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5 Tips to Maintaining Muscle Health

Most of us perform preventative daily rituals to maintain our health. We brush and floss to prevent cavities and gingivitis. We manage our diet to avoid diabetes and high cholesterol. We take vitamin D during the winter to prevent a deficiency. But what are we doing for our muscles? Taking care of our muscles is important to prevent degeneration of joints and pain. Ultimately we want to wake up in the morning without pain and do the things we enjoy pain in life for as long as possible. Here are 5 tips to help you toward that goal.

Tip #1: Listen to your body and don’t abuse it.

I find that this is the one that sounds the easiest to implement but very few people actually do. We commonly abuse our body to the point where we have to either stop doing the activity or take pain medicine to get through the day. Pain is our body’s defense mechanism and warning system that something is being damaged or is already damaged. Think of it as your check engine light. Reducing or removing the pain without fixing the problem, which pain medicine is designed to do, will only cause further damage and pain. It’s like turning off your check engine light without fixing the problem. Short-term relief results in long term chronic problems. It would be like your check engine light coming on because your car oil level is low. You can choose to have the problem diagnosed and fixed for a few hundred dollars or you can ignore it and wait until your engine blows up and you are paying thousands of dollars for a new engine. You only have one shot with your body and listening to it will go a long way.

Tip #2: Vary your activities

Doing the same thing over and over again only results in overuse injuries. Vary your activities and exercises as much as possible to evenly distribute the load over multiple areas of your body. Repetitive activities results in overuse injuries because the same muscles are continuously working.

Tip #3: Vary your intensity

Exercise doesn’t mean going 100% all the time. It is important to have complete rest days and days where you only go 80, 50 or even 30 percent.

Tip #4: Foam rolling, stretching, and mobility work.

Foam rolling, gentle stretching, and general mobility are great for warming up and increasing blood flow to your muscles.

Tip #5: Treat yourself to a massage.

Massage is a great way to increase blood flow to muscles. It also helps with recovery and relaxation.

These 5 tips are like brushing your teeth for your muscles. However they are only useful if you don’t have pain. If you have pain in a tooth, brushing and flossing will not make it go away. Instead you visit your dentist so they can figure out why your tooth hurts. If you have muscle or joint pain, you shouldn’t foam roll and stretch. The first step is getting the appropriate diagnosis and treatment. If you are experiencing pain, call Muscle and Joint Chiropractic. We will take the time to diagnosis your problem and provide you with the appropriate treatment. Time is not on your side when it comes to pain. Continuing to ignore/cover up the pain can result in permanent damage like tearing and degeneration.

Concepts from integrativediagnosis.com, used with permission.

Top 5 Foam Rolling Mistakes

1. Only foam rolling AFTER exercise.

Foam rolling is a great way to warm up your body BEFORE exercise.  Foam rolling followed by a quick dynamic warm-up is a great way to prepare your body for movement. To learn how to foam roll and perform a dynamic warm-up click the following link: The 6 Characteristics of a Good Dynamic Warm-up by Eric Cressey. 

2. Rolling over the greater trochanter.

The greater trochanter is a bony prominence of the femur.  If you google it, you can see pictures of it.  If you run your hand down the side of your thigh, you will feel a bony bump at the top.  When you are rolling the side of your leg avoid rolling over that bump.  It can irritate the bursa that is over top of it.

3. Hyperextending low back.

The foam roller is a great way to mobilize your mid back (thoracic spine) into extension.  If you go to the 1:35 mark in the following video (Foam rolling Series) you can see how to perform this.  You will notice that he doesn’t go near the low back (lumbar spine) when performing this movement.  The low back and mid back work differently and hyperextending the low back can irritate it.

4. Using the foam roller on every muscle.

The foam roller works great for most muscles but it doesn’t work that great in the calf area. Try using a massage stick (The stick) instead.  Make sure the calf is relaxed in order to get the deep calf muscles as well.  Sit down lifting your knee straight toward the ceiling let your foot relax so it points toward the floor and relax as much as possible as you roll/massage your leg.

5. Using the foam roller to treat pain.

Foam rolling shouldn’t be used to treat pain. Foam rolling may reduce or eliminate your pain temporarily but ultimately it only delays you from getting the proper treatment.  Proper treatment involves removing adhesion, which the foam roller cannot do. To learn more about this topic click the following link: Can foam rolling remove adhesion?

If you are experiencing pain or have any questions regarding your pain, please click the button below.