Welcome to the HPRC Blog. We've got lots of information here, from quick tips to in-depth posts about detailed human performance optimization topics.
“Cupping” has received attention recently with discussion of Olympic athletes using the practice to relieve pain and improve performance. However, evidence for the effectiveness of cupping is mixed.
Cupping therapy is a traditional Chinese medical practice that is popular in Asia, the Middle East, and in some parts of Europe. During treatment, a cup is placed on the skin over muscles and a vacuum is created to remove the air inside the cup. The vacuum against the skin is thought to promote blood flow to the tissue underneath the cup, which might bring relief of pain and tension. Cupping typically leaves reddish to purple circles on the body where the cups were placed. The bruises can take several days to weeks to fade.
Cupping is generally considered safe but should always be performed by a qualified professional. One obvious side effect is the circular bruises. Patients also report feeling warmer during the treatment and sometimes sweat more. Cupping is not recommended if you are pregnant or menstruating, or if you have metastatic cancer or bone fracture. It shouldn’t be applied to injured skin. There’s an increase risk of complication when the duration of treatment lasts more then 20 minutes, and some patients have been burned during cupping therapy.
How effective is cupping? The jury is still out at this point. There haven’t been enough studies to say definitively how effective cupping is at reducing pain compared to other pain management techniques. More rigorous research is needed before cupping can be called an effective treatment for pain. Talk with your doctor or healthcare provider before adding cupping to your pain management plan.
In 2014, an average of 20 veterans died from suicide each day. And after recently reviewing 55 million veteran records from 1979 to 2014, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) determined those who are older, middle-aged, and female are most at risk. However, the VA is ramping up its efforts to help save veterans’ lives.
Suicide rates also are much higher among veterans than civilians. For example, suicide risk among veterans was 21% higher than civilians in 2014. The good news is the VA continues to shape policy and work towards meeting its suicide-prevention goals, including:
- Expanding crisis lines and telemental health services
- Identifying at-risk veterans who can benefit from early intervention
- Improving mental health services for women
- Providing telephone-coaching support for veterans and their families
- Deploying mobile apps that can help veterans manage their mental health issues
“Every veteran suicide is a tragic outcome and regardless of the rates, one veteran suicide is one too many,” according to the VA. For accurate diagnosis, or to simply check in with a caring professional, consider consulting a qualified mental health therapist. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) website offers good information and helpful resources. Also, Military OneSource offers support and services to improve your mental health and well-being.
If you feel you're experiencing a potentially life-threatening problem, contact the Military Crisis Line online or call 800-273-8255 and press “1,” or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline online or by phone at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). The Defense Centers of Excellence (DCoE) also has a 24/7 Outreach Center featuring a hotline, email, chat, and phone number. And visit HPRC’s Suicide Prevention page. In an emergency, please dial 911.
Two-a-day practices have started for teens in fall sports. One big issue is concussion education: learning the signs of a concussion and then what to do if you actually have one—or if someone you know does. Several dietary supplement manufacturers have promoted products to help with recovery from concussions and traumatic brain injuries (TBIs), but there isn’t enough scientific evidence to support these claims. If you suffer from a concussion or TBI, make sure you follow your doctor’s orders for recovery. And if you have children involved in sports, watch them for possible signs.
FDA warns consumers to avoid using products that claim to prevent or treat a concussion or TBI. For more information, read FDA’s Consumer Update on dietary supplements and concussions.
If you read our running-shoe article from last week, then you know how to use your old shoes’ wear pattern to narrow down the kind of shoes you need. Now focus on making sure your new running shoes fit properly. First, be prepared before heading out to the store.
- Bring or wear a pair of good socks, preferably the kind you’ll be running in.
- Bring any insoles or orthotics you usually wear during runs. Tip: Replace the insoles from your new shoes with your own orthotics or insoles to ensure a comfortable fit.
- Shop later in the day—when your feet are flattened and more swollen—to get an accurate measurement.
Make sure to try before you buy! Check out these helpful hints on heel cup, snug fit, and wiggle room:
Part 3 of this series will show a few different ways to tie your shoelaces for the most comfortable fit. And if you haven’t already, read Part 1 of this series.
Returning home after a deployment can be exciting but stressful. Still, coming home might present even greater challenges, especially when a service member is injured. Explaining an injury—either visible or invisible—to your children can seem overwhelming, but there are ways to help them cope with things.
It’s normal to worry about your children’s reaction to physical or mental injuries. If possible, talk with them about their other parent’s injuries before your family reunites. Children, family dynamics, and injuries are all unique. So, keep these in mind during your talk:
- Use age-appropriate words to describe the other parent’s injury. For example, what you say to your six-year-old is different than what you discuss with your sixteen-year-old.
- Talk about what happened. Be honest when explaining the injury, how it occurred, and any expectations about recovery. Not knowing what’s going on might cause kids to imagine scary, wrong, or bad things.
- Give it time. Everyone responds differently to difficult news. Don’t force things. Be patient with your kids and yourself too. Support your children however they respond. And encourage them to share their feelings and ask questions.
- Be a role model. Children take cues from their parents. If you cope well with your service member’s treatment, your kids are more likely to as well.
- Reassure your children. They’ll want to know that even though their injured parent looks or acts differently, he or she is still the same person who loves and cares about them.
Remember: There’s no perfect explanation you can give your children. What’s most important? Talk, listen, and avoid judging their responses. And visit HPRC’s Returning Home/Reintegration and Post-Deployment sections to learn more.
School still might be out for some, but many teen athletes are already busy with fall sports practices. And knowing what and when to eat and drink can help them be on top of their game. Your teen’s schedule might seem more like a pro athlete’s workout schedule with two-a-days, strength-training programs, and speed training. However, these are often building blocks of teen athletes’ training for sports. Fueling the Adolescent Athlete contains useful information on how they can fuel their bodies before, during, and after practice.
Fueling comes in two forms: what teen athletes eat to provide energy and what they drink to help stay hydrated. Eating nutrient-packed meals and snacks before, after, and even during practices and games is essential for optimal performance. The right balance of carbohydrates and protein work together to fuel and build muscles.
Staying hydrated goes hand in hand with peak performance. It’s often difficult for adolescent athletes to stay hydrated in heat and humidity, but drinking regularly and keeping an eye on their urine color can be helpful.
For more adolescent and family nutrition information, check out HPRC’s Family Nutrition section.
Caffeinated gum is a quick and efficient way for Warfighters to consume caffeine in order to improve physical performance and maintain cognitive capabilities temporarily during situations that demand vigilance. Because the caffeine is absorbed through tissues in the mouth, it enters the bloodstream faster than foods, beverages, and supplements do. In addition to the rapid absorption of caffeine, caffeinated gum offers other benefits such as being lightweight, compact, and providing caffeine in an appropriate amount when needed. However, caffeinated gum might not always be the best choice depending on your situation, needs, and preferences.
Olympians can teach the rest of us how to perform our best during career-defining moments. While we all can’t compete in the Olympic Games, we can relate to those instances when the pressure’s on and it’s time to perform.
What helps Olympic athletes meet or exceed expectations? Successful team members train together, receive helpful support from friends and family, develop sharp mental skills, stay focused, and honor their commitment to the task and each other. Teams that fail to meet expectations lack experience and have problems bonding. And they tend to face planning or travel issues, problems with coaching, distractions, and commitment issues. Often the best you can do is set routines that guide your attention to actions—within your control—whether you’re an Olympian or someone who values achievement.
Just like your career-defining event only happens once or a few times during your career, athletes know the Olympic Games are unique, rare, and unlike other events. They understand what they’re doing is important. And they’re in the public eye, facing new distractions everywhere.
They’ve spent an extraordinary amount of time preparing and planning for these big events too. It’s natural for an athlete to think, “This is the first time I ever...” Being a “favorite” can come with even more pressure and thoughts such as, “Don’t screw up!”
Nearly all Olympic athletes experience nerves. However, they can experience “butterflies” as excitement to some degree, rather than nervousness. Facing nervousness can be more effective than fighting it or pretending it’s not there. When Olympians or you—during career-defining moments—shift focus to little action plans within your control, gold medals and big successes can be wonderful by-products.
Divorce often means big changes for a family. When kids are involved, it’s essential to put their needs first and help them feel secure.
Children are less likely to feel stigmatized or “labeled” by their parents’ breakup since divorce is more common and acceptable today. Still, the changes that go along with it often result in some stress and pain for a family. Children might experience sadness, worry, regret, and longing for the family to remain intact. After learning that their parents plan to divorce, most kids go through some short-term behavioral or emotional issues too. However, most adjust well to their new family structure and tend to improve their behavior over the long term. Read more...
There are so many different kinds of running shoes out there, it’s hard to know which ones you should be wearing. Although there are many factors that affect injury risk, choosing the correct shoes might help prevent running injuries.
The military once recommended buying shoes simply based on your arch height: flat, normal, or high. And some exchanges still use the arch-height system to categorize their shoes. Arch height can influence your foot strike, but it doesn’t always accurately indicate running style.
You can ask the pros at any specialty running store to help you choose the correct shoes. But there are other ways to figure out what “kind” of runner you are and which kinds of shoes are best. However, if you’re already wearing shoes that have been fitted for your running style—and you’re not experiencing any serious injuries—then keep running! If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.
Find your wear pattern: Use the chart below to compare your wear pattern (on the sole of your shoe) with what you’re already wearing. Look at the inner side of your shoe (sides facing each other). Motion-control and stability shoes typically have gray (or different color) foam near the midsole to heel: The foam should feel harder than what’s on the outsole. Shoes with harder foam covering a larger area—highlighted in yellow on the chart below—provide more stability and/or motion control.
Tip: Wear your running shoes for running only! Wearing them for other activities can change the wear patterns and cause them to wear out faster.
This is the first in a series of HPRC articles with guidelines to help you choose the best running shoe. Part 2 will provide tips and tricks to help you get the perfect fit.