No Pain, No Gain (But Pain Relief’s Nice Too)

Posted: November 19, 2011 in Equipment, Injury, Older

What no one told me when I first started training how often I’d be waking up groaning the morning after a workout. This is especially true for anyone who’s “getting along in years” like I am. I am 42 — not old but certainly not a spring chicken. I train hard and my body reminds me of this after every workout. In a strange, sadistic kind of way I sometimes like it. Within reason, of course. My knee pain I’ve been enduring on and off hasn’t fallen into this category but the other aches and sore spots, in their own kind of way, are not too bad. I’m kind of proud of my pain.

This said, however, pain relief is frequently the order of the day. There are a lot of ways you can tackle pain, internally and externally. Internally would be taking medication like Advil, Tylenol, Motrin, Alleve…that kind of thing. Externally, or topically, would be remedies like Ben-Gay, Tiger Balm, and (my favorite for tendon pain) Penetrex.

Like many other students, I have learned more about sports injuries than I ever wanted to know. I have tendons, muscles, and get injuries I didn’t even know existed. Virtually very week is a new discovery. Patellar, Achilles, and extensor tendons. Injuries like tennis elbow, pulled muscles, shin splints, sprains, fractures, blisters, cuts, abrasions, jumper’s knee, and plantar faciitis. Good times.

Here’s a quick guide of a few preventatives and remedies I’ve found to be helpful over the past 6 months. No, I’m not a doctor, salesperson, or a therapist and I’m not getting any kickback. Of course, your mileage may vary and you should use all these things at your own risk as I don’t offer any guarantees, apologies, or refunds.

Stinger Organic Energy Chews These things are fantastic! Ever try cherry Life Saver gummies? The cherry blossom flavor tastes exactly like ’em. I usually munch a package of these 15 minutes before showtime and it gives me a nice boost. If it’s a particularly intense workout I will often down another package mid-way into the session, along with a LOT of water.

Advil Everyone knows these magic pellets, of course. I have had good luck with it as it’s usually easy on the stomach. I find it does a good job with muscle soreness and also when I feel a headache is coming on. I think it’s more effective than Tylenol, at least for me. By the way, does anyone else think the Advil coating would make a great candy or is it just me?

Tiger Balm This is particularly good for deep muscle aches when I don’t mind stinking like a medicine cabinet. Very effective but smells pretty awful. Has a nice burn but also feels cool as well. A little goes a long way so this tiny jar will last anyone — even a klutz like me who gets hurt a lot — a good amount of time! Has the consistency of ear wax and is a little bit greasy feeling.

Ben Gay Despite having a name that would make Beavis and Butthead proud this stuff works mighty fine. I have only used the Ultra Strength variety and I learned pretty quickly that you don’t want to slather this stuff on indiscriminately. Fools who try are treated to the kind of sensation not unlike that of a fierce chemical burn. One time I imagined I felt blisters appearing and thought I smelled smoke emanating from my back where I smeared it on too generously. Unwise move. If used more carefully this product does a nice job penetrating in and providing a nice amount of relief to strained muscles. Smells kind of medicine-like but not nearly so much as Tiger Balm. Plus it has a Tic Tac, candy-like scent to it that isn’t altogether unpleasant. My niece gave me a hug once after I’d just put some on and said, “You smell nice!”. Not greasy and doesn’t seem to stain clothing that I’ve noticed.

Penetrex As I mentioned above, I am a big fan of this ointment cream. It has a very slight odor, more reminiscent of menthol than anything, goes on non-greasy without any residue. As they say in the product literature, it penetrates the skin to reduce inflammation but it can take multiple applications (sometimes days) to really hit its stride. This latter difference seems to vary from person to person. I felt a difference within hours, especially for tendon strain, my wife has been using it for weeks and still claims that it isn’t effective. The jar is pretty small and you need a fair amount per application. At $20 a jar it can be an expensive remedy if you need to use if often but I think it’s worth it.

ACE bandage multi-purpose wrap This is a good reusable solution for icing sprains and tendon strains. It consists of an elastic bandage with a pouch inside where you tuck the cold gel pack. Usually lasts about 20 – 30 minutes which is good since I usually only try to keep it on an area (like my knee, for instance) for about 15 minutes. So far I’ve been reusing mine, pretty much daily, for about 3 months and it’s holding up pretty well.

There are certainly many other products on the market that can either prevent or treat injuries; these are just a few I deal with on a routine basis. So as long as I train i think it’s a safe bet that these things will be within arm’s reach.

  1. Love this post I’ve been training in kempo, kickboxing, bjj, and Krav Maga for over a decade. I am familiar with everything on that list, not to mention splints for broken fingers, tape for sprained ankles, and the occasional rx’d muscle relaxor or opiate pain relievers. between combat sports and endurance sports i have even learned to take pain killers before big event like Long races or belt Tests.

  2. […] the heavy side of things). Water is great and should be consumed in abundance but Gatorade and/or Stingers will be a factor in performance and […]

  3. […] I wish I knew more. Damn, am I tired…and sweaty! When is my next belt? What is testing like? Why is everything so sore? Oh great, another bruise. So much to […]

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