Injuries come in all shapes and sizes but the common denominator between them all is your body's first response – inflammation. Immediate and acute swelling is initially an important step in the healing process as it collects beneficial immune cells and enzymes at the damaged or infected location. Without some inflammation response your body would not heal. The problem is that acute inflammation often becomes chronic inflammation, as in the swelling just won't go away or is re-occuring based on activity. Chronic inflammation is no good as the constant flood of immune cells causes the destruction of the same healing tissues your body is fighting to repair.
For the last twenty five years good ol' Vitamin "I" (ibuprofen) has been the most highly recommended anti-inflammatory agent available. 200, 800 and even 1600 mg Ibuprofen pills are popped by the millions each year as the synthetic drug has proven to be highly effective with seemingly benign immediate side effects. The issue with ibuprofen and other synthetic anti-inflammatory drugs like aspirin and naproxen, is not in its short-term benefit, but in its long-term detrimental effects. Daily ibruprofen use is very hard on your liver, kidneys and gastro-intestinal system and has also been linked to increased odds of heart attack. Suppposedly, ibuprofen damage accounts for 30-40% of liver transplants, just behind alcoholism, and when used in combination with alcohol it's exponentially more damaging. How many nights have you pounded advil and partied?
If you are regularly swallowing vitamin "I" to deal with chronic inflammation I'd like to introduce you to a few other anti-inflammatory agents that can be just as effective, won't cause ulcers or organ damage, and just might improve your overall health. Without going into too much detail about product specifics, all of the anti-inflammatory supplements pictured above take a holistic approach to battling inflammation by moderating and not just masking your body's inflammatory response. Instead of blocking the pain and inflammation all together, these herbal products use a blend of natural agents to temper the swelling and discomfort while promoting the healthy inflammation response that's necessary for active healing. And in a complete reversal of side effects from ibuprofen, the natural ingredients in these products have been linked to improved cardiovascular and gastrointestinal health for literally centuries.
While these herbal anti-inflammatories can and do provide immediate relief, their effects truly shine over the long term making them especially beneficial for lingering ski injuries. Slip some daily Turmeric into your healing regiment and I think you'll be very pleasantly surprised at the overall joy your muscles will feel after a month.
For more info about these supplements stop into New Moon Natural Foods in either Tahoe City or Truckee. Both store's supplement managers, Mark and Allison, are incredibly knowledgeable and give recommendations daily for athletes on the mend.
Got knots and tight muscles but no money for a sports massage? Get yourself a foam roller.
The foam roller is an age-old physical therapy tool that can be very effective in stretching muscles and breaking down soft tissue adhesions (knots) by increasing blood flow and circulation. The best thing about the roller is that all you need to make it work is your own body weight and and some patient movements.
Once again, i'll refrain from offering up any real therapy techniques without credential, but I can say that it is extremely easy to work on back, neck, shoulder and upper leg issues with the foam roller. That said, the roller can also be over-used and lead to further strain if you work into a sore spot too intensely. Pain will be your guide using the roller. Chill out if it increases.
Foam rollers can be purchased at many pilates studios, as well as most physical therapy clinics. To learn how to do basic roller exercises you can search online or ask a friendly PT.
This recommendation is specific to those with back or hip pain. Though I admit to having no back problems myself, I have seen the effects of chronic back pain first hand as my wife has been battling it for some time. She has found no easy answers to solve the issue but doesn't let it stop her from charging through the use of diligent stretching sessions including basic traction techniques.
As you've come to expect by this point in the article, i'll save the stretching lesson for a PT, but clue you into a pretty rad exercise and stretching tool that we've recently hung on one of our doorways – the Iron Gym Xtreme Workout bar. The Iron Gym Bar may sound as cheesy as the infomercial that touts it, but in reality it is well-built, incredibly easy to install, and a killer tool for pumping up your pecs and pythons on the pull-up bar or stretching out your arms, shoulders, and back.
My wife uses the Iron Gym to gently hang off her arms and let her body weight slowly elongate the spine and loosen tight back muscles. It's not a rocket science therapy technique and may not be recommended for your particular back injury, but it's safe to say many, many folks have found this basic traction technique (hanging) to be effective in alleviating back discomfort, if only temporarily. Please take this advice with a strong warning however as too much back traction may actually worsen pain. Clinical studies on similar traction therapies have found mixed results.
If you think a little hang time might be a good Rx for your injury, you can pick up an Iron Gym Bar at Target for about $30.