By this point, if you have the Internet and are even remotely tuned into this year’s Olympic games, you’ve heard of cupping. Cupping, as you probably already know, is a form of Chinese therapy that dates back thousands of years where heated cups are applied to and moved around the surface of the body (generally the back) in order to stimulate blood and energy flow.
As a person who gets cupping therapy done regularly (roughly once a month), I can definitively say this: it personally helps alleviate my upper back and neck pain (I hold tension and stress in my neck and shoulders, causing awful back pain). I can also say that I’ve never once left my acupuncturist’s office with bruises, but I get cupping done in conjunction with acupuncture, so maybe that has something to do with it. While westerners are weary of the procedure, it’s a great way to stimulate blood flow in an area of your body that needs relief from pain or soreness.
The recent surge (and we mean surge) in cupping-related articles got us thinking: what are some of the best resources to increase and improve muscle recovery? What can we do to stimulate recovery and alleviate pain besides taking anti-inflammatories and icing/heating a sore spot? Below are some suggestions...
“Thai massage has been around for over 2500 years,” says Lauren from Expand Thai Massage. “It has been used as a form of treatment to heal many health issues including, but not limited to, muscular-skeletal tension, internal conditions, and emotional stress.”
But how does it work? “Thai massage practitioners apply acupressure to the meridians, which are energy lines that run throughout the whole body,” says Lauren. According to practitioners, this technique helps loosen energy blocks, similarly to cupping. Thai massage isn’t limited to actual massage, either (and believe us, this is not a relaxation massage… the first time you go, it will not necessarily feel great). “The practitioner performing Thai massage also uses various forms of stretching for the tendons and muscles. This increases joint mobility, blood circulation, and flexibility. Pressure is applied to various points to release muscle tension and increase blood and lymphatic circulation throughout the body,” says Lauren. “Practitioners combine yoga stretches, muscle massage, stimulation of the meridians lines, and joint manipulation throughout the massage. Some techniques require therapists to use their hands, elbows, knees, or feet. A typical Thai massage session will last at least 90 min. Thai massage is performed on a thick mat on the floor, with the receiver fully clothed, and no lotions or oils are utilized.”
Oh, cryotherapy. This one is a doozy. If you’re unfamiliar with the treatment, cryotherapy essentially involves the pain sufferer to stand in a freezing tank for a few minutes. Think of it as an extreme version of icing an injury. So what does it do? The claims are lofty, but in general, this form of therapy is not only supposed to decrease inflammation and increase blood flow to vital organs; it’s also said to boost metabolism, aid in weight loss, improve skin and boost mood. And it’s quick -- you just spend two-to-four minutes in a negative-200-degree chamber. So if you’ve ever taken an ice bath to alleviate pain and it’s done the trick, cryotherapy may be for you. After all, it’s good enough for Kobe Bryant and Lebron James, it should be good enough for us, right?
Aroma + Herbal Therapy
If you want a treatment that’s been around for eons, look no further than aroma and herbal therapy. Herbal and aromatherapy can take many forms, from drinks to rubs to powders made of capsules. We spoke with Demetria Clark, founder of Heart of Herbs Herbal School about some of her favorite aroma and herbal therapy recipes for muscle recovery:
Black Pepper Muscle/Tension Oil
1/2 cup carrier oil
40 drops black pepper
10 drops clary sage
10 drops lavender
Apply to sore muscles. This is a potent blend, so if it is too strong, add more carrier oil.
Peppermint Muscle Rub
You can add peppermint to lotion or creams for sore muscles.
Add 10 drops per tablespoon of lotion or cream. This blend is strong and will really penetrate sore muscles. If you want to mix it up you can do 5 drops peppermint and 5 drops black pepper.
Muscle Recovery Tea
This really simple tea is nutrient dense, tastes great and safe for almost everyone, and can be made as a blend and used or one cup at a time.
Parts -- a part is any unit of measurement you desire. So if you want to make just one large canning jar/ teapot you would use 1 tablespoon each. If you want to make enough mixture for the week a part can be 1/4 cup.
I am going to give you the bulk measurements. Use 1-2 teaspoons of the mixture per cup of hot water.
1/4 cup Nettles- rich in iron, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium, manganese, copper, boron, strontium. They also contain vitamins - A, C, K, and B vitamins.
1/4 cup Rooibos. This herb is rich in many mineral contents such as iron, calcium, potassium, copper, manganese, zinc, magnesium and alpha hydroxy acid.
Heart of Herbs Golden milk by Demetria Clark
Golden milk has been used by athletes, sufferers of muscle and nerve disorders because it offers a gentle, nourishing and healing effect.
3 cups of milk- any type you want. Do what works for you and your diet.
1 teaspoon Turmeric. I use fresh crushed up using a garlic press.
1 teaspoon Cinnamon
1 teaspoon raw honey/ agave nectar/ maple syrup/ to taste. I often forgo the sweetener.
Pinch of black pepper (optional to help with absorption)
Crushed fresh ginger, 1/2 teaspoon.
Pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
Sometimes I also add a pinch of mace, clove or nutmeg depending on my mood. Have fun.
Probably the biggest no-brainer on the books in terms of alleviating muscle soreness is yoga. After all, this ancient practice has been praised as being a cure from everything to pain to depression. And while all forms of yoga are beneficial, not all are designed to relieve soreness. Stay away from vinyasa flow when you’re sore, as this fast paced and challenging practice serves as more of a workout than a recovery tool. Some of our favorite poses for soreness are as follows:
Downward Facing Dog
Hips and Thighs
Wide leg forward bend
Reclining Bound Angle
Ear to Shoulder
Legs Against the Wall
Sleeping on the Right Materials
We know, we know. But we did design the Bear Mattress for a reason. While our graphite-gel is designed to keep you cool during the night, our Bear Mattress Quick Response foam is designed help you recover by using superior pressure relief technology. In contrast to other foams on the market, our Quick Response form has very little top-to-bottom variation in density, which gives it a much higher pressure relieving index. What does this mean for you? Your spine stays aligned and each part of your body will receive the right amount of support.
We boast about it all the time, but the Celliant® fiber technology found exclusively in our mattress covers really does make a huge difference. Trust us, we sleep on this stuff every single night. The thermoreactive minerals found in the fiber recycle and convert your body’s latent heat into infrared energy, allowing you to recover faster and more completely. It’s truly amazing.