To go along with a healthy diet and cross training, active recovery is something often forgotten but equally as important. As athletes, we are hard on our bodies, and as climbers, we endlessly work the same parts of our body until fatigue, often leaving us sore, tight or injured. Simply resting on the couch for a day in between climbing days does not do that much to help the body heal. True, it can reboot your energy and give your muscles time to relax, but if you are unusually sore, feeling pinched or uncomfortable in certain areas, feeling a tightness that won’t go away, or feeling pain in joints or muscles that is abnormal, there are other ways to help your body heal more effectively than simply sitting still.
Every body is unique and will respond to different methods of treatment better than others; however, the only way to find out the most effective active recovery method for you is to try out a few. Here is a list of some of the recovery methods that seem to be the most effective for climber injuries and pain points.
Acupuncture: Acupuncture is based on the Chinese theory of qi. Qi is the energy or essential substance that nourishes & promotes all of the functions of the body. According to this theory, acupuncture adjusts the flow of qi in the body; draining it from areas of excess and leading it to an area where it is insufficient. Acupuncture consists of the insertion of fine needles into the body at specific points linked specific health problems- whether they be related to soreness, injury, stress, etc. The needles are left in for at least 10 minutes in order to allow for more release. The treatment itself will often leave you extremely sore that day and the next day but the body typically feels much improvement the following day. However, everyone’s body reacts differently and it might not be as effective for you as it is for others. You also need to go to a well educated, high practiced acupuncturist who understands how the entire body is connected and how to relieve you from whatever your issue is through the different points on the body.
Dry Needling: Similar to acupuncture however, the needles are larger, go deeper, are inserted directly into the trigger points, and are removed shortly after insertion. Sometimes the needles can be hooked up to electro-stim machines as well. This is a newer form of alternative medicine created in Western society, while Acupuncture stems from Eastern Medicine.
Cupping: Cupping therapy is a form of alternative medicine in which cups are placed on the skin to create suction. Supporters of cupping therapy believe the suction of the cups mobilizes blood flow to promote the healing of a broad range of medical ailments. This has not been backed up by studies. While not back up by studies, those who perform that therapy will say that it is used to treat a variety of issues including:
- Rheumatic diseases such as arthritis and fibromyalgia
- Anxiety and depression
It is also believed to reduce pain and inflammation throughout the body and promote relaxation.
Shockwave Therapy: Shockwave Therapy works by applying radial (not electrical) shockwaves to the painful area. The shockwaves are delivered to the tissue via compressed air impulses and radiate out towards the site of pain.These shockwaves break down injured tissue and calcification. They also initiate increased local blood circulation which stimulates and accelerates the body’s own healing processes. This treatment is extremely painful and can be helped with the use of a lidocaine shot. This treatment is most effective on tendons which are injured or feeling sore and on the brink of injury.
Massage: There are many types of massage, but the most effective for athletes is deep tissue. There is very little relaxation and often times more pain than anything else, but for deep trigger points and chronic tightness, somewhat regular massage can be a great way to help sooth the body in recovery. Great for relieving stress and tension carried throughout the entire body. Massage can be used for specific trigger points and can also greatly benefit in terms of mobility where areas are locked up or tight. While a little pricier, there are now massage studios that offer memberships and many with intro rates.
But dont forget, there are also free methods of active recovery that should go along with the above therapies and can be used on a more regular basis in your own home. These recovery methods include:
Lacrosse Ball or Trigger point ball rolling– Massage Balls are great for trigger pointing specific muscle knots, especially for the small muscles that are hard to reach. Can roll against the ground or a wall on pretty much any part of your body. The harder you press into the ball, the more pain along with more release.
Foam rolling- somewhat similar to the benefits of a massage, foam rolling will help break up adhesions and scar tissue and speed up the healing and recovery process after your workout. However, unlike massage, it’s free, portable and can be done every day. There are also many different types of foam rollers with varying amounts of pressure. While this won’t get specific trigger points, this is great to work on the back and legs and can easily be done while watching a movie!
Icing fingers– icing fingers can help with reducing inflammation and pain in the tendons. To be super beneficial alternative every 5 minutes between ice water and heated water. Make sure the ice water is cold enough. It will hurt, so be ready.
Epsom salts bath- epsom salts help to replenish the magnesium lost in the body. Magnesium helps with energy production. The salts also help to relieve muscular pain and an Epsom salts bath is quite beneficial after acupuncture or massage to prevent soreness.
Heating pads– helpful for chronic pain and stress related pain. This is traditionally a great thing to do for the back. But make sure to never heat an injury. Super beneficial to follow after needle work or massage.
Ice baths– same benefits as icing fingers but now it’s for your muscles. Icing of any type is good for helping to reduce swelling brought on from any injury. Make sure to not ice chronic pain or stress related pain. After a session of needling or massage you might feel sore but do not ice. However with any fresh injury or swelling, ice is essential.
With almost any of these therapies, toxins are released and things are broken up within the body meaning that hydration is essential. Without proper hydration you will be much more sore and will not get the full benefits of recovery from these treatments. SO DRINK UP!