It’s almost guaranteed that at some point in your athletic career you’ll run (or ride) into an injury. While it’s important to get assessed by a medical professional, there are several ways you can start to treat your injury at home with over-the-counter solutions.
Athletes, especially runners, take ibuprofen—playfully called vitamin I—for all sorts of aches and pains. The good news is ibuprofen, when taken as directed, can effectively reduce inflammation from, say, a twisted ankle or tweaked hamstring.
That said, throwing back a few pills before a long run or workout can be dangerous—and not terribly effective. Ibuprofen can impair kidney function, which is also compromised during physical activity due to dehydration. Taking too much can also lead to GI distress, especially if that’s before or after your run.
Follow the package instructions: 200 mg after a workout and after you’ve hydrated, but don’t take ibuprofen for more than four days without consulting a doctor.
The dreaded roller. Maybe almost as dreaded as the treadmill. But regular foam rolling can improve blood circulation, which is important for muscle recovery, and reduce muscle knots to help with flexibility. While foam rolling hasn’t been shown to fix an injury, it can contribute to improved recovery and injury prevention.
You don’t have to spend countless hours on a roller to see the benefits. Take a few minutes every day and focus on tender spots, holding for 30 to 60 seconds. (That’s right: You don’t necessarily have to roll the whole time.)
Yes, nutrition can help you recover from an injury. Eating a balanced diet rich in antioxidants, healthy fats, and protein supports recovery. But once you’re injured, certain foods can help you heal.
For stress fractures or other bone-related injuries, calcium and vitamin D work together to improve bone strength. Dairy, leafy greens, and fortified orange juice are good sources of calcium. The best source of vitamin D comes from the sun, but fatty fish and egg yolks can help you meet your daily requirements.
For inflammation injuries, like tendonitis, antioxidants and healthy fats can help reduce inflammation.
When you snooze, your body starts to repair itself. Muscle protein synthesis—repairing damaged muscle tissue—happens while you sleep, which means getting about eight hours a night can get you back on the road sooner. Getting enough sleep can also reduce inflammation, a common ailment in athletes.