Sleep deprivation is a conundrum of debate. How much sleep can you ‘lose’ before you actually begin to eat away at your well being? Can we regain lost sleep? Do we have to regain it before midnight? A few hours of lost sleep over a night or two is not too damaging and the idea of having a ‘sleep bank’ that we can make deposits and withdrawls from is not necessarily a truth.
4 days free from schedules, constraints, obligations and timetables. These changes in available time, location, obligation and commitment can give us the most liberating time to try new things, set new challenges and perhaps recommit to those things that we said we were going to do back in New Years! Now whilst 4 days may not be the 21 days of regular action required to entrench a new action or habit into our psyche, it can be a damn good start.
My coach (who has played at the highest level college volleyball in America and been in dedicated training and tournament schedules for long and intense seasons) advocates the good ol’ use of Ibuprofen and Anti Inflammatory medications for 2 days after tournaments to help with controlling the vast amount of inflammatory agents that exist in the sportspersons body after a tournament. Conversely my view, is that there are other more natural ways to deal with inflammation without resorting to synthetic medication.
So - who was right?
With this type of pain there were three main issues that could have been presenting and it can often take x-rays or scans to completely determine which of the cases was in actual fact the presenting pain. Three of the conditions that are not as normally diagnosed as stress fracture or ligament tears can mimic the conditions and have specific pain patterns.
Olecranon Bursitis is a result of inflammation of the Olecranon Bursa, a small flat fluid sac that lies between the olecranon process and with any bursae in the body, it is a fluid filled sac that blows up and accumulates more fluid after impact or when two structures may come into contact with each other. In the case of the olecranon bursa, it lies between the proximal (closest to the body) bony end of the ulna and the skin.
The difference between a lot of athletes and weekend warriors is the commitment to how to keep your body in its optimum shape. When we are truly committed to staying on top of ourselves and ensuring optimum performance, there is SOOOO much stuff to be done. It’s not just about to showing up to training, its about diet, planning, nutrition, resting, staying away from cakes and the social brewskies on a Sunday afternoon… the list goes on. Those of us who are truly committed adhere to all these principles. Some of us are committed to the training and performance but are perhaps less inclined to spend that extra bit of effort ensuring that absolutely everything that can be done is done.
One of the aspects that gets overlooked often enough is the recovery stage of performance. We get out on the field, we commit and perform and get muddy and sweaty and then as soon as that is over, it’s time for a beer and a sit in the stands afterward. The cool down, or recovery aspects of performance begin the moment you step off the court. it’s the de-loading after performance, the stretch down/the swim down/the walk home… there are many aspects to post performance that can contribute to you jumping out of bed the next day or slowly rolling and walking down the stairs backwards (because it’s just easier).
Sometimes it is difficult in the frenzy of post event celebration and elation to opt out of the joy of finishing/completing/winning and opt in for the ‘I’m just going to go over here and stretch down’. I mean when you have given your all and come out with a great result, it’s only the rare few who are found reaching for the sports bag, the sweats and therabands and doing the recovery exercises that we all know will result in a good feeling the next day.
But even in this situation, recovery can be part of your ongoing next day routine. There are some things that you should do post event and there are also things that you can do the next day or even the next week to try and ensure that your body stays on top and doesn’t feel like you have just run a marathon, rather that you are ready to run another one.
Some things to keep in mind:
COOL DOWN - whether this is stretching or some dynamic movement such as yoga. A solid cool down program can involve anything from some static stretching, to doing a few laps in a pool or walking out the last few kilometres. Muscles need to be unwound from the impact of having been pushed and used and doing some slow movements helps to move lymph fluid and things like Lactic Acid through the system.
REPLENISH - nutritionally you need CARBS. You need to replace lost glycogen. Now this doesn’t necessarily have to take the form of 15 Big Macs but some good carbohydrate helps to restore lost energy stores in your muscles and also in your liver. Now is not the time to be worried about maintaining your six pack - you need to replace the energy you have lost from exercise.
H20 - similarly you need to replace lost water and electrolytes. These are vital elements to ensure are in good supply as your body begins to rebuild and repair that damage it has endured during your all out event. Water is vital. ‘Drink until you pee clear’ is an old school mantra that can still have some relevance today. Being mindful that downing 2 litres straight away may not be a good idea, but consistent ingestion of water over the next 2 hours is important.
KEEP WARM - even on a boiling hot day, you need to make sure that you don’t cool down too fast. Keeping the body warm and ensuring that the core temperature stays normalised helps to regulate bodily function. Obviously this is easier in warmer climates but don’t confuse temperature with internal body function. Especially if you have been nursing an injury, using some heat to ensure there isn’t a dramatic change in temperature helps with recovery.
REST - you need adequate rest. Time to sleep and to allow the body to repair damage to soft tissues and connective tissues only happens in the sleep stages. Going out and partying all night doesn’t do you any favours. Ensuring you have adequate sleep time means that if you do have to get up and go again the next day, your body has had ample time to recover and rest the impact from the previous day. This is especially important if your event takes place over multiple days.
ACTIVE RECOVERY is more about what you are doing after you have gone home and are resting. This is often where many of us fall short. Active Recovery is all about maintaining the body and keeping it going for days afterward so you can get up and go again when the next training day rolls around. The benefit of this is also that the body gets a chance to continue repairing and feeling good about having given so much.
ROLL OUT - a little bit of foam rollering and strategic ball placement on sore bits is the ticket. Spending 20-30 min the next day on sore muscles and tissues assists greatly with the lymphatic system to move through that all important lactic and uric acid that is the leftover of all your exertion. The lymph system can only handle so much and it is guaranteed that if you have gone hard the day before, there is going to be a build up of these by-products of muscular contraction in your body. Move it through with some fascial release.
EPSOM BATHS - I am a big fan of a good soak in an epsom salt bath. Magnesium is vital for efficient muscular contractions and in helping to avoid some of the cramping that can unavoidably ensue after maximum effort. You may not notice anything at the time but the next morning feels oh so much more free after a generous amount of epsom salts in a warm bath. By generous I mean 250-500gm at least! If you are managing an injury - soaking a flannel in a warm bath of epsom salts and then heaping this on your affected area will help you feel just that little easier with movement.
MOVEMENT - you need to ‘keep moving’. Sitting on the couch after the event feels like the greatest thing to do, but you need to help the body to keep the ‘flow’ happening. Blood and lymph need to be moved through and the tendons and muscle fibres need to be flexed and stretched to keep them flushed with good blood. A light walk, some light yoga, even a different sport like going for a swim or ride can really help to move fluid and nutrients through the body and keeps everything feeling slick and satisfied.
EASY WORKOUTS - even going into a gym or onto the court again can sometimes help. You want to be making sure you don’t go above 70% of your normal routine but taking some easy sets or an easy version of your normal movement can help you to recover faster. Having a little routine of movement like Tai Chi or Chi Gung is also advised as it gently lubricates the muscles and the body and gets the soft tissues feeling mobile again.
So when you’ve given everything, try not to feel that recovery is giving more… it’s about keeping the body in a good state of movement and encouraging a good flow of the system so that processes keep on happening and helping to promote a good re-setting of the body. That way you can bounce back and get back into the activities sooner and feeling like you’ve achieved as opposed to abused your body.
After a rather notable Olympic athlete was photographed with distinct markings on his back after some consistent treatment with an element of ancient Chinese Medicine, there has been a lot of interest and claims both for and against surrounding the practice of ‘cupping’. The famed trend that this sparked in early 2016 saw a myriad of celebrities and famed sportspeople adding aggressive cupping to their recovery programs in order to get that extra edge in their training regimens
Many practitioners, doctors and medical journals have had their say on Cupping and whether they believe it to be ludicrous or of any benefit. The practice stems from Chinese Medicine practice and whilst it is being used for ultra performance athletes, the application of cupping is quite subtle and different. Far from being a tattoo like badge of honour to display in your training outfits, the practice has a practical application and can be used in a contemporary sphere for benefit and adding to health on a general level.
“Where there’s stagnation, there will be pain. Remove the stagnation, and you remove the pain.”
In Traditional Chinese Medicine, cupping is performed to move stagnated blood and get blood flow improved where there has been an area of poor qi flow. I have talked about this in another article. Quality of the qi or blood is of primary importance to TCM practitioners as they regard this flow as being vital to adequately nourish and enrich the body in general. This includes soft tissue, connective tissue and organs alike. As qi is the life-force of the system (human body) it stands to reason that the quality of the qi would create a more harmonious and efficient system.
Cupping is used to draw stagnant blood to the surface. Cupping works on the flow of humours within the body including and not limited to vital fluids, lymph, phlegm and blood. If there is stagnation here then pain becomes present as a result of poor flow. Cupping is used to shift the stagnation and get the fluids flowing again. It’s the flushing of the plumbing system, blasting pressure through a pipe to get rid of built up obstruction and debris that has been perhaps been caused by blockages or a build up of debris that gets flushed into pipes in the first place.
Gua sha is another form of therapy that is used that is very similar to the cupping techniques. Instead of using cups to create suction, a gua sha tool is a blunt instrument that is applied in a singular direction in order to bring blood to the surface of the skin and promote active blood flow. It is very similar to cupping only doesn’t use suction to create the movement of the fluid. The tool is slightly different but the application is quite similar. Gua sha is also a part of the TCM tool belt and used particularly to address inflammation in the body. Inflammation is borne of cold in TCM terms and Gua sha brings the cold to the surface so that it can be extracted through the skin. Bringing forth the internal heat helps to dispel any cold humours in the body and thus deal with conditions borne of cold.
There are many forms of cupping that range from simplistic use of dry cupping right through to cupping combined with acupuncture needles. These varied uses come about from thousands of years of use. It was not just the Chinese who took this form of therapy on board, but the first use dates back to ancient Egypt where cupping was used to treat individuals as well as in Africa, Ancient Greece and Iran. There has been documented use of the practice throughout history including in the middle ages of Eastern European Jewish cultures as noted by the Jewish Philosopher Maimonides, who wrote about the treatise in the 13th Century. So it is hardly a contemporary practice in it’s infancy.
Types of Cupping:
Dry Cupping – generally the most widespread of the applications, where glass or bamboo cups are placed over the back creating suction and drawing blood to the surface of the skin. There are different ways of creating the suction either by applying rubbing alcohol to the rim of the glass and then applying heat to create a seal or by use of suction cups that have external pressure applied to pull air from a specially formulated glass cup. The cups are sometimes moved across the skin to create a flow effect of humours and then can be left in place over certain areas of focus (usually an acupuncture point) to concentrate removal of stagnation for a more prolonged and focused treatment.
Wet Cupping – involves the letting of humours into the suction cup. This type of therapy was used widely to remove pathogens from the system and extricate toxic blood from the system. This was widely practiced in both Ancient China and Arabic cultures and was also documented in use throughout Ayurvedic medicine.
There are two variations employed
CPC which involves:
· Skin demarcation
· sterilization of the skin
· puncturing/scratching of the skin to bring blood out of the skin
· sterilization again
The second derivation of PC involves:
· skin demarcation
· sterilization again
In both cases blood is brought out of the skin in an effort to remove pathogen material from the body. In the PC derivation the cups are moved in a singular direction against the meridian flow or qi flow (ascending/descending) in an effort to maximise effect. PC cupping is more widely employed in the European history and application.
Cupping With Acupuncture
Cupping is applied over the top of acupuncture needles that are inserted into the skin along the TCM guidelines and Meridian/Acupuncture points. The cupping creates a method of needle retreat in the targeted point and utilising the suction action to gain extraordinary function from the application of the needle.
It of course depends on how you are assessed and what your ailment may be that is considered in the use of cupping and the applications that you can expect. Wet cupping is obviously a more aggressive form of treatment and perhaps more common in the Arabic use of these techniques whereas dry cupping is practiced more widely by practitioners in the western world. The movement of fluid through the body is a non-invasive way of encouraging flow and treatment of internal conditions. It works on the same principle as massage but in reverse. Rather than having pressure applied downward to relieve tension and target the nervous system for tension and adhesions, cupping creates tension in the reverse direction, pulling rather than pushing. The aim is the same, to move fluid and adhesions and create more space. In Cupping the aim is also to facilitate movement of humours in general which possibly makes it very akin to practices such as Bowen Therapy and lymphatic drainage, providing relief via movement of fluid.
So this may dispel rumours that cupping provides super human athletes with incredible powers that render them faster or more powerful than others. Instead it is a time honoured traditional practice that is addressing subtle imbalances and flow within the body. It does not create instantaneous function and incredible increase in power output or ability. It is one of the many techniques that can be employed in the use of helping the body to keep healthy balance and maximise vitality. So if you are interested, speak to our practitioners about this practice and whether it is applicable to you and your body.
Veins are made up of a series of one way valves that allow blood to flow in one direction around the body. These valves open and close in accordance with blood pressure. allowing the highway of transport that is the circulatory system to provide a continuous and consistent supply of oxygen rich blood to the body and then transport that de-oxygenated blood back to the heart and lungs where it can once again be filled with oxygen and re-transported around the system.
Bruising has a lot to do with tissue strength. It also has a lot to do with Capillary wall strength and the quality/integrity of our blood vessel walls. If our vessel walls are strong and well maintained then obviously impact isn’t going to damage them as much. There are other factors that weigh in concerning soft tissue as firmer tissue has more integrity than does soft tissue. (muscles for example).
Dermatomes are areas on the skeleton that relate directly to a specific and individual spinal segment. The areas designated on the arms and legs relate directly to a single spinal nerve and being able to palpate or pinpoint this area where a client may be experiencing pain, numbness, tingling or other type of ‘nerve pain’ can be traced directly back to that one location in the spine that corresponds to that singular nerve and where it exits the spinal column.
We do see it in the natural world where birds, bees, coral spawning, turtle hatchings and migrations of Monarch butterflies all effected by magnetic pulls on the earth. Is even said that dogs orientate themselves on a north/south axis to defecate???? These pulls of magnetism signal occurrences that create visual displays of wonder and excitement that have the likes of David Attenborough scrambling for their camera crews. It does exist - but does it exist for humans?
Most of us have a basic understanding of muscular contractions involved in simple actions. A step for example, comes from hip flexion, which usually involves the psoas or iliopsoas. However with this concept, we look at all the structures that can act on this movement that may influence the motion. When someone is in pain, its not just the one singular muscle that has to be taken into account when trying to rectify a painful action. Hence these slings become vital to understanding where the origin of certain pain in said actions can occur.
The Pelvic Floor is the main supportive base for our pelvic organs, namely the bladder and the bowel. In women the pelvic floor also supports the uterus so this is why it is perhaps more pertinent for women to be concerned with their pelvic floor than males. Women have much more awareness of the pelvic floor as it is a vital part of birth function and support. But it also presents a very valuable understanding in support of the lumbar spine when lifting. Hence we all should try and understand how to control and use our pelvic floor in various activities and movements.
Whenever we talk about pelvic floor, inevitably we begin to talk about sphincters and the defecation system. The Pelvic floor muscles control and support the pelvic floor organs. They ensure the supportive ‘trampoline’ if you like of the lower organs of Bladder, bowel and uterus. They also create openings for the organs passageways (the anus, urethra and in women the vagina) to pass through which then allows the body to discharge waste product. These openings have their own circular muscles or sphincters that control the opening of the passages for defecation but it is the pelvic floor that wraps quite firmly around the passages as the first point of muscular control.
There are other applications of the pelvic floor that relate directly to the diaphragm and internal pressure and breath control. Many singers are well aware of the control needed in the pelvic floor when involved in high notes or long breath cycles. Utilising the pelvic floor can help with using the least amount of air needed for vocal control. There is a wonderful story of a well known actor going for a note as Gaston in Beauty and The Beast where he has to quickly let the note go and then run off stage to be changed out of his costume!
The pelvic floor, like any muscle can (and should) be trained to be tight and healthy to assist internal pressure and function of the abodimno-pelvic cavity. The main concern with dysfunction of the pelvic floor is incontinence or loss of bladder control. This is more acute in women at a senior age and post childbirth as the birthing process can damage the pelvic floor and weakening it for later in life. For men the weakness can come about after surgery for the prostate. A weak pelvic floor may result in loss of bladder control in actions such as sneezing or laughing – as Jane Fonda aptly put it in context ‘I think I just peed on Ryan Gosling’
This structure also helps in supporting the lower spine and the back muscles. The pelvic floor provides the inferior border (bottom floor) of the abdomino-pelvic cavity. Imagine if you will, the pelvis is like a balloon – a three dimensional sphere that has to contract and release according to what is required in movement and bodily function. The most important aspect of this internal pressure is most obvious when involved in lifting heavy loads. The internal pressure of the abdomino-pelvic cavity creates the supportive base for the supporting muscles of the lower back and pelvis to push against.
In much the same way that the scapula acts as the base for the shoulder, so to can the abdomino-pelvic area serve as the base of movement support for the lumbar spine. The pelvic floor muscles act directly with the Multifidus and deep abdominals (transverse abdominus/obliquous) to support the load bearing of the lumbar spine. This is known as a ‘feed forward’ (as opposed to feedback) system whereby the support base engages directly in a pre-defined way under load or stress. The Pelvic Floor can thus be vital to anyone involved in lifting heavy loads or high impact exercise.
The pelvic floor has three distinct layers:
1. Superficial Perineal Layer – Bulbocavernous, Ischiocavernosus, Superficial Transverse Perineal, External Anal Sphincter
2. Deep Urogenital Diaghram – Comperssor Urethra, Uretrovaginal Sphincter, Deep Trasverse Perineal
3. Pelvic Diaghram – Levator Ani, Piriformus, Obturator Internus
These muscles span from the coccyx in the back to the pubic symphesis in the front and side to side from the ischial tuberosities. There are two openings in the ‘floor’ for men for the urethra and anus and 3 in women with an extra opening for the vagina.
There are a number of influences that can loosen the Pelvic Floor namely child birth for women and heavy lifting in the general population. High intense exercise as well as straining on the toilet and even chronic coughing can all have adverse effects on the pelvic floor. As with any muscle group, weakness requires training to tone and strengthen the muscles. Likewise you can also have too much tension in the pelvic floor, which can create pain and difficulty with bladder and bowel movement as well as pain in sexual activity.
Essentially the exercise for training your pelvic floor is the ‘Inward Up and Lift’. To identify these muscles, it can be likened to trying to stop the flow of urine. Lifting ‘up and in’ will cause the pelvic floor to contract and restrict flow of the bladder. It is not recommended to do this often, but that sensation can help to understand how to identify the pelvic floor muscles.
Once you have identified these muscles, then actively lifting ‘up and in’ for a series of 8 to 10 seconds can assist in training the pelvic floor. The trick is to do this without involving the buttocks or gluteals. It’s an internal pressure contraction and shouldn’t be a contraction of any of the moving muscles in the pelvis or hips. Performing the 8 second hold for a series of 8-12 repetitions over 3 sets whilst sitting or lying on the ground (to ensure relaxed muscles of the hip and abdominals) is advised for those who need to strengthen their pelvic floor. There are qualified professionals such as physiotherapists that can assist with instructing these exercises.
So it’s not just the women that have to worry about the pelvic floor. And it’s not just the women that can control their pelvic floor. They just might be better at it! But it is something that all of us should be aware of and understand particularly if we are involved in resistance lifting and intense exercise and be ready to articulate and train when it is necessary.
Family is an inclusive word, it’s about a sense of those that you hold dear. Far from just being the nuclear grouping of people brought together by ancestors, family has come to include those that are part of your inner circle, that trusted group of people that you hold and cling to in moments of crisis, and whom you celebrate with when you are in moments of joyous celebration. Emotional bonds and common goals can be enough to unite people in a bond that creates that sense of belonging and compassionate affection. And these come in many forms and types of relationships.
Yoga in the western world is enjoying a huge crescendo of populism with athletes and extreme sports people all praising the virtues of the restive exercise program. Far from being just physical, yoga also has a wonderfully mental balance and even a spiritual element to which it is easy to aspire. So why is this ancient practice so popular and why do we all have an impression of what yoga actually is?
I was sitting down to dinner with my dearest and most wonderful friend (who also happens to be my volleyball coach) and the conversation of ‘does yoga really have benefits’ came about, I harkened back to my days of being a yogi and pretending to know what all the jargon was and every asana’s Indian name as opposed to just calling things an English slang equivalent. Very quickly my friend/coach quickly put me in my place about being opinionated on the matter - I was pretty much forced to take my proverbial silver spoon out of my lower asana!
The mensicus are our shock absorbers in the knee. They help to create a secure and stable platform for the femur (leg bone) to connect withe the tibia in the lower leg We do everything we can to try and avoid injury to the meniscus. Sadly this is not easy as discs in our body age and deteriorate from the minute we start jumping and running and being human! Meniscus tears are a major issue for most of us who are involved in sport and primarily in squatting. That pretty much covers the entire population!
Cortisol has a vital role in the body as one of the body’s ‘stress hormones’. It is released from the adrenal glands into the body in the ‘fight or flight’ mode and it’s job is to prime the body for physical and mental stress and exertion. It downgrades systems such as reproduction and immune function in order to give the body the maximum amount of energy available to execute exertion (that is fighting the bear or running from the bear). However Cortisol can also have a negative effect on the body and when the levels are too high, it can reduce protein synthesis, decrease musculature and increase abdominal body fat.
Much research exists on neural performance and fatigue in high intensity and endurance athletes. In a nutshell, the consensus of articles tends to value that the nervous system needs more time to recover from intense exercise than does the muscular and cardiovascular systems. Pushing into fatigue on hard days in a training regimen is beneficial, only if you also have your ‘easier’ or ‘off’ days. This allows all the systems in the body the time to recover and reset before optimal output is once again attempted.
So - you’re getting tingling down your arm, you may even have some sensation in your fingers and along your shoulder. You could also be presenting with coldness in the arm and fingers and even some discolouration in the arm after or during exercise - one of the elements to consider is a condition called Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS).