Inflammation after exercise is not necessarily a bad thing in and of itself.
When we push ourselves and challenge our bodies, it causes micro-tears and minute injuries in our muscles and other tissues. Our bodies naturally repair this damage while we rest, building back stronger and more enduring. Inflammation is simply a part of this healing process, increasing blood flow to the area and providing more of the nutrients and growth factors our cells need for their repairs.
That said, while some mild inflammation and soreness can be expected after a workout, more severe and longer-lasting inflammation can be a sign that more demand is being placed on your body than it can best handle at this point in time. This may be due to your routines, but other, less controllable factors such as your foot structure can play a role as well.
If you are experiencing persistent inflammation and soreness in your feet or ankles after activity (e.g. for longer than 48 hours), we highly recommend scheduling an appointment with us. We can examine the factors that may be contributing to your case, and take steps to address them while keeping you moving.
In the meantime, try some of the tips below to help reduce the inflammation and soreness you feel after exercise. Knowing what works for you and what doesn’t can help us more quickly narrow in on and treat the causes of your discomfort.
Ice Down After Activity
It’s a classic form of therapy, but it is often helpful – and can just plain feel good as well.
Apply a cold pack or compress to the areas of your feet and ankles that are prone to inflammation for about 15-20 minutes. Make sure that your source of cold never directly touches you, as that can increase your risk of skin damage. Always wrap your pack or compress in a thin towel first.
Reduce Your Salt Intake
A high-salt diet has been connected to an increased inflammation response in the body, which can potentially make your after-workout consequences worse.
For many people, a goal of consuming less than 1,500 mg of sodium per day is ideal, but please consult with your primary care physician on whether a different goal is better for your particular needs.
A total of 1,500 mg might sound like a lot, but it’s only equal to about two-thirds of a teaspoon of salt. Be mindful of processed foods and keep an eye on nutrition labels to avoid taking in more salt from surprising sources.
Increase Your Hydration
Staying properly hydrated can help reduce the effects of inflammation by ensuring a better balance of fluids and a higher elimination rate of inflammatory triggers in the body.
Different people require different amounts of water per day. The “eight glasses” rule is not really all that effective. A better guideline is to drink half of your weight in ounces (e.g. If you weigh 180 pounds, you would drink 90 ounces of water).
Keep a steady intake of water throughout the day, but of course, make sure you have fluids while working out as well.
Stick to Warming Up and Cooling Down
Taking about 10 minutes to stretch before and after intense activity helps prepare your body to adjust to changes in demand, and has been linked to reduced inflammation in some studies.
Stretching should focus on the areas you find become inflamed, as well as areas connecting to them. If you find inflammation around the back of your heel, for example, make sure stretching incorporates your arch area and calf muscles as well.
Stretching before activity should be more dynamic in nature, meaning you should be moving more instead of holding still in specific positions. Lunges and light jogging count as dynamic stretching. Cooldown stretching should focus more on static poses as you level back down toward a resting state.
Discuss the Potential of Compression Socks
Compression socks provide a steady, gentle pressure on the legs – often more at the bottom of the sock and lesser at the top. This helps aid blood flow up the leg, which may reduce swelling and inflammation during activity.
Which compression socks you wear, how you wear them, and for how long can be very important. We highly recommend consulting with us or your primary care physician before trying them.
Adjust Your Exercise Plan
If inflammation is more of a bother than it should be, it may mean that you are working your body too hard or not giving it enough time to rest and recover.
It can be very much worth it to review and adjust your current workouts to see if it has an effect on your discomfort. Perhaps you need a day of rest after a certain focused workout or need to switch to a more arm-focused routine after a leg-focused one.
This is not something you need to figure out alone, though. Do not be afraid to consult with us, your primary physician, or a trusted fitness expert for some help managing an effective workout plan that will ultimately be better for you.
Get the Help You Need Sooner than Later
Consistent inflammation, pain, or any other form of discomfort in the feet or ankles is not something you want to fiddle around with over the long run. The longer such symptoms go before being effectively addressed, the more likely that more severe and even longer-lasting problems can result.
At Advanced Foot & Ankle Centers of Illinois, we have many years of experience getting to the source of patients’ inflammation and other troubles, and treating them in ways that get them back to full activity as quickly and as safely as possible. From traditional treatments to advanced methods such as MLS laser therapy and Aquaroll, we can help you find the path to recovery that best suits your unique needs.
Schedule an appointment to reduce inflammation with us by calling one of our area offices.