06 May, 2011

Recovery & Injury

As far as many other martial artists go, I consider myself lucky to have had only very minor injuries so far (knock wood).  But I think the whole idea of fitness, health, and the martial arts are something which might be easy to forget.

I recently went to a physio-therapist for a shoulder issue and wrist issue.  The wrist has some nerve issue which is hard to help, but the shoulder apparently was slightly pushed forward.  Its like a mild dislocation.  I got it while trying to workout to get healthier and prevent injury.  A bit ironic!

But I think it is sometimes easy, as martial artists, to shrug off injuries.  We get a feeling for our bodies, and rely on the feedback to know what we can and can't do within a particular time frame or motion.

But if, like myself, one doesn't have a good working knowledge of anatomy, then I think its easy to ignore the minor ailments of training.  They can easily develop into something worse.

As a good example (of my own foolishness perhaps!) I will relate a little story.  About 2 years back, in preparation for a mudan's grading into shodan, we were doing some rougher sparring.  A bit more contact and such.  I wasn't as careful as I should have been, and when I performed mae geri (front kick), it was with a more upward intent than forward.  The result?  I broke my big toe, with an audible crunch/crack, on the mudan's elbow.

I thought it was just a pop or something, so I tried to work the toe a bit.  It didn't stop hurting, but it wasn't too bad.  So I took it a bit easier on my foot for the rest of class - another 2 hours at that point, as the mudan's class was leaving and mine starting.  To cut the story short, I eventually went to the doctor and got an X-ray.  Yes it was broken.  No there wasn't much to be done about it.  But you better believe I went stir crazy being unable to walk (which I enjoy doing, and at the time did a lot of), do karate or pretty much spend time on my feet or walk around at work.

A lesson in paying attention to my actions AS WELL as paying attention to my body was well learned that time.

The recent injury is not so bad, and far better than what others have suffered, so I am not complaining!  But I think that this has reinforced to me the importance of some knowledge of a more than superficial level.  This is what has sparked my own interest in herbal remedies, self massage and the like.

As a quick guide, for those who can't be bothered to google a more knowledgeable website, here are some tips that I use.  Don't use them yourself without consulting a doctor!  This is just what I feel is safe for my own use.
  • Inflammation - Ice is the key!  Don't try to move the injury too much.  Frozen veggies or fruit are useful for this.
  • Soreness - Heat is wonderful.  Massage is helpful and so is the "internal" massage that you get from using the muscle.  I wet a towel, microwave it for 40 seconds and then carefully apply.  Adjust timing to your own home food nuker.
  • General help after a workout is a firm massage of the feet - they take a lot of pounding.  Knees may also be in order.
  • When I feel a cold coming on, and I mean right away at the very beginnings of a throat tickle, I take a half glass of water with tinctue of goldenseal and echinacea.  A few drops of oil of oregano also go in.  Take with a zinc tablet for the full effect.
  • Arnica for bruising.  I used this around my toe (which when broken had turned several shades of blue, green, black and purple) and it helped a lot.  Also working it into the area is also a light massage, another beneficial effect.
  • I have been told that comfrey for sprains is great.  I haven't had a chance to try it myself, but check out the link below for more information.
Herbs for Martial Artists

Finally, some extra fitness regime outside of and different to your martial art of choice.  I take a class twice weekly with my wife - core strength, cardio, etc.  Using different muscles has been very helpful in my performance in class and has raised my confidence of ability significantly.  Keep in mind that stretching and body weight exercises also help your soft tissues like fascia, tendons, ligaments and other doctorly words.  A stronger body means easier recovery from injury, and reduced injury at that.

Anyways, enough ranting.  Good health!


  1. Injuries seem to be part of long term training. Managing injuries can be challenging but can also have some benefits by forcing you to adjust your technique to work around the injury. It's good mentally and physically as it makes you examine what you're doing that much more closely. Plus, in actual combat, you may lose the use or part of the use of various body parts. Being able to be flexible and to adapt can make you a much better martial artist.

    I had not heard of Arnica. Thanks for the information.

  2. Thanks Journeyman for the comment.

    You make a good point. When I broke my toe and while healing, I have to stand and move differently. It was a lesson in unusual breakfalls, that is for sure.

    I have a few other remedies I might make another post out of, but its nothing amazing.