It’s January and we have many new people starting Muay Thai and we have some old members returning after a few months off.
When you train in Muay Thai you have to expect some pain, but it’s important to distinguish between normal muscle soreness or bruises, and pain that is a warning sign that something more serious may be amiss.
But, before we get started let me remind you that if you’re serious about your Muay Thai training you can work around most painful issues and it doesn’t need to stop your training. In the past; if my foot was broken I worked hands and elbows, if my right thumb was broken I worked my left hand, knees and kicks. Remember Muay Thai is the Art of Eight Limbs – that means if one limb in injured you have 7 others!
If you love Muay Thai and it’s part of your life you very rarely have to totally stop training for any length of time.
Muscle Soreness:When you’re training hard or starting something new exercise routine you can guarantee some muscle soreness. Muscle soreness or DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) will normally present the day after your training session and be at it’s worst at about 48 hours post workout. Note, the key phrase is ‘muscle soreness’ not joint soreness!
You can minimize DOMS by warming up well at the beginning of your training session, then cooling down and stretching at the end of your session.
After your workout make sure you,drink lots of water and I’d recommend either an Epsom Salts Bath (fill the tub with very hot water and pour in some Epsom Salts and soak), or a contrast shower (direct very hot water over your muscles for a period then switch to ice cold water – continue to alternate).
Before you go to sleep that night use a Magnesium supplement as this can help relax sore and tight muscles – my favorite is CALM by Peter Radner – it’s a powder that you mix in some boiling water and drink.
The next day use Thai Liniment to rub sore and tight muscles, and rather than sitting on your couch feeling sorry for yourself make sure you exercise and stretch.
I also highly recommend becoming very proficient at self-massage and trigger point therapy with Lacrosse Balls, a Foam Roller, and a Rolling Stick (refer to 5-Minute Flexibility by Giles Wiley for more information on how to use these tools to release muscle soreness).
Bruises and Contusions: Bruises and contusions – you can definitely expect shin bruises when you start training Muay Thai and thigh bruises once you start sparring.
If you’ve had a heavy training session where you know you’ve bruised yourself apply an ice-pack on the area and elevate it.
When it’s been a particularly heavy sparring session I’ll even do an ice-bath (as unpleasant as it is). There’s also a great company here in Jax that sells a product that combines icing and compression – check out (http://110playharder.com).
Even though you may use ice directly after the training session the following day you’ll want to start using heat-treatment.
Heat treatment is a favorite in Thailand for bumps and bruises on the shins and thigh. The technique they use is: fill a bowl with almost boiling water – soak a towel in it and rub downwards over the bruise – repeat until the water cools down, remember to push downwards away from the heart.
There’s also a few products that help with bruising and swelling:
1) Arnica is the classic – I use the gel and the tablets (get the strongest dose you can).
2) Tufbruise from our friend Dan at Tufmed in Tampa (www.tufmed.com).
3) White Cider Vinegar – apply to the sore area as often as possible.
4) Traumeel – I’ve heard great things about this product but have yet to try it
5) Physio-tape – you’ll need to see a good sports physical therapist to get taped but I’ve had this done before to help with swollen thighs and deep bruising from heavy sparring and it gets amazing results (try Chris Kopp at Premier Physical Therapy on Beach Blvd – he’s great).
Joint pain: Joint pain is a different animal but again it’s important to distinguish between a structural issue such as a torn ligament etc or just some swelling and inflammation in the joint, or a bruise on the surface of the joint such as bruised kneecap or elbow from sparring.
Start by icing, elevating, and resting any sore joint and taking a NSAID such as Ibuprofen.
If you feel unsure of diagnosing any joint pain yourself I’d suggest you see a good sports physical therapist (see Chris at Premier Physical Therapy) before your regular doctor.
Also, if you continually have joint pain such as a sore shoulder or knee it generally means you have a structural misalignment that can often be corrected with prescribed exercises and stretching. I always use the analogy of the tires on your car wearing out quickly if your steering is misaligned or out of balance. Learn how to use the Lacrosse Balls and Foam Roller and focus on balance in your supplemental exercise routine – if you perform a pushing exercise you’d better perform a pulling exercise, if you perform an exercise where you band forwards then please perform an exercise where you bend backwards.
Often joint pain is a warning sign that your technique is incorrect. If you perform martial arts with correct body mechanics there should be very little stress on the body, the same applies to conditioning exercises. Speak to your instructor if you suffer from persistent joint pain.
In conclusion, if you want to get good at Muay Thai consistency in training is much more important than natural talent or any ‘top secret’ training technique. I’ve never been athletically gifted, I’ve never found anything in Muay Thai comes easily to me, but I’ve stuck at it for so much longer than the guys who were naturally talented that I’ve got better and better. In fact, over the last 25 years I can hardly remember a day that I woke up and wasn’t sore in some way but I still found a way to train. And, frankly that’s the key – train every day in some way, even if you’re sore! As time goes by you’ll find ways to control the pain and discomfort but never wish for no discomfort BECAUSE DISCOMFORT MEANS GROWTH, DISCOMFORT MEANS YOUR PUSHING FORWARDS AND PROGRESSING!
Sawadee Krap , Kru Giles