Thursday, December 12, 2013
Treatment of minor pole & aerial injuries
No matter how safe you are, the aerial arts hurt. Injuries, large or small, are inevitable for the air-bound athlete (see The stigma of injury.) Some are career-ending, even life-ending. Others are annoying. If you dislocate your shoulder or break a fibula, see your doctor. But for your everyday bumps and bruises, here are some handy tools that will get you back off your feet and back into the air.
(Disclaimer: I'm not a doctor, I'm not a nurse, take any of the following advice at your own risk.)
Pole/fabric burn: A+D Ointment
One of the first things you learn in pole is that pole burn is a thing (see Your first pole class.) The same is true for silks, rope, and other instruments of torture. Apparatus burn can keep you off your apparatus as you wait for it to heal.
Fortunately, during a particularly bad inner thighs burn a few years ago (you know the one polers--where you wear bike shorts under your skirt so your thighs don't rub together because OW) I had some A+D Ointment around due to a tattoo, and decided to give it a try. Problem solved. I can apply after training and get back on the pole the next day. Now, don't overdo things--and yes it is possible to get a more serious burn that will need more care (I fell out of silks in Berlin and had fabric burn that kept me in bandages for a month). But for your everyday pole burn, this trick should keep you going.
Blisters: Liquid Bandage
Blisters aren't one of the first problems that polers have (nor silks, though I can't speak to other apparatuses), but overtraining can bring them on, and then it hurts to touch things, which is not useful for training. A lot of people will soften the blisters by rubbing oils into them--but then your skin goes back to being weak and fleshy and the blisters will come right back.
When I first got my own set of silks, I really overdid the training, and after a few days my blisters were so bad that I could hardly hold the fabrics. Fortunately, my former teacher tipped me off to liquid bandage, and a CVS pharmacist confirmed that it would be my best option if I wanted to keep training in the near future. I painted that magic stuff over my lumps and I was back in the air the next day.
I covered all of this in Blisters: Soften or Toughen, but it bears repeating. If you want soft, touchable skin (and there's nothing wrong with that!!), oil away. If you want intense athletic training, don't.
Pulled muscles: KT Tape
I've always had neck problems. I remember at 8 years old waking up with a stiff neck and not being able to turn my head to the right. So when I threw my neck out a year and a half ago, it was nothing new. But it was worse than ever before, and I had performances and a workshop coming up, so something needed to be done. I had heard of KT Tape and tracked down a package at a local luxury gym. It was really complicated to apply--following the instructional videos, my mom wasn't getting it right and my dad had to take over. But once it was on? Night and day. All of a sudden I could move, I could breathe, I could hold my head up high, I could look around!
With KT Tape I was able to go back to training and complete all my commitments. And I know how well it worked, because at one point I thought I was better so I took it off. I was instantly in pain again and begged to be taped back up immediately. And then I was and I felt fine. Day and night.
Sore muscles: Epsom salts
You know what I like about hot baths? So many things that are healthy for us--exercising, dieting, waking up early--can be so unappealing. Not so for hot baths! You can relax with some bubbles and the radio and maybe some candles and a class of red wine if you're feeling fancy (and why the hell not? live it up a little!). Just make sure you add a scoop of epsom salts to the water and you'll be relieving your sore muscles as well. This is a popular treatment among aerialists and athletes of all varieties.
This one is hard to judge objectively. How do you know the extent to which the salts are helping? Maybe if your calves were sore and you soaked one in a big tub of epsom-salted water and the other in regular water? But subjectively, I do tend to feel better after one of these delightful restoration baths.
Even non-athletes swear by arnica oil for bruises. We all bump our shins on the coffee table sometimes! I use it and subjectively I think it works. But again, it's hard to test. You'd have to have identical bruises on both sides of your body and then just arnica up one of them. But anyways, a little bit of gel goes a long way, so it's not like using it is a huge investment.
I usually use gel, but I sometimes like to douse myself with Weleda Arnica Massage Oil after training. That's mostly just because it smells so good, though.
Most things: Ice
After 10 years of pole and aerial, I can tell you that the vast majority of injuries I've given myself, small or large, benefit from icing. Ice reduces swelling, and swelling is the body's response to lots of injuries, so it's usually the first place to go.
Icing yourself can be a pain. Do yourself a favor and invest in reusable, anatomy-specific ice packs. If you hurt your knee, buy a knee ice pack. If you hurt your neck, buy a neck one. Yes, your freezer will be more first aid than ice cream, but if you don't make it easy on yourself you're not going to do it. And you'll probably end up needing it again. Keep the 80/20 rule in mind: 80% of your injuries will probably be to the same 20% of your body. (Or, for an alternative, see my mom's idea.)
You are probably here because you are overzealous about training. (See Are you overtraining?) You hurt yourself (everyone does), and you want a shortcut so you don't have to wait for it to heal before you start training again. OK, I gave you the shortcuts. But we all know that there are no real shortcuts in life. You need to rest. Lay off a little bit. Don't expect to jump back in at full force, no matter what potions you're using. You'll only make it worse. Think long-term about your training--and your life. It's not worth really hurting yourself to get back to training a couple days sooner.
Photo by me!