By: Julia Savacool
You've worked hard to get in shape, but suddenly you're feeling more achy than athletic. Prepare for a speedy recovery with these drug-free DIY treatments.
Common Problems for Runners
Lance Armstrong might not let a shattered collarbone keep him from his Tour de France training, but most of us are slower to bounce back when injury strikes. The trick is knowing the right way to rehab. "Too often, a minor injury becomes a major bump in women's fitness routines," says Vonda Wright, MD, a sports medicine surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh and a FITNESS advisory board member. What's the best way to get back in the game? (Hint: It isn't always about speed-dialing your doc.) We asked the experts for tips on how to tackle the most common exercise aches and pains yourself.
Common Problem #1: Heel and Sole Tightness
The sole of your foot and heel are tight and tender.
Here's why: With overuse, the connective tissue that runs the length of your sole can become inflamed or suffer microscopic tears. Known as plantar fasciitis, it usually feels worse early in the morning, better during exercise, and painful once you stop.
Feel better: Sit in a chair and place a cold can of soda on its side on the floor in front of you, says Christopher John Anselmi Jr., a chiropractor at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Put your foot on top of the can and, applying medium pressure, roll it back and forth. The cold will reduce swelling while the massage eases the pain.
Your new game plan: Buy shoes with arch support; women with high arches are especially prone to this injury. And cut down the mileage until your foot feels better (try a nonimpact cardio activity, like swimming, instead).
Always stroke in the direction of the heart to prevent blood from being pushed against closed valves, which could damage blood vessels, says Kimberly Mitchell, a licensed massage therapist in New York City.
Common Problem #2: Sore Shins
Your shin area is sore.
Here's why: You have shin splints, caused by doing too much too soon. When you run, your legs absorb a force three or four times your weight. Piling on miles too quickly can cause the tissue surrounding your shins to become inflamed.
Feel better: Wrap an ice cube in a thin rag and firmly rub it up and down your leg, on either side of your shinbone, for 15 minutes at a time.
Your new game plan: Hard surfaces exacerbate the pain, so in addition to curtailing mileage, swap in a few runs on the treadmill or a dirt path. Buy shoes with extra cushioning, and replace them every 300 to 500 miles.
Common Problem #3: Upper Leg Pain
You feel a sudden twinge in the back of your upper leg, followed by tightness.
Here's why: The muscles that run down the back of your leg are delicate. Hamstring pulls happen when you add a burst of speed or quickly change direction, especially if the muscles aren't warmed up.
Feel better: For severe pain, see your doc. Mild to medium? "Sit on the floor with your injured leg bent and your other leg straight for support," says Mitchell. "Using the fingers of both hands, reach behind your leg and apply pressure while stroking upward from your knee toward your glutes for several minutes."
Your new game plan: Strengthen your hamstrings by adding one minute of jogging backward to the end of your regular run.
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