Competitive athletes and recreational exercisers alike want to avoid injuries, as even a setback from a relatively minor injury can be extremely inconvenient, stressful, and potentially expensive. The good news is that there are plenty of things everyone can do to prevent injuries. Many of these tools and techniques double as recovery enhancement for those who do find themselves injured. Below are four easy and inexpensive ways to avoid (or treat) injuries, regardless of chosen athletic pursuit.
The humble foam roller is a tool that has been around for decades, and it’s been around that long because it works. Foam rollers work via myofascial release, which essentially means that it massages out muscle tension built up that is limiting mobility and helps with blood flow. Foam rollers help to work out “knots” in the muscle, as well as general tightness after a workout.
Foam rollers come in a variety of surfaces – some have smoother surfaces, while others have bumps, grooves, or ridges. Foam rollers with bumps act like hands to “knead” the skin and muscle tissue, which can boost circulation. Some people find the bumps uncomfortable and prefer the smooth foam rollers, but either choice is useful for optimizing muscle performance and speeding along muscle recovery.
Gradient Compression Clothing
Compression wear is common across multiple athletic disciplines because it can reduce muscle vibration, making exercise more comfortable. Compression wear can also be helpful for healing injuries. Gradient compression wear is especially helpful for stimulating blood flow, which can speed the healing of an injury as well as speed recovery from a grueling workout. Gradient compression socks, like TheraSport and Core-Sport by Therafirm have more pressure at the ankle than the calf, which stimulates blood flow from the feet to the rest of the leg. Wearing compression gear after a workout for recovery or during a workout can help to both treat and prevent injuries, but gradient compression will help further facilitate blood flow as well.
Most athletes are well-acquainted with the idea of stretching, but stretching straps, which are designed to help get a deeper stretch, can help with recovery from workouts and keep muscles limber enough to prevent injury. For those who have a given muscle group that is chronically tight, it may help to find stretching routines using straps. Additionally, stretching straps are designed to help eliminate the need for partner stretch assistance.
Ice and Heat
Heat and ice are some of the oldest tools for treating injuries (as well as trying to prevent them), but some newer innovations like shin wraps allow anyone to conveniently ice or heat injuries or suspected injuries while walking around or doing other things. Heating pads and traditional ice packs also work well, and when used effectively, can help reduce healing time or relieve chronic pain.
While sudden injuries can happen to anyone, making use of one or more of the above tools can significantly reduce anyone’s chances of injury. Best of all, the above tools are affordable and easy to integrate into any athletic routine. By using one or more of the above methods, both serious and casual athletes should be able to continue to train hard with a reduced risk of injury.