When we encounter ‘eccentric’ minds we can find them quite difficult to relate to. Bombastic, crazed and ‘less ordinary’ people are difficult to tolerate at first and it is only upon out inkling to listen and perhaps entertain the idea of the less understood approach that we can even begin to connect with the genius that sometimes lies before us. It is hard work to meet someone when they are on a level that is not your own - not below or above - just not the same.
There are advocates out there who proport that training regimes that involve extreme mobility and manipulation of the body are at times necessary. However, there can be real and damaging long term issues that can arise from pushing too far into extremes. Damage to cartilage, lax tension in ligaments and bone deformations from extended extreme ranges of motion are some of the considerations to think of when considering delving into these exercise regimes.
At what point should we start being concerned about mobility and are there any signs that we should signal to ourselves? There are answers to this and one of the main points to consider is our ability to move without assistance. Simple feats of strength and balance are one of the first precursors to signal overall health. Our ability to move and stand, balance and lift (even the smallest items) all feed into our ability to maintain independent living and quality of life.
So if you are looking at recruiting strength and not just size, then you need to do more than lift heavy things and put them back down again. In fact, it’s the putting them down part that is actually more to the point. Eccentric loading is asking a muscle fibre to lengthen under load. Essentially the amount of force produced when a muscle lengthens.
Any movement that involves the overhead pitch action or throwing action is a multi-dimensional and complex combination of active muscles generating force, as well as stabilisers and then braking antagonists that all result in a powerful arc of motion. Throw into the mix the amount of times that athletes embark on this action in their chosen pursuits of athletic perfection and you can see that this action can be a great cause of strain and repetitive stress on a very flexible and ultimately unstable joint.
So you’ve sprained your ankle. You’re lying there in a tonne of pain, unable to get unbroken sleep, your foot is swollen, any movement hurts and your lateral malleolus looks like a baseball resembling a painters pallette of yellow, blue and purple tinges. Life sucks right about now as you can’t even make a cup of tea and walk to the lounge room. Instead you have to get on all 4’s, gradually pushing your teacup down the hallway towards the tv room. It’s most undignified.
It’s one of the most common injuries to occur in sporting fields and in athletes. The sprained ankle is an easily encountered injury as the ankle is subject to so much pressure in terms of stabilisation and effective balancing of the entire body as it launches from one foot to another and propels us forward, upward, sideways as well as ensuring even distribution of weight and softening shock upon landing from jumps and said propulsions. Thats a lot of work!
It’s a bit of a rude awakening when winter finally makes its presence felt and where once you were lazing lightly on the grassy knoll in the lovely 23 degree sunshine with a bottle of rose and a wedge of camembert gives way the next day to darkness and gloom in pelting rain where a thermal underlayer is not a consideration but a necessity.
Riding along on your bicycle in such inclement conditions is not the most appropriate of behaviour perhaps, but you’ve woken up and in full ‘glass half full’ mode have considered that surely the weather will clear and this is but a temporary climate change ridden hiccup of a weather pattern. Surely once you begin your morning commute in the sun will come out, rainbows will burst forth and you’ll be singing your DIsney tunes in your head as you pass by the traffic on your way to work.
The commiserate option however is the dreaded public transport system. The communal cocophany that in this weather takes on the identity of a bacteria laden cess pool, with people coughing, sneezing and even spluttering into soaked handkerchieves or tissues whilst you are all locked in a tightly sealed vacuum of shared space is not the most attractive option. The social responsibility of taking charge of your own bacterial infection spreading is often lost on our ‘deadlines driven’ work ethic society and sometimes it leaves one questioning whether we are really being socially responsible when we consider heading into a common workplace when we really should be taking a ‘work from home’ day. But i digress…
Deciding to jump on the public system at the first hint of a rainstorm is perhaps a little bit ‘lightweight’ in approach, but the comfort of arriving at work without a soggy wet bottom from the ride in is as much a luxury as that first morning coffee. But in treading the boards of the
So whilst we are contemplating what it is like to be flying down the hill in mid winter on a bicycle, you can be forgiven for thinking that you are in an arctic gale at times, the least of issues being that all of a sudden, tears start forming in your eyes and your nose becomes a veritable torrent of fluid. Its not exactly the Canadian Alps here in Sydney so it isn’t really necessary for arctic exercise gear, but last week It certainly felt like it. So what does cold air do to our system and how much of a threat is it?
Cold air coming in through our airways is not ideal. One of the jobs that our nose does is to humidify the air as it comes into our nasal passage and passes into our lungs. Cold and dry air irritates the mucous membrane in our nasal passage and makes the nasal lining produce more mucous in order to warm the air and keep the lining moist. This results in large droplets of water coming forth from our nose and even our eyes when we are exposed to cold air. Germs and bacteria thrive in dry air and so it is not surprising that as we find ourselves in dryer climates during the winter months as well as being indoors where we heat our air, bacteria is more prevalent and thus the risk of picking up colds and flus increases.
The nasal passages also have tiny micro-hairs called cilia that act like tiny oars, sweeping along mucous through our nasal passages. When it gets cold these cilia slow in their action and therefore the effectiveness and prevention of bacteria taking hold and creating illness in the winter months is reduced. The increase of mucous and fluid in these passages is the body’s way of creating another line of defence. This increased mucous is what results in runny noses and the sniffling during the cold, winter months.
Humidifying air is one the best things that we can do to help out our nasal passages. Creating warm and humid air is the best way to help our cavities do their normal job of warming the air and filtering bacteria and possible pathogens before they enter our body. Humid air is important as dry air is not good for our body and our lungs. The air needs to be humid when it reaches the lungs and so creating humid air in winter is important for keeping everything healthy and avoiding illness.
Humidifying the space can be done by creating sources of water in the room. Bowls of water on windowsills, near heat sources help to keep the warmer heated air from our domestic heating appliances. Having plants in a room also helps. You can purchase humidifiers that create this airflow in the house but there are many ways that you can naturally humidify the home without resorting to a humidifier itself. Even drying clothes inside near the heater can help to humidify the air. It can also be as simple as showering with the door open.
In the case of the adventurous person and my daily bike commute, preventing dry cool air from entering into the mouth and nose is perhaps the best choice and as i have come to realise, the mad bandana clad biker is the best way to prevent the sniffles on the activity run. Having a ski mask may not be the most practical of solutions, but something similar, say a scarf or headband that covers the nose and mouth can help to prevent too much cold air from getting inside your airways.
Whilst it may seem a little dramatic to be obsessing over humid vs dry air, it can make the difference to preventing diseases and bacteria from getting further into our bodies and causing havoc with our winter lurgies. Whilst we don’t have a bitter winter here in Sydney it is worth being conscious of all you can do to help keep the illnesses and winter colds at bay.
Neuroplasticity - the brains ability to reorganise itself and adapt by forming new neural connections is a vital part of the human body to continue to grow, thrive and live. It is so important that we not only develop this ability in early life but maintain it into later life. Continually asking our bodies and our brains to be challenged and solve problems that keep our neural connections alive and vibrant.
The vertical jump is in fact a combination of 3 main synergistic actions. The Triple Extension is something that is coined in the quest for the vertical jump and that is the combination of hip extension, knee flexion and ankle extension. These three movements when combined together have the capacity to create the synergistic eccentric and concentric actions required to perform the vertical leap.
when we injure those trained muscles through repetition or overuse, our body is quick to adapt to any changes. As a result of a weakness or injury we may create a small internal rotation in a major joint such as the shoulder, which then creates a small adaption further down the chain of the arm - say medially rotating the elbow. This change then creates a load or strain on other muscles (in this example the pronators of the forearm) which become more active in performing the motion.
Touch is communication, it is pleasure, it is compassion and it is also diagnostic. Without it we are denying the ability to understand the bigger, wider implications of a presenting issue or injury. Someone with a strong emotional link to an injury or more-so trauma, will require more than a heat pack to feel that they are being ‘treated’ in the best care and way.
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.