Thoracic 3

Cool Down

Why Cool Down Is Important After Exercise

While often neglected a cool-down serves four primary purposes:

  1. Immediate cardiovascular recovery.
  2. You are normalising muscle length and tension.
  3. Mental recovery
  4. Preparation for your next exercise session.

Let's review these four purposes in a little more detail.

Cardiovascular Recovery

Immediate cardiovascular recovery is potentially life-saving. Your heart has been busily pumping blood at high pressure through your body. If you stop your blood suddenly can pool in the engorged muscles, typically your legs, and you may feel dizzy or collapse. Cool-Down acts as a steady "normaliser" that can also help to aid the dissipation of muscle contraction waste products such as lactic acid, and assist the normalising of "fight and flight" chemicals such as adrenaline in your blood. Only slowing down the vigour of the exercise you have just done for a few minutes is all it takes to normalise your circulatory system. Runners can walk. Swimmers can swim slower. All this happens as your heart rate, and blood pressure safely resumes your normal resting levels.

Resting Muscle Length

Normalising muscle length and tension. One of the byproducts of exercise is muscle bunching. Think of a bodybuilder post biceps curls. Semi-bent elbows become the immediate post-exercise elbow posture, and if this remains long term, they will have shorter and more bunched muscles in the long-term. During sports, this may be beneficial, but between your training sessions, it leads to hypertonic muscles, increased risk of muscle strain and in long-term cases, a loss of joint range of motion. Any of these factors may affect performance. A runner for example, with a tight hamstring, will have a reduced stride length and have a higher risk of injury. A tight muscle is usually a less efficient muscle, meaning less force generation and power.

What are the Stretches Recommended Post-Exercise?

The purpose of post-exercise stretching is to restore muscle length, so static stretching is the key. Research has shown that 30 second slow static stretches are the way to go (Ayala et al. 2010). Most researchers favour two to three repetitions. But, you should listen to your body, and if you feel an extra stretch or two of a tighter than regular muscle group is what you need, I'd suggest you give it a try. Your body rarely lies and has a pretty good idea what it likes. It is also important to stretch all the muscles that were involved in your activity.

What about Massage and Foam Rollers?

You can probably also guess that a light non-traumatic style massage or use of a foam roller may also be beneficial at restoring your post-exercise muscle length.

Mental Recovery

Mental recovery is an often overlooked part of the recovery process. We lead busy lives, and it is often challenging to ensure that we adequately take the time to relax and let our mind calms down. Relaxation techniques can be a useful tool. To help you with this, even taking a few minutes to cool down, some mindful relaxation such as meditation, or having a relaxing soft tissue massage can help you reflect upon your training performance. It also helps your or to recover for your next session mentally.

Re-Preparation

Preparation for your next exercise session. Sometimes cool-down is truly an ice-cold bath. That's why ice baths are used by professional athletes post-event or post-game. Research has identified the benefits of ice baths to assist post-exercise bruising and bleeding, joint or muscle inflammation and to provide pain relief - even if it is a bit chilly when you first hop it. Of course, the less brave can use ice packs to painful bits. It all aims to stop things swelling too much, which aids your recovery time.

Things to Avoid in Cool Down.

Just as there are a lot of good things to do in a cool down, it's also good to avoid other factors.

  • Avoid heat - you're already hot, and further heat will only encourage bleeding.
  • Avoid alcohol - I don't want to be a party-pooper, but alcohol encourages inflammation and dehydration.

As I mentioned earlier, the benefits of an active cool-down help you to recover from your session and prepare for the next. Now it's up to you!

More info

What Causes Post-Exercise Muscle Soreness?

What's The Benefit Of Muscle Stretching?

Recovery Massage

Article by P.Xu

Why Morning Stiffness?

As we slowly start getting into the cooler seasons, many people will notice sore joints waking up in the morning, or that movement has become stiff, or even headaches increasing in frequency or severity. Why is this?

It turns out that cold weather can have a significant impact on your body’s tissues. Notably, the connective tissue gives our muscles and joints the ability to move as they do, called elastin. As the name suggests, elastin is one of the critical components that provide our joints and muscles with the ability to bend, stretch, and move as they need to get you through the day.

Now, imagine putting a rubber band in the freezer for a few hours. You take it out and then stretch it as hard as you can without warming it up.

It’s either not going to stretch as well as it should or break in two. Elastin shares these properties. Under cold temperatures, the tissue cannot stretch or bend as well as it is supposed to, causing stiffness or soreness. Coupled with a few other common changes in the cold, vasoconstriction causes a decrease in your blood circulation. Plus, the tendency to stay home and not move our bodies makes many of us unaccustomed to cooler temperatures feel the full brunt of these effects moving forward.

The good news is, it’s a relatively easy fix. Stay warm. If you’re planning on exercising, make sure to perform a dynamic warm-up to decrease the risk of injury, rather than pushing a cold muscle past its limit (remember the rubber band). If a joint feels stiff in the morning, remedy this with a heat pack or a hot shower. If you suspect your headache cause is the cold, slap on a beanie. This head-warming has the added benefit of hiding a bad hair day.

Another excellent fix is getting a massage. Soft tissue therapy such as massage excels at combating several things caused by the cold. The physical act of heating a muscle or joint with friction provides warmth to deep tissues that a heat pack may not reach, allowing the elastin to function as it should. Trigger point work into deep muscle fibres may also bring longer-lasting relief than superficial heat therapy or static stretching.

If you’re prone to feeling the cold effects, massage therapy may be the fix that you have been looking for if you want to achieve long-lasting relief from stiff or sore joints and muscles this winter.

When Should You Commence Physiotherapy?

In severe cases, it is best to commence physiotherapy as soon as possible.  However, it does vary from case to case. Your physiotherapist has some nifty tricks to improve your pain straight away.

If you are not sure what to do, please call us for advice. We’ll happily guide you in your time of need. Often a bit of reassurance is all that you will need.

How Much Treatment Will You Need?

After assessing your injury, your physiotherapist will discuss the injury severity with you and estimate the number of treatments needed. No two injuries are ever the same.

Your treatment will include techniques and exercises to regain your:

  • joint, ligament and soft tissue mobility
  • muscle strength, power and speed
  • balance and proprioception
  • prevention tips
  • performance improvement.

What If You Delay Treatment?

Research tells us that symptoms lasting longer than three months become habitual and are much harder to solve. This can lead to nastier conditions.  The sooner you get on top of your symptoms the better your outcome.

All injuries are different and little variations can make a big improvement to your recovery rate.  Stiff joints or muscles may need some range of movement exercises. Other injuries may require massage or very specific strengthening exercises.

Seek professional guidance promptly for your best outcome.

Back & Neck Pain Prevention Tips

Here's some beneficial advice to help you prevent back pain and enjoy life to the maximum.

Posture

I'm afraid that your mother was right. If you slouch, you'll end up with problems. Just one of those problems is back pain. You'll find other issues elsewhere on this website. Think "Grow Tall".  Imagine that you have a string screwed onto the back of your head, just above your hairline. Then think that someone is dragging you up off the chair you are sitting in. Hold this "grow tall" position for 10 seconds and repeat every half hour.

As well as significantly reducing your chances of back pain, you'll note that your chest has lifted, shoulders are relaxed, the chin tucked in, the head is level and stomach muscles have contracted. You can repeat this posture in sitting, standing, sleeping, walking or running. Try it, and the physio will work for you too! Not bad for such a simple exercise.

Posture Supports

Lifting

The best method to avoid back pain from lifting is delegation. If this isn't an option for you, try the following:

  • Use back support to lift loads over 15 to 20kg.
  • Bend at the hips and knees with your feet shoulder-width apart.
  • Firmly grip the load and hold it close to your body.
  • Think "grow tall" to tighten your stomach muscles and look upwards to straighten your back.
  • Stand using your muscular thigh and buttock muscles to lift.
  • Once upright, turn by using your feet. Avoid twisting your back.

Sitting

Use the "grow tall" principle each 15 to 30 minutes while sitting. A supportive chair or lower back cushion is essential if you must sit. If possible, don't stay seated for too long. Regularly stand up, stretch your back and walk short distances for a variety of postures. After all, we were designed for hunting and foraging - not sit in front of a computer!

Posture Supports

Exercise

Fitness has many benefits. Stronger, more flexible muscles and less weight to stress the bones and discs. PhysioWorks provides exercise programs to keep your back relaxed, strong and pain-free. Exercise can involve aspects of flexibility, strengthening and postural control.

Consider Real-Time Ultrasound Retraining to ensure you are doing it right!

Sleeping

A quality pillow and mattress are necessary for a healthy spine. You do spend somewhere between one-quarter (1/4) and one-third (1/3) of your life sleeping.

Do it in comfort!  You'll need to consider a new mattress if you wake up through the night or in the morning with back pain.  Would you please ask your PhysioWorks therapist for advice at your next visit?

Driving

Use the "grow tall" principle each 15 to 30 minutes while driving. The combination of sitting and bumpy roads is a recipe for back pain. A  lower back cushion is essential if you must go any distance.

If possible, don't stay seated for too long. After all, we were designed for hunting and foraging - not sit in front of a computer! Regularly break your travels to have a walk and perform simple stretching exercises for various postures and a healthy spine.

Posture Supports

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