Tips on choosing your sports recovery and injury prevention equipment
Whether you're a CrossFit guru, an avid soccer player or a weekend warrior, sports recovery and injury prevention equipment may keep you healthier and help you recover faster from workouts and injuries. Use this guide to find the right equipment for your workout needs.
Athletic tape provides stability to injured joints, supports muscles, may help prevent injuries and protects the skin under boxing gloves and other sports equipment. Different types of athletic tape serve various purposes:
- Rigid tape has little give, so it's helpful when you need to restrict movement such as for a sprained ankle or injured fingers.
- Underwrap is gentle to your skin and applied under rigid tape.
- Elastic tape has a lot more give than rigid tape and is used more for compression than support. Choose it when returning to a sport after an injury or for initial compression immediately following an injury.
- Felt tape doesn't have any glue that sticks to your skin, so it may be more comfortable than compression tape. Removable tabs keep it in place.
- Cohesive bandage serves the same purpose as felt tape, but it sticks to itself so no tabs are needed.
Kinesiology tape is used by trainers and therapists to create physiological benefits to the body such as improving your posture, increasing muscle tone, correcting patterns of movement and moving fluids through your lymphatic system. The colorful strips of flexible tape are applied to the body in various patterns, depending on the desired outcome. Apply to shoulders, thighs, feet, ankles, the back and so on to create change or support injuries.
Compression sleeves are worn on your arms or legs to improve the flow of blood and fluids to your muscles while exercising. They fit snugly around your limbs, which improves the flow of oxygenated blood to your muscles. This, in turn, filters out lactic acid, reducing soreness and swelling afterward. You can also wear them to support recovering joints as well.
Compression socks also use sports compression to improve circulation in the calves, ankles and feet. They can be particularly helpful to runners to keep the muscles fresher during long distance runs, but can also be worn when traveling long distances to prevent swelling from prolonged sitting.
Sports braces go beyond taping and compression to provide more rigid support and protection to the knees, ankles, wrists, shoulders and back. They're often worn while recovering from an injury but can also help prevent injury such as excessive strain to the back when lifting weights or keeping ankles from rotating when boxing. Braces limit movement so joints and muscles can heal. For instance, patella support braces are worn under the knee to prevent knee injuries as well as reduce pain by compressing the tendon under your kneecap — or patella.
Foam rollers are firm, cylindrical tubes of various sizes and may be smooth or textured. They're used both for massage as well as during exercise. When exercising, use foam rollers to perform certain yoga or Pilates moves as well as increase flexibility and balance. During massages, rolling your muscles across foam rollers increases blood circulation, reduces tight, trigger points, eases sore muscles, creates healthier muscle tone and accelerates recovery. Choose textured muscle rollers for increased massage effect.
Massage balls provide deep tissue massage to targeted parts of your body, from the palms of your hands to your back, neck and feet. They're used to massage muscles to eliminate pain or increase flexibility. Spiky balls reach deeper into your muscles to soothe tired feet or ease tension. Balls with a slightly raised texture are helpful when massaging large muscles while also stimulating the skin. Smooth balls let you push deep into a muscle or roll on top of it without getting the spiky feel.
Inversion tables are designed to take the pressure off of your back and neck that is caused by gravity. By turning you upside down, they relieve back pain, especially in the lower back. They also help open up the space between the discs of your spine and neck, which generally become more compressed with age as well as injury. Tables with larger, padded backrests and headrests may be more comfortable. Adjustable tables allow several members of your family to use one table. Tables with added safety features include those with easily accessible handholds, safety belts, covered footholds, steel frames and nonslip mats.
Gravity boots are similar to inversion tables, but instead of lying on a table, you're suspended upside-down while strapped into boots. They take up less space than inversion tables and allow you to do exercises while suspended as well. Boots generally put more pressure on the ankles and knees, so a table may be more helpful for those who have pain or weakness in these joints.
Back stretchers are a more economical inversion therapy option. By lying on a back stretcher, your spine is arched, thereby relieving pressure from your lower back and neck.
Inversion therapy should be used under the care of your physician. Additionally, it's not recommended for people who have high blood pressure, osteoporosis, a history of stroke, heart disease, a hernia, broken bones or glaucoma or who are obese.
It's possible to have your own massage therapy spa at home or equip your business with massage tables and massage accessories. Electric massage table warmers cover your table and heat the surface to a comfortable and consistent temperature. Choose round and half-round massage bolsters to elevate limbs or rest the neck. Additional massage accessories include sheets to cover the person being massaged, oil and lotion warmers to provide convenient access to your creams and avoid the shock of cold liquids, and face pillow covers that allow you to provide a sanitary resting place for each client without laundering the entire pillow.