I recently came to the realisation that I’m not 25 anymore. In fact I’m a pretty long way from 35, and shall be celebrating (and I use the word in the broadest possible sense) my 45th birthday in October.
That moment of clarity was brought on, for the most part, by the relatively endless aches and pains that I put up with these days. While I’ve always been a very active person, I don’t remember all that activity hurting quite so much before.
I’m sure that I’m not unique in this realisation, and in fact Sandra has recently undergone surgery on her knee to alleviate long term pain and twinges, but if we’re both honest, we know that our bodies simply don’t recover as quickly, or as well as they used to.
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not suggesting that I will become a couch potato and while away my evenings and weekends eating comfort food and reliving past fitness glories. No, I fully intend to remain as active as possible for as long as possible, but I’m also aware that I need to be a bit smarter about it.
If you’re regularly putting up with aches and pains, the last thing you want to be doing is popping pills everyday to keep going, but what other options have you got? Quite a few actually, assuming you have an open mind.
Many years ago, when I was suffering from a particularly unpleasant bout of tendonitis, I found myself referred to a physiotherapist by my GP. After the first session, which consisted of pretty normal stretching, exercising and massaging, Shirley (my physio) asked me if I was willing to try something a bit different. With a certain sense of apprehension I agreed.
My next session involved no regular techniques that I’d encountered before. Instead Shirley placed stones around my body while I lay there and relaxed. The session after that, she convinced me to try acupuncture, which was a minor miracle considering my aversion to needles. In the session following that, she used no apparatus at all, and simply laid her hands on the areas that were causing me pain – the heat that emanated from her hands while she did this was uncanny.
Not only did Shirley manage to resolve the acute bout of tendinitis that had afflicted me, but she also managed to expunge all manner of other twinges and aches that had been bothering me for months. And it wasn’t just my body that felt better either – after each session I felt refreshed both physically and mentally.
I’ve never used another physiotherapist again, and even if I’m not suffering from any particular issue, I know that a visit to Shirley will make me feel better, and gear me up for any physical or mental challenges on the horizon.
But you can’t manage every little ache and pain by visiting your favourite physio, not unless you have very deep pockets and loads of free time. So what other measures can you take to manage those regular twinges without resorting to opioids?
One option that presented itself to me recently was electromagnetic therapy. Now, there’s pretty much no scientific proof that electromagnetic therapy works, and there’s definitely a hint of placebo about it. However, my wife’s mother, who suffers from chronic back pain, insists that it’s the only thing that gives her any relief.
So, since I generally live with aching knees every day, I decided to give the ActiPatch knee kit a try. Inside the pack I found a small device, about the size of a 50p piece, with a flexible loop attached to it. The idea being that the loop surrounds the area of pain and gently pushes electromagnetic pulses into your muscles, tendons, ligaments etc.
Also in the box was a knee strap, designed to hold the ActiPatch on your knee. I personally found the strap to be extremely uncomfortable, so I chose to secure the ActiPatch with surgical tape, which kept it in place all day without bothering me – obviously removing the tape wasn’t much fun though.
The ActiPatch is a sealed unit with a battery life of 720-hours, so it’s worth wearing it constantly for a few days to get the full benefit, including while you sleep. Oh, and just because the pack I tried is designed for knee pain, it doesn’t mean you can’t use it elsewhere – there’s nothing stopping you from strapping it to your shoulder or back.
So does it work? As always it’s hard to say in cases like this, but I believe that it had a positive effect. The important thing to remember about electromagnetic therapy is that it’s not a cure for anything, it simply aides the body’s natural recovery process. And in my experience, anything that helps my old muscles recover more quickly is a good thing!
Another method of aiding recovery that I discovered recently is The Stick. The Stick is essentially a massage tool that breaks down the build-up or bad tissue within your muscles and promotes circulation.
When you’re training, especially if you partake in high impact activities like running, your muscles need to recover from the punishment they’re undergoing. Without adequate recovery, those muscles can become tight and put added pressure on ligaments and tendons, which could eventually lead to injury.
Everybody knows how important stretching is, but most of us don’t dedicate enough time to post workout stretching, even though we know we should. The Stick can, to some degree at least, help with this situation. Letting you loosen and massage your muscles while you’re sitting in front of the TV, or reading a book.
I’ve been using The Stick for a few weeks now and it has made a real difference to my muscle recovery, and significantly reduced on-going muscle fatigue. I’ve mainly concentrated on my legs, since that’s where muscles need the most help and attention, but you can use The Stick virtually anywhere.
Foam rollers offer a similar muscle relaxing and blood flow enhancing effect, but I personally find The Stick a bit more convenient and easier to use regularly. It’s probably worth giving both a try though, since it’s very much a case of personal preference.
Of course I’m not suggesting that you shouldn’t use conventional medicine and pain relief. I still find myself regularly slapping ibuprofen gel on various aches and pains, and still swallow my fair share of painkillers. But when it comes to managing those long term aches, or attempting to take preventative action, there are many chemical free options.