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You might be dealing with injury now, but your doctor or physical therapist might not be able to squeeze you in until the day after tomorrow. In the interim, what should you do? When aches, pains, and injuries strike when you’re away from professional help, turn to these three effective self-treatments.
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This is best used when you experience an acute injury, like an ankle sprain, that begins to swell instantly. Swelling makes the injured area weaker due to neuromuscular inhibition—in other words, it makes it harder for your brain to tell those muscles how to work properly, making it difficult for you to use that body part. And it can cause unbearable pain that compression can alleviate—without negatively affecting your body’s own healing process—until you’re able to see a health professional.
2. Soft Tissue Mobilization/Cross Friction Massage
This type of treatment can be used for several different types of chronic injuries that flare up inconveniently, like runner’s knee—the pain on the front of your knee just below your knee cap. Massage the affected area gently at first, then gradually increasing intensity for 3-5 minutes. It’s going to be uncomfortable, but it helps to “jump start” the healing process by re-activating your body’s natural healing response to help the injury get through the full healing process. This is also effective for IT band syndrome. Avoid using NSAIDs or ice after this type of treatment for 24-48 hours, because it will negate the jump-started healing process.
3. Myofascial Release
This treatment can help prevent delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Several research articles discuss the efficacy of foam rolling and myofascial release techniques for increasing flexibility and reducing the effects of DOMS by helping the body more efficiently clear the by-products of exercise associated with soreness, like lactic acid. Roll right after exercise, focusing on the muscles you just used. Go the entire length of each muscle while varying the speed as you roll across them. If you find a knot (a small area of muscle fibers that are in a constant contraction), keep the roller or ball on that location for 10-20 seconds. By holding that spot, it’ll help the muscle relax.
Dan Meier is the head athletic trainer who oversees the sports medicine program for Concordia University in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A former collegiate football player, Meier competed at the ITU World Championships in 2015 and is an Ironman finisher.