By Dr. Leslie Fuller
Nature Cures Clinic physician
It is that time again — summer sports event season. And Portland has a lot of them. We naturopaths like exercise, we even recommend it to our patients and participate in events ourselves… what we don’t like, however, are the injuries and stress to the body that improper training and poor physical body maintenance can lead to.
For the last several years, I have worked in the medical tents at the end of the Portland Triathlon and Portland Marathon, and I’ll be there again this year. Most athletes that we see come our way at the end of the race have one of few things ailing them: extreme muscle spasm/soreness, hypothermia or hyperthermia, or blood sugar imbalance. This article is going to take a look at the specifics of preparing and repairing our bodies for big athletic events — hopefully to keep readers out of the medical tents due to intense musculoskeletal pain.
Stress reduction is a common theme of any treatment protocol for most patients. We live in a stressful world and most of our work environments contribute to the daily stress load. Something to keep in mind, however, is that exercise itself is also a stress. And just like all other stressors in life, it too needs to be balanced.
First and foremost, and often most obvious from the aches and pains earned during the event training process, is musculoskeletal system balance. When a body is experiencing pain, it is hard for it to perform at its maximum output. So keeping our bodies out of pain is a huge goal for any athletically-aimed treatment program. Most musculoskeletal pain in tendons and ligaments is caused by an imbalance around the joint.
When a muscle is overly strong or over developed, it can cause a whole joint (and often a whole side of the body) to function improperly. This improper function leads to poor biomechanics, and often pain. Wear and tear around joint can be caused by overtraining — both by performing the same repetitive motion on a weak joint and by not replenishing the body when it is broken down. Cramping, muscle spasms, and even sore muscles are a sign of a potential nutritional deficiencies.
In preparing for a big event, take time during the hours of training to listen to the aches and pains in your body — they are signs that something is not right. Often, it is simply a problem of biomechanics and posture. Having an expert fit you into you bike saddle better or watching you run on the treadmill will help eliminate possible imbalances in your gait and posture. Remembering that stretching and strengthening is very important — for every overly strong and tight muscle, there is an equally overly stretched and weak one.
Our muscles and tendons thrive on protein, calcium, magnesium and good food — in the form of fats and sugars — as well as many trace nutrients. The best way to prevent nutritional deficiencies is to make sure all of these necessities are incorporated into the diet. The key to proper event training nutrition is not a surprise: every body is different and has different needs. Figuring out what fuels your body best both pre-event and mid-event is highly important. And, having a well-balanced post-event nutrition strategy will help you recover quicker. While carbohydrates such as starches, vegetables and fruit are the quickest fuel sources, healthy fats and proteins are also extremely important.
Here at Nature Cures I work with a lot of musculoskeletal pain. Through diet, manual therapy, stretching exercises and naturopathic manipulative therapy I am usually able to help athletes avoid pain syndromes that prevent peak performance. I also use Prolotherapy, an injection technique that helps to stabilize weak ligaments and tendons and helps re-balance possible causes of joint and muscle pain. The modality of IV therapy can also reduce pain and inflammation, as well as provide excellent nutritional support during heavy training.
Dr. Leslie Fuller is an avid runner and athlete, and understands the needs of an athlete’s body. If you’re training for a big athletic event, consider coming in to Nature Cures Clinic for a free 30-minute consult before, during or after your training.
Image courtesy Brighton Photographer