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How to help facilitate muscle recovery...

Updated: Sep 6, 2023

While exercise and daily activity is essential to our health and well-being, so too is our muscle recovery. Without adequate muscle repair and recovery, our physical fitness is impaired and we are at greater risk of injury. Muscle recovery is essential to our ability to increase strength and physical capacity over time. The most common methods to enhance our muscle recovery include: sleep, nutrition & hydration, thermotherapy & cryotherapy, manual therapy, deloading and stretching.

Sleep:  Sleep is a homeostatic process and biological state which is crucial to physical and mental health. Inadequate sleep (less than 8 hours per night) or poor quality sleep can result in a number of physical and cognitive health problems. In regards to muscle health, poor sleep reduces physical performance including muscle strength and capacity and increases the risk of injury. During deep sleep, an important hormone responsible for the growth and repair of muscle tissue – human growth hormone (HGH) – is released from the brain’s pituitary gland into the bloodstream. This hormone is important in muscle recovery as it works to restore and rebuild your body and muscles from the stresses of the day. If our sleep is disrupted and we fail to achieve deep sleep, the release of HGH is impaired and so too is our muscle recovery, increasing the risk of muscle injury and dysfunction. To ensure you are achieving adequate deep sleep, prioritize healthy sleep hygiene habits before bedtime and maintain a minimum of 8 hours of sleep per night.

Nutrition and Hydration:  Having a healthy diet and making sure you are eating nutritious food following exercise will help to refuel and rehydrate the body, promote muscle repair and growth, boost adaptation from your training session and support immune function. In regards to muscle recovery, omega-3 fatty acids, such as those found in salmon, sardines, chia and walnuts have been shown to reduce inflammation in muscle tissue post-exercise and delay or prevent muscle soreness. Our hydration levels are also important for muscle recovery and well-being. Our electrolytes – sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium – help regulate our nerve and muscle function, body’s hydration level, blood pH, blood pressure and the rebuilding of damaged tissue. During exercise, these electrolytes can be lost in sweat. Dehydration can lead to a number of problems, including the disruption of muscle protein synthesis and delayed muscle recovery, therefore it is vital to keep your fluids up before, during and after exercise.

Thermotherapy & Cryotherapy:  Heat (thermotherapy) and cold therapy (cryotherapy) are often recommended to help alleviate aching pain that results from muscle or joint injury. Thermotherapy can involve the use of a hot water bottle, heat pads, wheat bags or a warm bath. Applying heat to an area will help dilate the blood vessels and promote blood flow, thus helping sore and tightened muscles to relax. For this reason, heat therapy is suitable for helping treat chronic muscle tightness and stiffness. Cryotherapy involves using cold therapies, such as ice packs or ice baths to help soothe an area of acute pain. Cold treatment reduces blood flow to an injured area, which slows the rate of inflammation and reduces the risk of swelling and tissue damage. It also numbs sore tissue, acting as a local anesthetic, and slows down the pain messages being transmitted to the brain. Typically, cold therapy is most effective within 48 hours of the injury due to its ability to ease the acute inflammatory response.

Manual Therapy: Manual therapy can help treat muscular and joint problems through soft tissue interventions, joint mobilisation, biomechanic and postural corrections and exercise prescription. The application of specific soft tissue and mobilisation techniques can help increase the range of motion at a joint and reduce tension in surrounding muscles. Soft-tissue techniques can also increase blood flow to muscles, lower stress hormones through increased relaxation and parasympathetic activity, decrease pain levels and reduce muscle spasm. These mechanisms work together to increase muscle recovery from physical demands and therefore help reduce the risk of injury.

De-loading: When participating in a regular exercise routine, whether it be strength training, long-distance running or circuit training, the human body requires a brief period of time when exercise demands are slightly decreased, in order to allow for musculoskeletal adaptation. This is commonly known as a ‘de-load’ week. A deload week provides important time for muscles to recover from physical stress and effort required from previous workouts, help repair joints and tendons, allow hormone ratios to optimize and help to keep you mentally sharp. It is in this ‘de-loading’ phase where the muscle tissue can recover and adapt to the training stimulus that has been performed – in other words, this is when your muscular strength and capacity is built. By de-loading or reducing the intensity of your workouts for a week every 4-6 weeks, you avoid the risk of over-training, thus allowing your body to adapt and develop muscular strength and capacity.

Stretching:  The main objective of stretching, particularly after exercise, is to reduce muscle soreness and stiffness. Static stretching has been found to significantly increase blood flow post-stretch, increase parasympathetic nervous system activity and therefore increase relaxation and help improve muscle flexibility. These outcomes help reduce muscle soreness and stiffness, which in turn allows for improved muscle recovery from exercise and activity.

If you have any questions please call 9489 7511 or you can book online at The team at Body Align Myotherapy & Massage looks forward to seeing you soon.


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