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Natural Awakenings National

A Weekend Warrior Survival Guide: Prevention, First-Aid and Recovery

Feb 28, 2022 09:30AM ● By Marlaina Donato
Two people hiking with backpacks near water and mountains

Monkey Business/

At first glance, it seems harmless to sit at a desk all week and then dive into gardening, hiking, shooting some hoops or playing softball with the kids. We think nothing of it until that pulled hamstring, stiff shoulder or painful knee makes itself known, slowing us down for a few days or weeks. At the other end of the spectrum, weekend warrior injuries can be more serious, taking months and even surgery to be resolved.

With prevention, simple exercises and minimal investment of time, most suffering can be avoided. Recovery time can be shortened by integrating traditional first-aid approaches with complementary modalities like homeopathy, herbal remedies, essential oils and supplements.

Full-Spectrum Prevention

Maintaining our cars prevents them from breaking down on the highway, and our bodies are no different. Muscles are meant to move regularly, and if we’re doing our part, the body will be stronger, more flexible and less prone to sprains, strains and chronic pain. “Common causes of injury are not warming up the body before exercising, pushing yourself before you are ready, not taking enough rest, improper form and not listening to aches or pains,” says New Jersey fitness trainer and mindset coach Nadia Murdock. She stresses the importance of exercising regularly three to five times a week to improve muscle strength, increase endurance and transport oxygen and nutrients where they are needed most in the body. “With this routine under your belt, you can find more comfort in tackling an adventurous weekend without pain or injury.”

Whether putting down a new floor, raking leaves or playing a game of tennis, toughing out an annoying muscle twinge or ignoring stiffness in a joint can set us up for trouble down the road. “The ‘no pain, no gain’ mindset is definitely not beneficial over the long run for health maintenance,” says physical therapist Brennan Hussey. In his private practice in Evergreen, Colorado, and Appleton, Wisconsin, Hussey most often sees weekend warrior mishaps that target the lower back, shoulder, hip and knee. Identifying unhealthy habits and compromised alignment can prevent ongoing issues, he says, and a head-to-toe evaluation and approach are key.

“Pain is obviously what brings people in for treatment most often, but if I treat with pain as the focus, I will miss the dysfunction that’s actually causing the pain response,” he says. “I’ve found hands-on, or manual, therapy best treats the various dysfunctions that cause pain, whether chronic or acute, and usually within a very low number of visits.”

First-Aid and Recovery Essentials

RICE—rest, ice, compression and elevation—is the name of the game when injury strikes, but adding essential oils to a first-aid and recovery regimen can offer significant benefits. Diluted external use of lavender, cypress and eucalyptus can minimize bruising, pain and swelling. Essential oils are also reliable allies for dealing with general discomfort after an active weekend.

“In my 30 years using essential oils, plus raising two active boys, I’ve found that the most effective way to use essential oils for post-activity soreness is with topical application,” says Liz Fulcher, a clinical aromatherapist and owner of the Aromatic Wisdom Institute, in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania. “Specifically, I add 15 to 20 drops of essential oil into one fluid ounce of unscented lotion or cream, which is a 5 percent dilution—too strong for all-over use, but great for spot application of topical issues. Apply the blend into the affected area as often as needed for approximately two days.”

Her powerhouse favorites for aches and pains include German chamomile (M. chamomilla), helichrysum (H. italicum), ginger (Z. officinale), black pepper (P. nigrum), frankincense (B. carterii), lavender (L. angustifolia) and tea tree (M. alternifolia). For open wounds, she reaches for the distilled herbal waters known as hydrosols to wash the area before applying lavender and tea tree to avoid infection. Helichrysum essential oil is remarkable for bruises and other topical trauma, she says.

According to a 2016 review of studies in the American Journal of Therapeutics, soft tissue injuries respond well to immediate and subsequent internal use of the homeopathic remedy Arnica Montana 30x, as well as topical arnica in the form of gels, oils and sprays. Remedies like Ruta graveolens and Rhus tox offer further support for sprains and strains. Bolstering the diet with anti-inflammatory spices and supplements like turmeric, vitamin C with bioflavonoids, vitamin E with mixed tocopherols, bromelain, borage and flaxseed oil can also provide support.

In the end, maintaining an active lifestyle all week long can lower the risk of needless suffering. “With consistent movement, you will understand how your body moves and responds to certain conditions. This will start to create a deeper understanding of what your body can tolerate,” advises Murdock. “The biggest takeaway is consistency.” 

Marlaina Donato is an author and recording artist.

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