While the development of self-healing muscles would be a huge medical breakthrough for the treatment of diseases or serious injuries, the technology and the procedures to accomplish it are still far off in the future.
The more immediate issue facing all of us is what to do about the aches and pains that stem from working in the yard or exercising a bit too hard at the gym. Dr. Nenad Bursac, Associate Professor of Biomedical Engineering at Duke, tells me that soreness associated with “overdoing it” indicates muscles are dying. New muscles will regenerate to repair the damage. Since Dr. Bursac is one of the researchers developing the technology involved with self-healing muscles, I thought it made sense to ask for his advice about how to deal with sore and achy muscles.
- Stretch the sore muscles: While it is very tempting to simply rest the muscles by sitting on the couch and watching TV, that is probably the worst thing for you to do. Stretching sore muscles helps relax tension, gets the blood flowing, and decreases next-day soreness. It’s tough to get moving, but stretching will prevent stiffness. Hold each stretch for at least 10 seconds. Don’t bob while you are stretching. Start with a shallow stretch and gradually increase the depth.
- Keep moving: Along those same lines as step #1, stay nimble and promote circulation by moving the joints. Keep the arms, wrists, knees and ankles moving in easy, slow circles throughout the day. It keeps the blood flowing, hydrates the area and removes waste and scar tissue. Don’t overdo it, but keep everything moving.
- Get a massage: A good massage helps muscles heal more quickly by working deep into the muscle tissue, kneading out knots and easing tension. If you don’t want to make an appointment, have your partner give you a massage or do it yourself with a massage tool or even a tennis ball. Knead the sore muscles using firm, deep motions.
- Use a foam roller: If you’re feeling pain or tightness in your muscles, working the muscles with a foam roller reduces muscle tension. It breaks up scar tissue and knotted muscles. Run the foam roller over the sore muscle group for 30-60 seconds. It’s most effective to do this several times per day.
And there you have it — advice from the expert!
- Frank Graff
Frank Graff is a producer/reporter with UNC-TV, focusing on North Carolina Science Now, a weekly science series that airs Wednesdays, beginning in August 2013, as part of North Carolina Now on UNC-TV. In addition to producing these special segments, Frank will provide additional information related to his stories through this North Carolina Science Now Reporter's Blog!