BY MEGAN FLYNN (PT & DPT)
While many events have been closed, postponed, or canceled during this unique time, we are lucky enough as runners to have the ability to continue participating in our favorite sport. From new runners to experienced runners, many are using this time to build their running base despite empty race calendars. However, with all this building and less access to our favorite recovery tools and hands-on care, what can be done to prevent injuries and promote recovery? Here are some alternatives to consider for at-home recovery modalities:
Alternatives for Manual Therapy:
- Self-Massage – The only “tools” necessary for this are your hands! Using your hand, apply pressure to a muscular area of soreness with mild to moderate pressure. Maintain and apply the pressure uniformly along the length of the muscle. Be sure that you are not doing this over a bony area, but muscle tissue! Ask your physical therapist for guidance.
- Theragun – If you have one of these available to you, use it! The Theragun works by decreasing muscle soreness and stiffness and improving blood flow to muscles to aid in recovery. Spend a little extra time on sore muscles.
- Foam Rolling – Foam rolling can be an effective way to warm-up your muscles before you run and aid in recovery after you run. Spending more time in areas of considerable soreness will help break up any knots and decrease restrictions in the soft tissue. You can control the intensity by altering how much bodyweight (pressure) you apply against the foam roller.
Alternatives for Ice:
- Ice massage – Fill a small paper cup three-quarters of the way up with water and freeze it. Once frozen, peel off the top of the dixie cup so that the ice is exposed. Using this, apply the ice in small circles over an area that is sore. Do this for 5-10 minutes.
- Ice pack – Unfortunately, most of us do not have a fancy cold pack at home. Instead, use the old fashioned method: fill a Ziploc bag with ice and crush it, which makes the ice bag easier to wrap around a body part. Apply it to an injured/sore area.
- Ice bath – The area that you are trying to ice will determine the size of the container required for an ice bath. For example, doing an ice bath for your lower leg will only require a bucket, but the hip region will require a bathtub. The temperature of the ice bath should range between 56-60 degrees Fahrenheit. Remain in the ice bath for 10-15 minutes at a time.
Alternatives for Heat:
- Fill a sock with uncooked rice, barley, or oatmeal and tie the sock closed. Place the filled sock in the microwave for about 1-2 minutes while monitoring closely. Use caution when removing from the microwave. Apply as a heat pack to an area of muscle soreness.
- Heat a wet dishcloth in the oven at 300 degrees Fahrenheit for ~5-10 minutes. The time may need to be modified until a comfortable temperature is reached. Apply to the affected area for 10-15 minutes.
Alternative for Recovery Boots:
Recovery boots work by using graduated compression to push blood to the heart to ultimately allow for new, nutrient-rich blood to return to the muscles and aid in recovery. If you do not have the boots available at home, try elevating your legs against a wall. This allows for gravity to do most of the work and pull the blood from your legs toward your heart resulting in a similar effect as the recovery boots. To do this, lie on your back with your legs extended vertically against a wall for about 8-10 minutes.
Alternative Active Release Technique (ART):
ART promotes soft tissue healing by essentially breaking up scar tissue with movement. For this technique, use manual pressure or a lacrosse ball in an area of known muscle soreness. The location of the soreness will help to determine if a lacrosse ball or manual pressure is preferred. Find the sore area, apply pressure, and hold while moving through an available range of motion. Here are some common examples:
- Hamstrings – sitting on a firm chair, apply pressure in the area with a lacrosse ball and then flex/extend your knee 5-10 times.
- Quadriceps – Laying on your stomach on a hard surface, apply pressure with a lacrosse ball along with your quadriceps. Flex and extend your knee 5-10 times.
- Anterior tibialis muscle (muscle in the front of your shin) and Calf muscles – Apply pressure in the area of soreness manually. Dorsiflex/plantarflex your ankle 5-10 times.
There are plenty of alternatives that can be used to promote recovery at home. As always, it is recommended to discuss the use of these recovery modalities with your physical therapist first!