By Ian Barlow – Narragansett
Pain is a word that has a different meaning to everyone and is extremely difficult to measure. For one person, pain can be an ache or soreness, to another it could be sharp, shooting pain. Many people, especially active people, often have a certain ache or pain that has been present for a long time and makes their exercise time less enjoyable. Here are some tips to help with those “nagging” aches or pains to help you enjoy your exercise time pain-free.
Water, Water, Water – Drink lots of water. Water helps not only to hydrate your body, but it also helps with the healing process as well. Water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy, make you tired and increase chronic pain.
The Institute of Medicine determined that an adequate intake (AI) for men is roughly 3 liters (about 13 cups) of water a day. The AI for women is 2.2 liters (about 9 cups) of water a day. The more active you are and the hotter the temperature, the more water intake should be increased.
Limit caffeine intake – Drinks with caffeine such as coffee, soda, and energy drinks will dehydrate the body (see above). It has also been shown that caffeine lowers the body’s tolerance to pain. Try to limit caffeine intake to 1-2 caffeinated beverages a day.
Sleep – Make sure you get enough of it and be as consistent as possible with your bedtime and wakeup time. Your body cannot get on a good sleep rhythm if its sleep/wake cycles change all the time. Most research suggests getting 8 hours a night of good-quality sleep. If you have a hard time falling asleep, try taking a hot shower or bath about 2 hours before you go to bed; this will raise your body temperature and the cooling down after helps to trigger sleep. Reading before bedtime is also beneficial to induce sleep. Watching TV or using electronics before bed has been shown to negatively impact the body’s ability to fall asleep.
Stretch, heat and ice – Take the time to ask your health care professional what stretches would be best for your particular activity and how to correctly use heat and ice for any aches/pains that you might have.
Vary your workouts frequently and cross train. If you’re a runner, go for a bike ride every few workouts instead of running. If you’re a swimmer, try taking a yoga class, or do some dryland strength training. This will prevent overtraining by using different muscle groups. An added benefit besides decreasing that nagging pain is that cross training, if done correctly, can help improve your performance in your primary sport or activity.
Please keep in mind that these are only guidelines and that everyone’s specific case is different. If you have any questions, concerns or specific pain problems, it is advised that you seek the guidance of a medical professional to address your particular needs.
Ian Barlow, OTR/L is an occupational therapist with 13 years of experience in South County. He is the founder of Barlow Rehab, an outpatient physical therapy and occupational therapy clinic in Narragansett. For more information, call 401-792-0900.