrolytes. Additionally, a type of lymphocyte called T-cells permeates the damaged muscles. These natural response mechanisms cause inflammation, but also repair each affected muscle tissue, ultimately building them up and making them stronger. Unfortunately, a side effect of this crucial healing process is muscle pain and discomfort. 

    Compression

    Compression is an effective way to combat the inflammation and fluid build-up associated with muscle repair. Regardless of which compression modality you choose, it works by way of this principle: muscles are constricted to reduce swelling and fluid accumulation, while at the same time promoting lymphatic circulation and blood flow to increase oxygen delivery to affected muscles.

    The two most accessible and popular compression modalities are:

    Taping - when correctly applied to lift the skin, compression taping, sometimes called kinesiology taping, facilitates lymphatic fluid movement to the affected muscle tissue. This means the white blood cells that remove muscle-building byproducts can do their job better. Taping has the additional benefit of supporting affected muscles and joints without compromising mobility. Compression tape is usually worn for 12-24 hours, during or after physical activity. The tape can be self-applied, but requires some know-how in order to maximize its benefits.

    Compression garments - you likely have seen professional athletes wearing compression garments during competition, or eyed a fellow gym member in compression gear while working out. These garments are characterized by their tight fit and spandex-like material, often a combination of nylon and elastin. Like other compression modalities, the purpose of compression garments is to reduce recovery times and alleviate muscle stiffness. Compression garments come in just about every variety you can imagine:

    • Stockings
    • Leg sleeves
    • Tights
    • Shorts
    • Tanks
    • Short sleeve shirts
    • Long sleeve shirts
    • Arm sleeves

    When choosing a compression garment you want one tight enough to actually compress, but not so tight as to feel uncomfortable or restrict movement. If you will be wearing one during a workout, be sure that they have wicking properties to keep you dry.

    Cryotherapy

    Don’t let the fancy name put you off from trying this method - cryotherapy simply means cold therapy. The idea is to immerse muscles in cold temperatures to reduce muscle inflammation and soreness. Studies show that cryotherapy is particularly useful within the first 24 hours of an injury or intense workout1. The cold approach to combating sore muscles has long been used by athletes of all levels, whether competing in Olympic or high school stadiums. While easy to use and efficient, cryotherapy does have the downside of potentially being uncomfortable and causing stiffness. 

    You may have heard of elite athletes jumping into a cryotherapy chamber, which uses liquid nitrogen to lower body temperatures. Since most of us don’t have access to this high-tech therapy, below are at-home solutions that produce the same benefits. The key with all of them is to shoot for a session of about 15 minutes within 2 hours of your workout.

    Icing - you have likely tried this method before. Simply apply an ice pack to the area of your body that is sore, or you can tell is going to be. 

    Ice Bath - your bath water doesn’t need to reach sub-Arctic temperatures to be useful. Just be sure it is down to about 55 degrees. Jumping into a lake or pool shortly after you exercise can also provide some anti-inflammatory assistance. 

    Cold Shower - start with a shower that is a comfortable temperature then slowly turn the temperature down as much as possible. If a head-to-toe cold shower is too much, just let the water run over parts of your body that feel strained.

    Massage

    When deciding how to recover muscles faster after a workout, consider getting a massage. Massage is a favorite muscle recovery tool for its dual benefits of being effective and feeling really good. Gently manipulating muscle fibers and soft tissues facilitates the biological processes connected with muscle repair. Traditional massages, like Swedish massage, and more intense massages, like deep tissue massage, both stimulate blood and lymphatic circulation. The oxygen-rich blood supplied to sore muscles speeds up their healing and minimizes soreness. Massage has also been shown to reduce swelling by way of suppressing the release of cytokines, a type of cell that regulates inflammation. 

    In other words, all types of massage confer substantial post-recovery advantages. The level of massage intensity is more of a matter of personal preference, rather than harder must be better. Athletes going for a massage within a day of rigorous exercise should consider a lighter touch massage since the muscles are in an acute recovery process. Sports massages and other deep tissue work are typically reserved for times when muscles are not sore or inflamed.

    If you don’t have the time to see a massage therapist, there are plenty of massage tools to use at home. In fact, even if you do see a massage therapist regularly, it’s a good idea to augment your time on the massage table with one of the modalities below:

    Pro Tip: Electric massagers require less physical work to use than non-electric massagers, making them extra relaxing. If you’re serious about post-workout recovery, try a variable speed electric massager made for athletes.

    Electric Muscle Stimulator Devices

    Electric muscle stimulator (EMS) units release electric impulses through pads adhered to the body, causing adjacent muscles to twitch or contract. When applied at a low frequency, EMS devices increase blood flow to the nearby area and aid in the removal of waste products associated with muscle recovery. EMS also helps muscles relax, an essential to maximize muscle healing, and one that is often taken for granted. All taken together, an EMS unit is a powerful ally in speeding up muscle recovery time after high-intensity workouts.

    You may have used an EMS unit in a physical therapy office or at a chiropractic practice. But having an EMS unit of your own can pay dividends in terms of accelerating the recovery process and easing discomfort. There are differences between the EMS units used in professional settings and what you want in a unit of your own. Here’s a couple of important considerations when choosing your own EMS unit:

    1. Useability - select a unit that you can easily wear around the house, office, gym, or anywhere else you may find yourself in need of therapy. Go with a unit that is battery operated for optimal portability, and one that gets high marks for its durability, quickness of set-up, ease of use and pad adherence. (Pads that don’t stick on are a big annoyance and not uncommon on lower-end units).
    2. Multiple Programming Capabilities - some muscle stimulator machines allow the user to adjust electronic frequencies within a limited range. This may be fine for non-athletes, but an active person in need of expediting recovery to get back to top form will want frequency programming flexibility. 

    TENS Units

    Transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) units work much like EMS units in that electrical impulses are sent via pads adhered to the user’s skin. The main difference between EMS and TENS units is the type of nerves that are targeted. EMS devices influence motor nerves associated with motion and coordination, while TENS devices block pain signals to the central nervous system. TENS machines can also stimulate the production of endorphins, a neurotransmitter responsible for relieving pain and stress.

    While TENS machines do increase localized blood circulation, they generally do not facilitate muscular healing in the same way the other modalities listed above do - compression, cryotherapy, massage, and EMS units. A TENS unit is your best friend, however, in overcoming certain types of pain or discomfort, including muscle soreness.

    The good news is that you don’t have to decide between an EMS or TENS unit. Many devices feature both types of electronic frequencies, giving recovering athletes the power of expedited muscle recovery and pain blocking. Compex offers a traditional tens ems unit, as well as units with combined EMS and TENS capabilities. Our TENS devices are programmable for low-frequency endorphin release, or high-frequency pain signal blocking. As a top of the line device geared towards athletes, our TENS machines feature extensive frequency customization so you can program the exact treatment that you need to get back on the playing field.

    Finding the Right Recovery Modality for You

    While all of the recovery therapies listed above have been shown time and again to relieve sore muscles and speed up muscle recovery time after workouts, choosing the right one for you is a matter of comfort and convenience. Keep in mind that none of these therapies are mutually exclusive. In fact, combining muscle recovery treatments can create a synergistic effect for faster recovery times than only relying on one therapy.

    Sources:

    1 Petrofsky, Jerrold S; Khowailed, Iman Akef; Lee, Haneul; Berk, Lee1; Bains, Gurinder S.; Akerkar, Siddhesh; Shah, Jinal; Al-Dabbak, Fuad; Laymon, Mike S. Cold Vs. Heat After Exercise—Is There a Clear Winner for Muscle Soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 11 - p 3245–3252. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/11000/Cold_Vs__Heat_After_Exercise_Is_There_a_Clear.33.aspx

  4. How to Loosen Tight Muscles

    How to Loosen Tight Muscles

    Tight muscles can limit mobility, range of motion, and keep you from engaging in your favorite activities. Loosening tight muscles will help you stick to your exercise regimen, in addition to making you more comfortable. Find out how to loosen tight muscles with this step-by-step guide.

    But First. Why Do Muscles Become Tight?

    There are a number of reasons our muscles become tight, the most common being:

    1. Long periods of inactivity - this doesn’t just apply to couch potatoes, but active people as well. Even if you are working out regularly, being seated at a desk for long periods of time causes certain muscles in the body to lengthen and others to shorten. Specifically, hip flexors and chest muscles become short and tight, while glutes, back, neck and shoulder muscles become elongated and weak. Assuming this position day after day creates imbalances between tight and weak muscles.
    2. During exercise - muscles can tighten during physical activity, sometimes so intensely as to cramp. Muscle cramps usually arise due to dehydration or low levels of sodium or potassium.
    3. Following exercise - delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) occurs about 24-72 hours after unusually difficult physical activity. This condition is characterized by muscle soreness and tightness. Although uncomfortable, DOMS is actually your body’s healing response to micro-tears in the muscle fibers following intense exercise. The tight feeling following a hard workout is typically related to physical activity that shortens the muscle, such as pedaling a bike or certain weight-training movements like bicep curls. 

    Heat Therapy

    Much has been written about whether to use cold or heat therapy for aching and tight muscles. Studies show that cold therapy is better in the first 24 hours after a workout1. Heat is preferred after the initial healing period and for chronic pain. The reason is that cold is better at combating the early onset of inflammation, thereby potentially reducing recovery times and pain. The downside with ice is that it can tighten muscles. On the other hand, heat relaxes muscle tissues, which eases tightness and painful trigger points. Popular types of heat therapy that loosens tight muscles include:

    1. Heating pads -this method involves applying localized heat to a part of the body. If you are trying to figure out how to loosen tight muscles in the lower back, neck, arms or other specific areas of the body, a heating pad or gel pack will serve you well. Apply heat to the affected area for at least 15 minutes. 
    2. Soaking in warm water - by soaking in a bath or hot tub, you’ll enjoy full body heat rejuvenation. If you are looking for tips on how to loosen tight muscles in legs, soaking in warm water with salt should help. Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) are a favorite way to soak among athletes and chronic pain sufferers, with many devotees claiming that the salts alleviate discomfort in muscles and joints. While there is no scientific data to show this, at the very least, soaking in warm water for at least 20 minutes will improve blood circulation and loosen tight muscles.
    3. Hit the sauna or steam room - much like soaking in warm water, getting into a sauna or steam room will provide heat therapy from head to toe. Besides relaxing tight muscles and relieving muscle cramps, full body heat therapy improves blood flow. This is essential to muscle recovery as oxygen is delivered to aching muscles and joints and muscle building byproducts are removed. 

    Stretching 

    If your muscles are short and tight, it makes sense that elongating them by stretching will help, right? While this is true, you need to be sure to stretch properly and safely. You can do more harm than good if you push yourself too hard or don’t take certain precautions. If you’re wondering how to loosen tight muscles in your arms, neck, or any other part of your body, try to stretch before and after every workout. Here are some guiding principles on how to loosen tight muscles in neck and other areas through stretching:

    1. Warm up - you want to use the elasticity of your muscles to your advantage while stretching, and your muscle fibers will be their most elastic when warmed up. To prepare yourself for stretching, try a light activity like walking. Active stretching can also work. This involves doing light movements that stretch muscles, like shoulder stretches, rotations, or the cat-cow position in yoga. You can also warm up with heat therapy. Consider stretching after you have soaked in the tub or enjoyed some time in the steam room.
    2. Go Light to Deep - while most of us know this, it bears saying: start off stretching lightly, and as your muscles become looser and you feel more comfortable, gradually go deeper into your stretches. If you feel tight, it is even more important to take it slow and listen to your body. Muscle tension, especially from working out, may mean you cannot go as deep into certain stretches as usual - and that’s okay!
    3. Stretch All Muscles in the Area - muscles move dynamically with adjacent muscles. Nearby muscles are also anatomically connected to each other, either by fascia, ligaments or tendons. As such, stretching should incorporate an entire part of the body, rather than a single muscle. For example, if your iliotibial (IT) band is tight, you will want to stretch nearby muscles, including glutes, hamstrings and quadriceps.

    Self-Myofascial Release & Deep Tissue Massage

    Your muscles are surrounded by sheaths of connective tissue called fascia. When fascia becomes restricted, often through repetitive movements, it causes knots and trigger points. As a result, connected muscles feel tense and tight. The idea behind a type of bodywork called myofascial release is to break up trigger points and release the fascia for improved mobility and reduced pain. 

    Another similar type of body work is deep tissue massage. As the name suggests, this massage technique focuses on applying pressure into the deeper layers of muscle. Much like other types of bodywork (including myofascial release), deep tissue massage enhances mobility, blood circulation, and comfort. The key difference is that more layers of muscle are affected during deep tissue massage.

    Performing self-massage regularly at home is critically important to alleviating muscle tension, muscular pain and keeping your body performing its best. The market is filled with self-massage tools that perform myofascial release, deep tissue massage, or a combination of the two. Here is a rundown of what to consider when choosing your self-massaging tool:

    1. Self-Myofascial Release Tools - the most well-known self-myofascial release tool is the foam roller. By rolling your body over the foam tube, muscles and fascia are condensed and released. Since foam rollers have long smooth sides, it is a tool best suited for myofascial release of large muscles. Other self-myofascial tools are better suited for releasing trigger points. These tools typically have smaller edges or sides that allow you to dig into specific areas of tension, such as around the shoulders. Most of these tools are not motorized, therefore requiring users to use their body weight against the tool to create tension, or manually press the tool into the body.
    2. Deep Tissue Massage Tools - there are some non-motorized self-myofascial tools that can perform deep tissue massage if enough pressure is applied. It is not always reliable and of course requires work on the user’s part. A more convenient and relaxing way to get a self-administered deep tissue massage is by using an electric massager. This is mostly because electric massagers can perform movements that penetrate deeper into muscle layers. In particular, massagers that make percussive movements apply concentrated and deep pulses of pressure. Keep in mind that some electric deep tissue massagers do not offer much in the way of myofascial release due to their intensity. If you want a massage tool that performs light and deep massage, consider massage gun with varying intensity levels.

    See a Professional Massage Therapist

    Regularly performing self-massage will do wonders in loosening tight muscles, but a massage therapist can take your recovery a step further.  Receiving a massage allows you to go into a deeper state of relaxation. Additionally, a professional massage therapist will have the skill to locate and manipulate tight muscles, trigger points and tense connective tissue that you cannot identify and treat on your own. 

    Talk to your massage therapist about what type of massage is appropriate for your level of muscle tightness and discomfort. If you are in the throes of serious muscle pain following a tough workout, you probably need a lighter massage. Deep tissue massage or sports massages are best reserved for athletes when their bodies are otherwise healthy, but in need of a therapeutic touch to the deeper layers of muscle. If you need a deeper form of therapy in order to heal a more serious injury, visit a physical therapist.

    Relaxing Tight Muscles for Mobility and Comfort

    With the right techniques and tools, you can quickly figure out how to fix tight muscles for improved mobility and comfort. Don’t forget to perform self-care techniques on muscles adjacent to the tight muscle. And since an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, be sure to warm up and stretch properly before your next workout to help avoid tight muscles altogether. 

    Sources:

    1 Petrofsky, Jerrold S; Khowailed, Iman Akef; Lee, Haneul; Berk, Lee1; Bains, Gurinder S.; Akerkar, Siddhesh; Shah, Jinal; Al-Dabbak, Fuad; Laymon, Mike S. Cold Vs. Heat After Exercise—Is There a Clear Winner for Muscle Soreness. The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research: November 2015 - Volume 29 - Issue 11 - p 3245–3252. https://journals.lww.com/nsca-jscr/Fulltext/2015/11000/Cold_Vs__Heat_After_Exercise_Is_There_a_Clear.33.aspx

  5. Discover the Compex® Wireless Mini

    Compex Wireless Mini EMS

    Help tackle your warm-ups, performance, and recovery with the palm of your hand.

    Introducing the newest addition to the Compex® lineup: The Compex® Wireless Mini. Portable, wireless, and smart, this muscle stim device connects to your smartphone so you can control programming and intensity with ease.

    [embed]https://youtu.be/PBPgm8PF2VI[/embed]

    What Makes the Compex® Wireless Mini So Unique?

    Delivering tiny electric pulses to the user’s skin through the electrodes, the Compex® Wireless Mini provides six programs of different pulse frequencies, helping cover Electrical Muscle Stimulation (EMS) and Transcutaneous Electrical Nerve Stimulation (TENS).

    • Pre-Warm Up: Produces a muscle twitch. Runs at a low frequency and helps increase local blood flow, warming the muscle tissue, and increase reaction of the muscles prior to a workout or competition.
    • Endurance: Designed to help activate the aerobic metabolism muscle fibers during the session. The program helps to establish or improve basic muscle endurance and is designed to help increase the average intensity of muscle effort over that must be maintained over a long period of time.
    • Resistance: Designed to help activate the anaerobic metabolism of the muscle, as this program helps increase the time a muscle can maintain a higher work level. It is designed for sporting activities, which are characterized by a need for intense efforts to be maintained or repeated to help approach the limit of muscle exhaustion.
    • Active Recovery: Produces a muscle twitch at a low frequency. Helps increase local blood flow, leading to a faster reduction of lactic acid than mere rest, while promoting muscle relaxation which helps enable a faster recovery.
    • Muscle Relaxation: Produces a muscle twitch. Runs at the lowest frequency possible to help relax muscles that are fatigued after a workout or competition.
    • TENS: The TENS program is used to help temporarily alleviate localized pain.

    What Does the Compex® Wireless Mini App Offer? 

    The App on the phone pairs with the main device and can operate it via Bluetooth. Alternatively, the main device can control the Compex® device via the radio frequency. So, the App can control either the main device alone, and simultaneously operates the master device and the affiliation device.

    In the App, you’ll find six unique programs designed to help take your training to the next level, the Training Log to keep track of your progression, and a pad placement guide so you’ll know where to place the electrodes.

    What Makes the Compex® Wireless Mini Different?

    Unlike our other Compex® Devices, this EMS with TENS can be controlled from the main device or through the App. So, it’s a great alternative when traveling or at the gym.

    Whether you’re trying to increase strength and endurance or want to help manage pain, the Compex® Wireless Mini offers many benefits to help you reach your goals.

    Shop the Compex® Wireless Mini

    The contents of this blog were independently prepared, and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the views of any other party. Individual results may vary depending on a variety of patient-specific attributes and related factors.

     

  6. How to Be Ready for The Open

    The Open Training

    So, you’re thinking about doing the Open. What’s stopping you from doing it?

    Five weeks of challenging workouts to test you both mentally and physically is not an easy feat. While many competitors will spend hours in the gym tiring themselves out daily and trying different training routines to improve their performance, you can do the same without spending hours in the gym or fatiguing your muscles. So, what’s the best way to be ready for the Open?

    Brooke Wells, CrossFit® and Compex® Athlete, understands the demands your body goes under when competing during the Open and provides a little insight to help you be ready for the grueling few weeks, “The biggest thing is to treat the Open as if it were a regular training day! Don’t do anything different like try a new crazy pre-workout or warm up extra, extra long. Stay in your typical routine, and don’t freak or stress out about it,” she adds, “Trust your training and go as hard as you can. Make sure you are recovered before, have a good meal, get sleep, and proper recovery—like using a Compex® device).”

    When Compex® electric muscle stimulation is added to your workouts, it helps maximize your muscular effort by engaging a greater percentage of muscle fibers. Compex® devices target both Type 1 slow twitch muscle fibers which impact endurance and Type 2 fast twitch muscle fibers which impact power and explosiveness. Using a Compex® EMS device can help take your performance to the next level. Here’s how to be ready for the Open with the assistance of one of our EMS devices.

    Dynamic Warm-ups

    Before you begin you the Open workout, it’s essential to warm up your muscles. Using our pre-designed programs can help make your time more efficient in the gym. A dynamic warm-up helps loosen muscles and gets them ready for rigorous activity, which may help to prevent injury during training or competition.

    The Performance™, Sport Elite™, and Wireless Muscle Stimulator™ all offer the Pre-Warm Up program which produces a muscle twitch and runs at a low frequency while increasing local blood flow, warming the muscle tissue, and helping to improve reaction of the muscles prior to a workout or competition.

    The Sport Elite™ and Wireless Muscle Stimulators™ offer Potentiation which is recommended before a workout or competition, especially for sports requiring speed and velocity. Applied briefly just before the beginning of a competition, it offers immediate, well-potentiated muscle fibers and helping to optimize performance.

    So, before you tackle the challenge, turn on the Dynamic Warm-up setting to get ready to compete.

    Quick Recovery

    One advantage that you’ll have if you use the EMS device is that you can help speed up your recovery before the next workout, whether you want to redo the week’s challenge or you’re ready to take on the next one at The Open.

    Compex® EMS devices offer multiple post-workout programs to assist in your recovery. The variety of recovery programs are designed to bring fresh oxygen and nutrients to the muscles to help flush lactic acid, aiding you to recover faster.

    After your workout, place the electrodes on the muscle area you'd like to target. Select your program and let Compex® help you get stronger and fitter faster than you would with your regular routine.

    The Edge™, Performance™, Sport Elite™ and Wireless Muscle Stimulator™ offer the Active Recovery program which increases local blood flow, leading to a faster reduction of lactic acid than mere rest, promotes muscle relaxation and helps enable faster recovery. These devices also offer TENS which can be used to temporarily alleviate localized pain.

    The Sport Elite™ and Wireless Muscle Stimulator™ devices offer Recovery Plus which runs at a lower frequency for inducing gentle muscle twitches, increasing local blood flow, generating endorphins (the body's natural analgesic) and promoting muscle relaxation when muscles are fatigued after a vigorous workout or competition. They also offer Massage, which runs at the lowest frequency possible to help relax muscles that are fatigued after a workout or competition.

    While other competitors may take breaks, stretch or try the workout before they take on the Open workouts, you can allow your body to rest while still helping your muscles improve and strengthen by using the warm-up and recovery programs. Good luck during the Open!

    Shop our Compex® Muscle Stimulators

    The contents of this blog were independently prepared, and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the views of any other party. Individual results may vary depending on a variety of patient-specific attributes and related factors.

    CrossFit® is registered trademark of CrossFit®, Inc.

    Brooke Wells is a Compex® Sponsored Athlete.

     

  7. Cardio with Compex®

    The following recommendations for use with exercise equipment are for advanced users who have experience training with their Compex device and are comfortable with the sensations that it produces. Please make sure you have read the manual completely and understand the cautions and warnings of using this device.

    If you thought stationary bikes couldn’t get any worse, they can. Or, depending on how you look at it, better. Take your Assault Bike or Spin bike experience to a new level with the use of your wireless Compex device and help maximize your potential for competition time.

    To get cyclist quads, you have to train like a cyclist. To be a cyclist, you’ll have to be as tough as one, too. Applying your NMES device to your quads while spinning, sprinting and sucking air on an Airdyne® or Assault Bike will help increase leg strength by contracting the full potential of the muscle.

    Because of the often “violent” nature of the Assault Bike experience, using the Compex electrode wraps will help keep pods secure and avoid any distraction from the task. Stick on some pads, clip in, strap up and give one of these workouts a try!

    Endurance + Max Calories

    Spin your heart out on the Endurance program of your Compex device. But this is no ride in the park! Aim for max calories through the duration of the 55 minute program and give it all you’ve got. The Endurance program targets primarily Type 1 (slow-twitch) muscle fibers most often associated with long distance or duration conditioning.

    Resistance + Intervals

    The Resistance program fires both Type 1 and Type 2 muscle fibers to maximize the strength potential of the targeted muscle and will offer the most “bang for your buck” for some sprint intervals. During each contraction phase, hit a full effort sprint. These are short intervals, so there’s no holding back. Take a brief rest in the recovery phases. Your efforts will likely fall off after several sets, so start with a target of about 10-15 of these intervals. Once the “sprint” effect has worn off, conclude your workout. This is about the effort, not the duration!

    Conclude your workout with the Training Recovery (Also known as Active Recovery) program immediately post workout, admire your quad pump and buy yourself some new short shorts!

    Compex is registered trademark of DJO, LLC

    AirDyne is a registered trademark of AirDyne LTD

  8. Compex® Trusted for 30 Years + FDA Clear

    FDA Cleared

    Compex®, the muscle specialist, is always looking to support athletes in their quest for well-being, performance or even exceeding training objectives.

    As a global leader for more than 30 years in muscle stim technology, Compex® has dedicated hours and energy to make sure health care professionals, athletes, and individuals have the essential technology and support needed to help relieve muscle pain and improve strength. Our FDA-cleared products are beneficial for muscle recovery, injury prevention, pain management, and intense training programs. We offer the best in Electric Muscle Stimulators (EMS), Electrodes, and EMS Accessories.

    Electrostimulation

    Electrostimulation allows you to naturally reap the benefits of improved stamina, quick recovery, as well as increased blood circulation, strength, and muscle volume. It's a great complement to any existing sports training regimen. From seasoned professionals to weekend warriors, there are many benefits that can be found adding FDA-cleared Compex® muscle stim devices into any training regimen.

    Compex® Electric Muscle Stimulators

    The technology of Compex®, drawn from its double roots — Swiss quality and medical requirement — is light, portable and easy to use. Whether used for training and muscle strength or relaxation and pain relief, Compex® FDA-cleared EMS devices are an essential go-to training tool as a complement to or occasionally to replace voluntary physical activity.

    With many pre-designed program options, the Compex® FDA-cleared devices are meant to help athletes and active individuals reach their fullest potential, fast and effectively.

    FDA-Cleared

    FDA-cleared medical devices are ones that FDA has determined to be substantially equivalent to (similar) another legally marketed device. A premarket notification submission is referred to as a 510(k) and must be submitted to FDA to review and provide clearance.

    Shop for a Compex® Muscle Stimulator

    Individual results may vary. Neither DJO Global, Inc. nor any of its subsidiaries dispense medical advice. The contents of this blog do not constitute medical, legal, or any other type of professional advice. Rather, please consult your healthcare professional for information on the courses of treatment, if any, which may be appropriate for you.

     

  9. How Compex® Can Help Your IRONMAN Training

     

    Training for an IRONMAN?

    Whether this is your first or you’ve tackled many IRONMANS, you know that you’ll need to put heavier-than-usual loads on your body to meet your training plan.

    During training, you put a ton of stress on your body. All that amount of pressure can lead to injury before, during, or after race day. What can you do? Using electric muscle stimulation (EMS) and transcutaneous electrical nerve stimulation (TENS) may be the final puzzle piece in your triathlon training plan to help you keep healthy for your IRONMAN and beyond the finish line.

    Why EMS and TENS?

    EMS and TENS is an essential part of IRONMAN training because it helps increase strength, endurance, stamina, and recovery, all of which help maximize performance.

    Lisa Bentley, 11-time IRONMAN Champion, coach, speaker and author of An Unlikely Champion says, “I have used TENS to reduce pain around a few different injuries—inflammation of tendons, lower-back tightness, and subsequent SI joint issues. I have used EMS to stimulate the muscles which often get turned off due to injury.”

    What are EMS and TENS?

    Basically, EMS mimics the way your body works to cause your muscles to contract. Your muscles act as if you’re working out. Except, instead of voluntarily firing off (because you, say, lift something), the muscles fire when given a very particular electrical impulse from your Compex® device. The TENS can help relieve muscle pain due to injury and over-training. The TENS setting on your Compex delivers small, safe, electrical signals through conductive pads to stimulate the nerves under your skin. It relieves pain in two ways: by helping the body to release natural painkillers (called endorphins) and by blocking pain messages.

    Using Compex® During Training

    Using Compex during your training can help you gain muscle strength in hard-to-reach areas and strengthen muscles when injured. “I had patellar femoral pain, I used EMS to stimulate the medial quadriceps muscle to get stronger and activated so that it could help hold my knee cap in place and counteract my overactive ITB from pulling my kneecap to the outside,” explains Bentley. “I had used EMS when I had a stress fracture to keep the surrounding muscles activated while we rested the bone and joint as they repaired. That way, when the bone was healed, I was able to return to training faster since the normal muscular atrophy had been reduced or eliminated.”

    Compex for Recovery

    Also, Compex can also activate muscles on recovery days to enhance blow flow, which in turn helps heal your body. “Training is the process of stressing out muscles and breaking them down. Improvements come during the recovery phase where the muscle gets stronger and more resilient,” shares Bentley.

    Ironically, injuries happen when you overload muscles and tendons. Recovery from injury occurs when you gradually introduce load to the muscle or tendons. You cannot have rehabilitation without introducing a controlled load. Adding in your Compex device to your training allows for that controlled load by stimulating the muscles.

    Compex for Warming Up

    On top of strength and recovery, you can use your Compex for an effective warm up. The pre-designed programs can target the specific muscle groups you’ll be using, whether you’re in the locker room, at your desk, or sitting next to the pool. The great thing about using Compex during your IRONMAN training is that it’s portable so you can multitask and warm up as you make your way to the pool or set up your bike for a ride. And, it reaches muscle groups that are hard to reach from a regular warm-up.

    Supplemental Tool

    Compex is a tool to supplement strength and endurance programs. You can use the conditioning pre-designed programs to supplement weight training on the same day. Say you focus on training legs one morning, you can use EMS strength on the same muscles that evening, and follow up with active recovery. This helps to fire up your muscles a little quicker than training alone.

    You’re putting in a lot of hard work for your IRONMAN. You want to wake up feeling refresh and ready to train each day. In addition to your plan, make sure you get proper sleep, eat well, and use your Compex for an all-around solid training routine.

    Shop for a Compex Device

    The contents of this blog were independently prepared, and are for informational purposes only. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily indicative of the views of any other party. Individual results may vary depending on a variety of patient-specific attributes and related factors.

  10. Tuesday Tip - Training Recovery Program

    Today's tip is all about how to use your Compex Training Recovery Program

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