By Jim Ferris and Jon Herting
Recovery is no longer a word looked down upon by coaches, trainers, and hard-core fitness enthusiasts. Instead, they are beginning to realize the multiple improvements that happen when they take the time to allow the body to recover from activity. After all, physiological adaptations occur during recovery. Our systems remodel and rebuild during rest periods, and sleep, nutrition, and hydration are so important during this time. So how can we accompany these aspects of recovery to promote improved and optimal outcomes that support a more demanding training stimulus later?
After years of rest being looked at as “wimpy and weak,” most coaches and trainers are now accepting it as an important part of the training spectrum. While there are plenty of modalities, theories, and practices, the focus of this article will be on the benefit of compression therapy. Many forms of compression therapy exist, from manual therapies to socks, sleeves, and pneumatic devices. I will discuss one of the more popular pneumatic compression devices, the NormaTec Pulse Recovery System.
It’s Not Just Static Compression
NormaTec has been a leader in the industry for years at the professional and collegiate levels. Recently, their presence in the private sector has begun to grow as therapists, trainers, coaches, and private facilities all start to invest in compression technology. This has come about because of feedback and, more importantly, athletes making requests as they return to these settings.
The difference between NormaTec and other compression modalities is that NormaTec uses a patented dynamic pulse massage pattern, as compared to the static compression (squeezing) of other systems on the market. This means that NormaTec’s compression starts distally on the targeted limb segment and works its way proximally to promote lymph and venous return toward the heart for dispersion and distribution of metabolites. By ridding the metabolites from soft tissue, it promotes a quicker healing response, which leads to improvement in muscle recovery time. When coaches combine this with proper rest and nutrition in an individualized way, we can directly impact the success of our programs.When combined with proper rest, NormaTec can directly impact the success of our program. Click To Tweet
The recovery process begins as soon as the workout, training session, or game ends. It is important to know how we can influence recovery with a system like NormaTec. The pulse system provides gradients of air pressure that will mold to the shape of the athlete’s limb, providing a standardized force across all segments in a circumferential manner. When you combine this with a timed pulse, the NormaTec system promotes optimal metabolite dispersion to promote recovery. Its seven levels of resistance and options to concentrate on certain zones give you plenty of choices and you can focus the intervention to adapt to your athlete’s needs.
Another little-discussed aspect of compression therapy is the sense of peace that it brings by providing the recipient with a proprioceptive pressure that assists system stability and overall relaxation. We all know the sense of calm that we feel when tucked under a thick blanket or during a firm hug; the NormaTec uses deep pressure touch stimulation to give that same deep feeling. It stimulates calmness in the central nervous system, helping to shift the person towards a more parasympathetic state through the release of serotonin and melatonin—chemicals that promote happiness, elevated moods, and sleep.
The addition of the NormaTec to our programs has been an effective influence post training, as it also helps athletes to focus on other aspects of recovery. Once athletes feel and experience the benefits of the NormaTec, it serves as a great introduction to many other recovery methods. A simple 20-30 minutes in the boots allows us to work on breathing drills and switching off from the sympathetic nervous system into a more parasympathetic dominant state (which is still a battle for most athletes today). It is in this way that the NormaTec can induce both physiologic and psychological changes to promote improved recovery and performance.
Special thanks to co-author Jon Herting. Jon Herting, PT, DPT, CSCS, ACSM CE-P has been involved in rehabilitation and strength and conditioning for 10 years and has built a reputation among athletes as a clinician who promotes quick results and optimal outcomes. Jon has worked with athletes of all levels, from adolescent to Olympic level, and believes in a holistic approach to rehab, believing there is not a distinct line between rehab and the training process. Jon is a partner in The Training Room of Garnet Valley in Philadelphia, PA, currently serves as adjunct faculty at Widener University and has developed several continuing education courses for clinicians and certified strength and conditioning professionals based around assessment and rehabilitation techniques.