In last week’s episode, I have talked about how fast should a body recover and how you can heal your body faster. Today, I will be giving you the exact recovery techniques that I personally use.
Let’s fly through a host of other recovery tactics now:
1. Stem-Cell Therapy
Stem-cell therapy certainly is a potent recovery method that flies under the radar. You’d want to reserve traditional, injectable stem-cell therapy as a last-ditch effort to, say, avoid a hip or knee replacement or to fix a joint before trading in running, lifting, or cycling for foosball.
But stem cells have incredible healing properties since they can be transformed into neurons, muscle, and several different types of connective tissue—allowing for rapid joint regeneration. In the United States, companies like ReCyte Therapeutics are on the cutting edge of developing injectable stem-cell treatments to do everything from regrowing spinal cord cells to eradicating cartilage pain.
If the idea of using stem cells doesn’t jibe with your ethics, you’ll be surprised to learn that stem cells can be harvested from sources other than human embryos, like body fat and bone marrow(16). Clinics such as the Institute of Regenerative Medicine and Orthopedics in Tampa, Florida, inject nonembryonic stem cells into injury sites that need to heal fast or to permanently fix chronic aches and pains. In fact, at this point, you are have to head to Europe or Asia if you want to be injected with stem cells from actual embryos.
Cryotherapy is a recovery method that I use nearly every day (in the form of morning and evening cold showers and many, many cold soaks in a bathtub or river). In 3 Chilling Benefits of Cold Exercise, you learned about the advantages of cold thermogenesis. The benefits of all those forms of cryotherapy include an enhanced immune system, increased cell longevity, decreased level of inflammatory molecules such as interleukin 6, and, of course, an incredible tolerance for running outdoors and doing snow angels in your underwear.
Prolotherapy fits into the same category as stem-cell therapy—it’s something to consider when you need to “bring out the big guns” because a joint or muscle injury just won’t go away.
Think of prolotherapy as “spot welding” for an ache or pain. It is the precise injection of a solution into areas where tendons and ligaments attach to bone, or into places where cartilage is worn or damaged. When a prolotherapy solution—which can be anything from hyperosmolar dextrose (basically glorified sugar water) to glycerine, lidocaine, or even cod liver oil extract—is injected, it creates a localized, controlled inflammatory response that stimulates the body’s own repair mechanisms to heal the damaged tissue.
Specifically, the inflammation from prolotherapy leads to the creation of collagen, the protein that makes up ligaments, tendons, and cartilage. This causes targeted repair to occur at the exact site of an injury and can be especially useful in areas of poor blood flow, such as cartilage or ligaments.
Whole-body-vibration (WBV) therapy, which involves standing or moving on a vibration platform. The use of a vibration platform has been shown not only to increase strength, power, and speed, but also to generate a hormonal, immune system, and anti-inflammatory response that can speed recovery.
Because there is an element of friction when you are standing on a vibration platform, you need to be careful in the early stages of healing for any ankle, knee, or hip injuries that may be irritated by the rubbing of ligaments on bone from friction (such as IT band friction syndrome). (I experimented with vibration for recovery within hours after I had sustained a knee injury from stepping the wrong way during a trail run and unfortunately found that the vibration left me reeling in pain for several hours, which probably slowed my recovery.)
But in the later stages of healing, and for any injured body part not bothered by vibration (if it hurts, don’t do it), a simple WBV platform can be a handy investment and training/recovery tool to keep in your home gym, garage, or office. You can just stand on one for a few minutes in the morning or evening or implement it into your actual workout routine. Alternatively, there are also fantastic handheld vibration devices out there such as the Myobuddy and the Theragun, both of which can achieve similar effects but in a more targeted manner for specific body parts.
Studies have shown that when you wear compression gear during a hard workout, your performance in subsequent workouts may improve—possibly because the increased blood flow from compression helps restore muscle glycogen levels and clear metabolic waste. When you wear compression gear, you may also have less muscle damage from tissue “bouncing up and down” while you exercise. If you sleep, rest, or travel wearing compression gear, you’ll find that the improved support and blood flow leave you less stiff and sore.
Although I used to find compression gear a bit annoying and time-consuming to put on for a workout or race, I do wear compression socks or tights while at my standing workstation, I sleep in compression gear after particularly tough workout days, and nearly every day I finish up my e-mails and writing while wearing a special style of graduated compression boots called NormaTec boots, which combine three massage techniques to speed the body’s normal recovery process:
Instead of using static compression (squeezing) to transport fluid out of the limbs, pulsing uses dynamic compression, which mimics the muscle pump of the legs and arms, enhancing the movement of fluid and metabolic waste out of the limbs after a workout.
Your veins and lymphatic vessels have one-way valves that prevent backflow of fluid. Using this same type of action, a gradient holds pressures to keep your body’s fluids from being forced down toward your feet by the pulsing action in proximal zones of compression boots. Because of this enhancement, this form of compression can deliver maximum pressure throughout the entire limb, and the effectiveness of the pulsing action is not diminished near the top of the limb.
Because extended static pressure can be detrimental to the body’s normal circulatory flow, sequential pulsing releases the hold pressures once they are no longer needed to prevent backflow. By distal releasing the hold pressure in each zone as soon as possible, each portion of the limb gains maximum rest time without a significant pause between compression cycles.
In addition to these space-agey recovery boots, I’ve also experimented with compression shirts to enhance posture and upper-body blood flow and recovery(29).
Although there is a relative lack of research on the therapeutic use of magnets to help in reducing pain or speeding recovery, there have been some promising studies on their use to improve nervous-tissue regeneration and wound healing. It has been theorized that magnets increase blood flow, change the migration of calcium ions, alter pH balance, and have a positive effect on hormone production and enzyme activity(29).
For example, if a magnetic field is strong enough to attract or repel ions, like sodium and chloride, in the blood, these ions may eventually encounter the walls of the blood vessels, move more rapidly, and cause an increase in tissue temperature or an increase in blood flow.
Companies such as Nikken, MagnaPower, and BodyGlove make thin, light, and flexible magnets that you can wrap around your body or easily apply with adhesive and wear while you are sleeping, exercising, or working. I must admit that aside from occasional experimentation with small adhesive magnets and magnetic wraps for tennis elbow and a sore knee, magnets have not been a huge part of my own recovery routine, but many folks swear by slapping them on an injured joint or wrapping sore muscles with a magnetic wrap—and I’m not going to argue with as much anecdotal evidence as I’ve seen.