Just like recovery is the most important part of training—it’s how we get stronger, how we get fitter, how we get faster—recovering from injuries is the most important part of the injury healing process. If you get injured, your average health care professional will tell you that “the body will take care of itself.” They’ll say to “eat healthy” and “rest up” and “take ibuprofen.” But is that really the best way to recover from an injury? Hell no. You have far more agency than that. You can actively and effectively improve your healing and come back quicker, stronger, and better than ever with clinically-proven strategies and interventions. Here are some of my tips for recovering from an injury. Practice slow eccentrics If you have a tendon or ligament issue, one thing you can do—nay, must do—is slow eccentrics. An eccentric is lowering the weight; concentric means raising the weight. Slow eccentrics involve lowering the weight at a slow pace to really lengthen and emphasize the afflicted connective tissues. Slow, low weight eccentrics is the gold standard for healing any connective tissue strain or sprain. For example, if your bicep tendon is sore, do really low weight eccentric curls. Keep moving Movement helps you heal for several reasons: It clears out damaged tissue and proteins from the afflicted area. It pushes healing compounds and blood into the afflicted area. It tells your nervous system that you are recovering—otherwise, how would you be moving the “injured” tissue? But here’s the thing: you have to move well. You can’t be limping around. You can’t be suffering through your movement. You have to do clean, crisp movements that are as close to perfect as you can do. If you sprain your ankle, for example, you want to start walking on that ankle with perfect form as soon as you can. This probably means going really, really slowly, but that’s how it has to happen. Go as slowly and deliberately as you must to maintain perfect technique. If you can’t move well, don’t move. But movement can be as easy as flexing and extending your knee while you lie in bed, rotating your ankle, or doing windmills with your arms. It doesn’t take much. Just move and maintain movement quality. Use red light therapy Red light is probably the latest and greatest in injury recovery. From what I can tell, it is a strong general booster of healing—against pretty much everything. Below are some of the benefits red light therapy has provided. Patients with knee osteoarthritis used red light therapy to reduce pain scores and increase microcirculation in the knee. That could mean actual healing. Literature reviews have concluded that red light therapy does reduce joint pain, even in chronic joint disorders. Red light exposure increases blood flow to the skin and improves fracture healing. It’s even been shown to improve neuropathic pain. No “physical” damage necessary. It’s even effective against sunburn, especially if you use it before sun exposure. You can get this kind of light by … Continue reading “7 Ways to Boost Injury Recovery”
We talk a lot around here about inflammation, and some of you have raised good questions (and answers) regarding what we’re really getting at. A continuing thanks for your comments and thoughtful responses.
So, what do we mean by inflammation when we harp on the evils of sugars, grains, trans fats and other nutritional fiends? Ah, the many sides of swelling: abscesses, bulges, distensions, engorgements, boils, blisters, bunions, oh my! Do swollen ankles and puffy black shiners really have anything to do with the inflammation of arterial walls? Can flossing possibly help prevent heart disease? Let’s explore.
Dr. DeVany’s title quote has haunted me for years; I typically ponder the significance of this deadpan assertion during my morning jog. “Come on, this can’t be dangerous, can it?” I assert that my morning jog helps me enjoy nature, clear my mind for the impending busy day in front of a screen or microphone, and seemingly contributes to both my fitness base and my health. But only if I go slow! That is the revelation I have come to appreciate over decades of devoted endurance training. Walking is perhaps most health and longevity promoting activity of them all, the ultimate human experience of life and planet that our genes require daily for healthy functioning. This is especially true as you age. A UCLA study of the elderly revealed that walking more than 4,000 steps a day makes for a thicker hippocampus, faster information processing, and improved executive function. Sedentary folks were found to have thinner brains, lower overall cognitive function and increased disease risk. From a base of frequent daily walking (and other forms of low level movement like yoga), if you are fit enough to jog at a heart rate below “180 minus age” in beats per minute, there is pretty strong evidence that you are boosting health. If your “jogging” routinely drifts above that important MAF cutoff (surely the context for DeVany’s warning), you are likely actualizing the quote and endangering your health. This article details how I destroyed my health during a six-month binge of high volume aerobic exercise (playing Speedgolf, where you run around five miles while playing 18 holes as fast as possible) after a long layoff from real training. I overestimated my aerobic maximum heart rate by 12 beats (and exceeded that beeper limit on the golf course frequently as well!) and experienced that familiar steady spiral into declining energy and burnout. First, I delivered a free testosterone reading that was clinically low—as in, a candidate for hormone replacement. Next, on the heels of a two strenuous workouts in 100-degree temperatures over four days, I found myself in the hospital with extreme dehydration, a ruptured appendix and emergency surgery. Months of complications and follow up surgeries ensued. Doctors might assert that an appendix will blow out randomly, but I’m certain that my problems were driven by the six-month chronic cardio binge. In Case You Missed It: Don’t Jog, It’s Too Dangerous (Part 1) With five months of enforced rest and trading my slightly too difficult cardio for easy jogging and walking (after surgeries), I doubled my testosterone levels—going from clinically low to exceeding the 95th percentile for my age. In the aftermath of the ordeal, which coincided with me hitting the big Hawaii 5-0, I turned my attention to fitness goals better suited for longevity: building power, speed, explosiveness, flexibility, balance, and mobility. I increased my devotion to sprinting and strength training, and integrated the wonderful drills and skills highlighted in the basic running drills and advanced running drills videos and morning … Continue reading “Don’t Jog, It’s Too Dangerous: Part 2”
There is an epidemic of chronic lower back pain. It’s one of the leading causes of “Years Lived with Disability” (YLD), is responsible for over 7 million ER room visits each year, and costs us both time (hard to do much of anything when our lower back is hurting) and money (people with lower back pain end up spending thousands of dollars a year on average to treat it). I can’t think of anything that degrades overall quality of life more than persistent lower back pain.
And as is so often the case, our attempts to treat the condition often make it worse. What does the average person do when their back hurts?
Nerd neck. Tech neck. Computer neck. Text neck. Forward head posture.
You might not be familiar with these terms, but you almost certainly know what they describe. Picture someone sitting on a bus or park bench looking at their phone. See in your mind’s eye how their head juts forward of their shoulders and droops down? That’s forward head posture.
Before we were all sheltering at home, you couldn’t go out without seeing it everywhere. In coffee shops, restaurants, public transportation, even walking down the street, person after person hunched over their device. That’s not a natural posture for humans, and it’s taking a toll on our collective health.
Nerd neck, tech neck, text neck, and computer neck are interchangeable terms that denote the pain and other symptoms that come from spending too much time in this position. It’s not clear exactly how prevalent it is, but a quick survey of my friends revealed that every single one had experienced neck, shoulder, or back pain that they attributed to spending too much time on their devices. When the Pew Research Center polled American adults last year, 28% said they’re online “almost constantly.” Various surveys estimate the average person spends 3 to 5 hours a day just on their phones. This doesn’t count hours in front of a computer, watching TV, or playing video games. Teens’ and college students’ usage is considerably higher.
All this is to say, tech neck is undoubtedly widespread. I’d bet it’s become even more prevalent in the past few months as people are spending more time at home with their devices.
The good news is that it’s not terribly hard to correct and prevent. A few simple changes, plus easy daily exercises, and you’ll be standing tall once more.
Contrary to what we’ve been told, cholesterol didn’t evolve to give us heart disease. It’s not here to kill us. The actual roles of cholesterol in the body include insulating neurons, building and maintaining cellular membranes, participating in the immune response, metabolizing fat soluble vitamins, synthesizing vitamin D, producing bile, and kick-starting the body’s synthesis of many hormones, including the sex hormones. Without cholesterol, it’s true that we wouldn’t have heart disease, but we also wouldn’t be alive.
Given all the work cholesterol has to do, the liver is careful to ensure the body always has enough, producing some 1000-1400 milligrams of it each day. Dietary cholesterol is a relative drop in the bucket. And besides, the liver has sensitive feedback mechanisms that regulate cholesterol production in response to how much you get from your diet. Eat more cholesterol, make less in the liver. Eat less, make more in liver.
People do not pay much attention to how to strengthen tendons and ligaments, until they suffer a tendon injury. Only then do you realize that training your tendons is just as important as working on muscle strength and endurance.
Our bodies “expect” a lifetime of constant, varied movement. From a very early age, most humans throughout history were constantly active. They weren’t exercising or training, per se, but they were doing all the little movements all the time that prepare the body and prime the tendons to handle heavier, more intense loads and movements: bending and squatting and walking and twisting and climbing and playing and building. It was a mechanical world. The human body was a well-oiled machine, lubed and limber from daily use and well-prepared for occasional herculean efforts.
Maybe it’s an injury that took months to overcome. Maybe it’s an illness that left you bedridden (or demotivated). Maybe it’s simple disuse and neglect that dragged on and on—or lasted your entire life until today. Or maybe you read my recent post about claiming health in later life and want to get back on the road to vitality. For whatever reason, almost everyone will be forced to recover and rebuild their fitness and strength after an extended period of inactivity. But there’s a wrong way and a right way to do it.
Here are some tips for doing it the right way:
Cold season is upon us. Vitamin D levels are down. People are cloistered indoors. Kids are walking petri dishes. Drug stores are advertising free flu shots. It’s that time of year. I’m sure a few of you are even sniffling as you read this, or maybe trying to ignore the pain of swallowing with a sore throat.
Colds seem like an inevitability, maybe not so much since you’ve cleaned up your diet, but nothing is 100% fool-proof. You will get sick. You will catch a cold. Or someone close to you will. What can you do for yourself? For your sick kid or partner? Are there any natural cold remedies that actually work?
Let’s look at them.
Inflammation is your body’s response to infection and injury. When something triggers an inflammatory response, the immune system kicks into gear, isolating the area, removing harmful or damaged tissue, and beginning the healing process. “Inflammation” refers to both the immune processes happening under the surface and the outward signs of an inflammatory response—symptoms like pain, swelling, or fever. Inflammation gets a bad rap in the alternative health world: “The root of all chronic illness!” This is true to some extent. Name a disease, and inflammation is involved. Crohn’s disease, major depression, heart disease, arthritis—all inflammatory. Every autoimmune disease—inflammatory, involving an inflammatory response directed at your own tissues. Even obesity is inflammatory, with fat cells literally secreting inflammatory cytokines. Yes, but the story is more complicated than that. Inflammation is, after all, a natural process developed through millions of years of evolution. It can’t be wholly negative. Just like our bodies didn’t evolve to manufacture cholesterol to give us heart disease, inflammation isn’t there to give us degenerative diseases. The popular refrain that “inflammation is bad” misses the fact that inflammation is necessary and beneficial in certain circumstances and in the right amounts. Where we run into problems is when there is too much for too long, as is so often the case. So how do you know when the line between helpful and harmful has been crossed? What Causes Inflammation? In order to understand what causes inflammation, we first need to distinguish between acute inflammation and chronic inflammation: Acute Vs. Chronic Inflammation Acute inflammation Acute inflammation is the body’s relatively brief response (lasting several days or less) to a specific injury or illness. All sorts of things can cause an acute inflammatory response, including Trauma or injury, whether serious (car accident, stabbing, broken bone) or trivial (paper cut) Infection by bacterial or viral pathogens Burn (including from the sun) Chemical irritant Allergic reaction When an injury or invasion occurs, the body launches a defense involving the vascular system (veins, arteries, capillaries), immune system, and cells local to the injury. As a result, you’ll likely experience one or more of the five signs that an acute inflammatory response is underway: heat, redness, swelling, pain, or a loss of function. Heat, redness, and swelling signal that leukocytes (white blood cells) have arrived to clean up the injury site, mop up pathogens, and oversee the inflammatory process. Pain and immobilization remind you—or force you—to proceed with caution, lest you re-injure the area. Although annoying, these symptoms are only temporary. And they’re a small price to pay. Without acute inflammatory processes, we would quickly succumb to even minor illnesses and injuries. But not all acute inflammation is the result of something harmful. Some things that cause acute inflammation are actually good for us. Sun exposure is one example. Exercise is another. Immediately after a single hard workout, inflammatory markers go up because exercise stresses the body—but in a beneficial way. The short-term damage that exercise induces allows us to be stronger, fitter, … Continue reading “The Definitive Guide to Inflammation”