How Should I Recover After a Day on the Mountain? Guidance From Two Massage Therapists.

For all you ski enthusiasts out there, you know all too well what it feels like to wake up the next morning after a day on the slopes. Your whole body feels tired, your legs feel like lead, and even sitting down becomes a task. All this is to be expected due to the high physical demands of both skiing and snowboarding. With that being said, there are a few tips to help you recover and decrease soreness. I have teamed up with massage therapists Dana Llewellyn, LMT and Chris Smith, LMT from The Wellness Center in Denver and asked them a few questions about their keys to recovery.

1. What are your recommendations on specific types of massage and why is that more beneficial for recovery?

"Sports massage offers a rigorous recovery session, incorporating fast, deep strokes toward the heart. While really deep tissue can "hurt so good,” too deep of work can put you in a "fight or flight" sympathetic nervous state, which is no good for recovery at all. To ensure that your nervous system is recovering just as much as your muscles, communicate with your therapist to stay at a depth where you can still easily breathe. There may be some discomfort, but not so much as to elicit a pain response. If you're recovering from an acute injury or surgery, lymphatic work is a way to hack your immune system and accelerate the healing process. It helps to reduce swelling and inflammation locally, and strengthen the lymphatic pump globally. It is light work...but powerful!"

- Dana

2. What should you do after a recovery massage?

"I generally encourage drinking plenty of fluids and getting lots of rest. Enjoy your favorite healthy meal or cozy up with a cup of herbal tea and relax. Heat is also helpful after a deeper massage, as it increases circulation and helps your muscles to relax. If you have a tub at home, adding a cup or two of epsom salts will give your bath a boost and help to reduce muscle spasms and help you unwind. I highly recommend Epsom salt baths as part of a weekly self care routine."

- Chris

3. Do you have recommendations for topical use?

"Arnica! Arnica is a flower that has anti-inflammatory and antiseptic properties. I'm a huge fan of self massage with arnica to help relieve sore muscles. There are lots of great options for arnica balms and oils at most drug stores."

- Dana

"CBD is my go-to topical of choice. CBD decreases inflammation, pain, and muscle spasms and starts to work quite quickly. I especially recommend CBD topicals for joint pain, arthritis, and sudden or ongoing muscle spasms (stiff neck, back, etc.)"

- Chris

4. Are there any self-massage techniques that people can perform at home?

"Roll out your soles! Put a ball on the floor (tennis, lacrosse, etc.) and roll it under your feet. This pulps the connective tissue and mobilizes all the little joints between the 26 bones of your feet. It feels awesome and also helps to loosen up the whole posterior fascial chain."

- Dana

"As someone who feels that owning a foam roller is a right of passage, I am very big on self massage. Rolling out the back and legs weekly or more often can greatly reduce tension and pain if done consistently."

- Chris

While it is expected to have soreness after a day on the mountain, it is important to recognize the difference between normal soreness and something indicative of an injury. Normal muscle soreness typically lasts 24-48 hours and dissipates. Soreness lasting longer than this may be indicative of a muscular strain, especially if it is inhibiting function or affecting your sleep. If you have difficulty bearing weight on the area or are unable to move through a full range of motion, you may want to speak to your doctor or seek the help of a physical therapist. Additionally, if you are noticing areas that are consistently sore every time you ski, I highly recommend seeing a physical therapist to evaluate the area and improve your performance.

Thank you to Dana Llewellyn, LMT and Chris Smith, LMT for their contributions to this article!

To learn more, check out my previous blog titled Are You Ready for the Mountain? 5 Exercises to Determine your Readiness for the Slopes.

Disclaimer:  The views expressed in this article are based on the opinion of the author (and contributors), unless otherwise noted, and should not be taken as personal medical advice. The information provided is intended to help readers make their own informed health and wellness decisions.

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Dr. Alyssa Wagner

Physical Therapist / Doctor of Physical Therapy
Alyssa Wagner is a Doctor of Physical Therapy (DPT) who specializes in sports and general orthopedics with a specific passion for ACL prevention and non-operative management of ACL injuries. She works at Activcore in Denver, Colorado, located just a mile from the popular Cherry Creek Shopping District. Alyssa’s background and education make her uniquely qualified to handle more complex sports injuries, chronic pain, and post-operative care.
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