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Pickleball Wizard – Good Self-Care Habits to help you play and feel your best

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Pickleball Wizard – Good Self-Care Habits to help you play and feel your best

Pickleball is sweeping the nation.  “It is the fastest growing sport in the U.S.  And we definitely see that trend continuing,” says Laura Futterman, spokesperson for the Sports and Fitness Industry Association (SFIA).  Pickleball surged by nearly 40% between 2019 and 2021 to 4.8 million players, she says.” 

What’s more, the smaller, friendlier court makes Pickleball great exercise for all ages.  It was actually invented by a couple of dads as an easier form of tennis for their youngsters.  Many adults are moving from tennis or even racquetball to pickleball to save their knees and avoid more intense exertion that may be too taxing for older hearts and joints.  For example, a gentleman I know, an avid paddleball and tennis player his entire life, recently took up Pickleball.  He’s 91.

Even though Pickleball is more forgiving on the body than tennis, it is still fast paced and challenging, which is why people love it.  So, to avoid injury and play better, preventive self-care is an essential part of any amateur athlete’s regimen, as much as it is for professionals.  

This begins with a good stretching routine.  Some advice has it that you should stretch before your workout.  You can also find the opposite advice.  The solution?  Stretch before AND after.  Beforehand, focus on the legs and arms to loosen the muscles and avoid strains.  Afterward, use longer and deeper stretches for the limbs and torso help the muscles recover and prevent soreness.

It’s easy to find a good stretch routine.  Entering “stretching routine for Pickleball” brings up 124,000 hits on Google.  You can add “for seniors,” for “50-year-olds,” or other terms to find a routine more specific to you.  Of course, as with any exercise regimen, before trying any stretching program or sport, make sure to check with your physician to ensure that it’s healthy for you.

Aside from pulled muscles in the legs and sore shoulders, Pickleballers experience the same hand, wrist, and arm issues as tennis players, including the infamous “Tennis Elbow,” or Lateral Epicondylitis, which sounds much more impressive.  Or even “Golfer’s Elbow,” or Medial Epicondylitis.  Turns out you don’t need to play golf to get Golfer’s Elbow.

Either one of these chronic conditions can make playing Pickleball less enjoyable.  The good news is that it’s not hard to avoid developing arm and hand pain conditions in the first place.  (To repeat: please do not self-diagnose, especially if your pain is persistent, sharp, or limiting, so if your pain is more than general soreness, please consult a physician before starting any program or sport).

Googling “stretches for epicondylitis” or even “carpal tunnel stretches,” which target some of the same muscles, can help you avoid any hand or wrist pain that develops, especially when starting a new activity and using your body in unfamiliar ways.  Another valuable tool is massage.  

Most people can’t afford to spend the money on a massage every week or so.  Not a problem, though, as again, if you Google “self-massage for hands and forearms,” for example, you’ll find many videos on YouTube elsewhere.  One of the downsides of self-massage is that you’re using one hand to provide force to massage the other hand, which eventually makes the massaging hand sore.   

One option that doesn’t require the user massage one hand with the other and can help prevent and manage any Pickleball-associated arm, wrist, and hand pain, is the Roleo Arm and Hand Massager (www.roleomassager.com).  

Roleo works on a very simple, user-friendly concept: roll your hand and arm into the Roleo and slowly direct the pressure where needed.  Two bumps on the top roller allow the user to focus on specific muscles.  You can hold it in your lap or put it on a table or desk.  The package includes suction cups that can be easily installed to secure the device to a smooth surface.

You think “Lateral Epicondylitis” sounds impressive?  Well, most likely, the culprit is an even more impressive sounding muscle called extensor carpi radialis brevis, which helps extend and abduct the wrist, the exact motion used for a backhand shot, so it goes to reason that repeating that motion without stretching or massage can lead to pain.  

Other products help, of course, but the Roleo is the only we’re aware of that targets those specific hand and arm muscles, provides its own massage pressure, and is affordable and sturdy.  It feels good and is so easy to use you can do work calls or browse while treating your arms.  Roleo works by replicating the mechanical effects of Swedish massage (effleurage) and Trigger Point techniques, which have both been proven effective in treating muscle pain and injury.  

Another good product that targets other parts of the body like the shoulders, hips and low back is The ReLever, a roller product that uses a body leverage system to provide unprecedented pressure to the larger muscles like the trapezius and hip flexors that can also get sore while playing Pickleball, and provides effective massage to the muscle tissue.

Pickleball is here to stay and it’s growing.  If you’re going to play, a good stretching regimen and self-care tools like the Roleo and ReLever will help you feel great, and when you feel great, you play better!

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  • Paul Kleiman