When to know you need a health professional's help.
In this article, we reach out to Clinical Director and Physiotherapist of Physiologic Ryan Tan to talk about how to know when your recovery program isn’t working, and when you need a health professional's help.
Knowing the difference between ‘just needing a couple more days rest’ and ‘it’s time for professional help’ is a decision that will either completely halt your progress or get you back on your feet faster.
Most athletes serious about their sport know the importance of self recovery regimes, and have all the necessary tools needed like those in VR’s Elite Recovery Pack here.
But what are some of the signs that you should look out for that suggests you need professional help?
INTRODUCTION: ROLE OF RECOVERY
To start us off, let’s briefly talk about why recovery is so important in humans.
Our body likes to be in a state of ‘Homeostasis’ - which essentially means to be in ‘Balance’. When your body is in balance, function is optimised and processes are highly efficient.
When you are under stress, your body will be out of ‘Homeostasis’, and will commence recovery efforts to get it back to being balanced.
Stress can be
- Physical (microdamage in muscles, strain on ligaments/tendons, or even muscle cramps due to electrolyte loss).
- Non Physical (Work/Family/Relationship Stress, Mental Health Disorders like Anxiety/Depression etc).
Whichever kind of stress you’re dealing with, getting yourself back to a balanced Homeostatic state is your body’s first priority.
WHEN SELF RECOVERY IS INSUFFICIENT
Simply put, self recovery becomes insufficient when the stress placed on the body outweighs the self recovery efforts you’ve tried to restore homeostasis in the body.
The imbalance of damage and recovery eventually causes your body to break down, inflammatory processes accumulate, and you’ll start to feel like you’ve lost your edge.
Here’s some of the common symptoms when Self Recovery is Insufficient.
DELAYED ‘RECOVERY’ TIMES
Let’s assume that you normally take 2-3 days to fully recover from a heavy ‘leg day’ in the gym. However, without changing anything to your program, it starts taking you 5,6, or even 7 days to fully recover. You either need to implement a deloading period of training, or seek professional help to supplement your own recovery protocols.
GRADUAL MOBILITY DECLINE
You may normally have a regular mobility routine which includes foam rolling or using a massage gun to maintain your mobility.
However, you may start to notice your mobility gradually declining, even though you’re still continuing with your usual mobility routine.
Getting into a deep squat position becomes difficult, or overhead movements start becoming more challenging.
WHEN ‘SORE’ BECOMES PAIN
It is normal for your body to feel stiff and sore, especially after a long week of training. However, what we don’t want you to experience is muscular soreness that eventually leads to noxious pain in the muscle, or even in your joints.
A professional can help to identify the root cause of your pain, treat it at its source and set you on the right track back to full function.
Athletic recovery should not only cover physical domains like mobility, strength or DOMS (Delayed Onset of Muscle Soreness).
Non physical domains are equally as important, as your mental strength combined with your physical power makes you an unstoppable athlete.
Mental acuity and alertness is an indicator of how well your Central Nervous System is recovering. When your 8 hours of sleep is still leaving you waking up feeling sluggish throughout the day, you haven’t been well rested.
When you’re ‘under recovered’, or feeling overtrained, you may start craving junk foods, or lose your appetite altogether.
Junk, heavily processed foods are considered ‘inflammatory’, which will further hinder your recovery, potentially adding to the vicious cycle.
Not eating enough will mean not getting the nutrients and energy required for the body to actually start recovering.
WHAT TO DO WHEN YOUR RECOVERY PROGRAM ISN’T WORKING
Here’s a common scenario I come across as a Physiotherapist who looks after the athletic population.
Scenario: You’re a combat athlete who normally has excellent hip mobility, and transitioning between positions on the ground has always been your strength.
You attribute your strength to regular foam rolling and trigger ball release of your glutes, accompanied with a regular stretching routine.
However, you've recently had a spike in your training intensity and volume, and you notice you can’t manoeuvre as easily, despite continuing with your regular stretching routine.
Your body is now out of ‘Balance’ (Homeostasis) and your regular recovery routine is insufficient to get you back to normal.
A few sessions of manual therapy and prescription of active mobility drills helps to reclaim your original hip mobility.
Sometimes, self recovery protocols aren’t enough to provide your body with a sufficient environment for healing.
If you’re experiencing longer recovery times than usual, loss of physical attributes like mobility and strength, and just not feeling mentally sharp, it’s best to consult with a health professional to expedite your recovery timeframe.
If you liked this article and want to see more epic content from Ryan, follow him on Instagram @physio.culture or head to Physiologic (www.physiologichk.com)