STRETCH: Recovering From Injuries

recovering-from-injury-neckA few weeks ago, I injured a neck muscle.  The trapezius muscles are a weak spot for me, as I have injured them before and, if I am not careful with certain exercises, reinjury occurs.  In this case, I thought I had warmed up adequately.  I was pacing myself, rotating through five rounds of Bench, Pullups, Wipers, and Thrusters.  On the fourth round, during pullups, I could feel a slight twinge in my neck.  Knowing this could mean trouble, I stopped the workout immediately.  (Note: A couple of factors led to this injury.  I prefer to work out at midday or in the evening, rather than in the morning, and this was a morning session.  Following pullups with wipers was not a good choice.  Pullups put the upper back, including the traps, through their paces.  One aspect of wipers, beyond the obvious ab workout, is that hanging in place is an isometric exercise by itself, which was too much for my left trap to take.  I have since substituted L-Sit press ups for wipers, as my ab exercise for this work out.)

The first thing that I did was to gently stretch my neck.  I really did not want the muscle to tighten up.  I have a tendency to over protect injured areas.  Meaning, I instinctively curl in around the injured muscle and try to compensate for the loss with other muscle groups.  The result usually is a really tight injured muscle and greater risk of further injury to the compensating muscle groups.

I continued to stretch the muscle throughout the recovery period with two extremely effective stretches.  The first was to slowly run through the neck joint mobility stretch…rotating the neck slowly and gently around its axis first one direction, then the other.  The second stretch was recommended by Master Kim, my Tae Kwon Do instructor.  He had me lay on my back and gently fold my straight legs over my head into a hairpin shape.  This helped stretch the neck and back muscles out.  He also had me slide my feet over one shoulder, then over the other shoulder to stretch out both sides of the neck.  Master Kim also pinpointed a spot in the muscle and used the tip of his index finger to push really hard into the muscle and massage that area.  That and some icy hot helped quite a bit.

During the recovery period, I tried to stay in front of the pain by alternating between tylenol and ibuprofen.

I also used lots of heat.  In the shower, I got the water as hot as I could stand and focused it on my neck.  But the best heat came from Eileen’s DIY project.  She filled a tube sock with rice, tied it off and threw it in the microwave to heat it up.  With this set up, I could wrap the warmth around my neck and shoulder.

The last thing that I did was to buy a compression t-shirt.  Nothing too crazy, just a little bit of pressure to help support the muscle during the day.

This injury was not that bad and was cleared up within a week.  But, I took all of these steps, because I hate being injured and I did not want to take any chances on the injury getting worse.

There are some things that I would have done differently.  The most obvious is to ice down the injury.  I usually like to slap a bag of frozen blueberries or peas on right away.  I didn’t do that this time, because, initially, I thought I had stopped before any substantial injury had occurred and that stretching and Tylenol was enough.

Another treatment that I would like to explore would be massage.  Master Kim’s pinpoint massage made me think that additional massage could really help with recovery.

Finally, applying Icy Hot felt good, but I am not sure how helpful it was.  In the past, I have used Tiger Balm for injuries and again it feels good, but hard to say how much it contributes to healing.  In high school, our trainer used to swear by Atomic Balm, which was really really hot going on.  I may try that again, to see if there is any difference between these balms.  Also, liniments may be worth trying out too.  I have never tried them before, but there might be something there that helps.

The foundation treatment here is RICE.  Rest.  Ice.  Compression.  Elevation.  Experimenting / adding to this foundation may help with your recovery.

For more home remdy tips, see STRETCH: Home Remedies.

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4 responses to “STRETCH: Recovering From Injuries

  1. I couldn’t agree more about staying ahead of the pain. Until 5 weeks ago, I would not have known what you meant or understood its importance.

    Five weeks ago I turned my head and sneezed in an awkward position. The pain was immediate, intense and in my lower back. I could barely finish getting dressed. I don’t normally use pain killers.

    Over the next week the pain did not subside and I began to hold myself in inelegant positions to ease the pain but which just made things worse.

    It wasn’t until I started taking Advil with its anti-inflamatory properties that I was able to sort of isolate my injury and allow it to heal without continuing the domino effect on my other muscles.

  2. Never heat an injury until it’s 72 hours past initial injury time. It has to do with the healing process. Always ice right away. The “I” in RICE is there for a reason. NEVER heat right after, unless its after 72 hours.

    There are a few simple stretches I perscribe to my athletes :
    – Chin to chest, use your hand to pull your head closer to your chest.
    – Ear to shoulder (on each side), again use your hand to pull closer to your shoulder.
    – Look towards your armpit, use your hand to pull your head closer to your armpit.

    Those are general stretches that cover all the ranges of motion of the neck. Ice, stretch and repeat. Never heat unless its 3+days after.

    • stoffainkorea

      Thanks Taryn.

      When I was training in a boxing gym, the old timers, swore by icing a pulled muscle down, then later in the day, getting in the shower with the water as hot as you could stand it. Followed by a good rub down. Seemed to work…but will definitely try ice and stretching as you recommend.

      • Yeah, contrast bathing. It’s another good technique, usually done for DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness – that soreness you get after working out in a days time).

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