[Hooping.org’s Editor Philo Hagen looks closely at our bruises.]
by Philo Hagen
If you’re an adult taking your first spins at hooping and you’ve devoted a couple of hours of happy hoop time to your newly discovered wonderland inside the plastic circle, chances are you probably found yourself a little black and blue the next day. Do not be alarmed. Welcome to one of the rites of passage as a hooper: bruising. While it’s not something you hear hoopers talking about too much, most of us have been there and experienced the horror and amazement of finding a purplish spot on our hip or elsewhere that seemed to arrive out of nowhere. In retrospect, however, providing we weren’t inebriated at the time, many of us can recall that at some point, perhaps an hour into the exciting hooping session, we may have noticed that we were getting a little hip-sensitive, but we were having such a good time we kept on hooping anyway. The next day, of course, we then discovered our own discoloration. What is that bruise all about and how can we best treat and prevent bruising ourselves in the future?
A bruise is a type of relatively minor hematoma. What this means is that we’ve got a little collection of blood going on beneath the surface of our skin, blood that has been relocated outside of our blood vessels. Our tiniest blood veins, known as capillaries, find themselves somewhat traumatized as the result of a nearly two-pound object they’ve never seen before coming into contact with them, repeatedly. So blood begins to seep out of the capillaries and starts hanging out in our skin tissue. While bruises can involve muscle or even bone, when it comes to hooping and bruising this is incredibly rare. Hooping bruises may sometimes be painful, though generally speaking they’re rather benign or uncomfortable at best.
How should you handle your bruise? Take a couple days off. Thank your body for discovering something awesome with you, the joy of hooping, and give it the pampering love and time to heal that it needs. If you’re as excited about hooping as most of us are when we start, however, you may find yourself wanting to hoop anyway in spite of the bruise, believing that you’re somehow toughening yourself up as a result. A bruise, however, isn’t like a sore muscle; you can’t stretch it out and give it any relief by hooping more. Again, give yourself time to heal – or work on some off body hooping skills for a couple of days hooping with your hands and arms instead. Until the inflammation goes down it’s smart to just let it heal. Once the bruise is gone, however, there is a very strong likelihood it will never return again. It’s like some strange mythical rite of passage, a hooper initiation if you will. You hoop, you get bruised, the bruise disappears and you no longer bruise like that again. In our survey of hoopers over the years the majority of us had a bruise of some kind turn up in the beginning and once it healed we never did again.
One theory I’ve heard related to bruising and the subsequent vanishing that follows has to do with us becoming more in synch with our hoop as we become more skilled at hooping. In the beginning we’re often still trying to figure out how to keep the hoop up. We will our bodies to make it happen, throwing our hips out in circular motions that are not only not required to keep it spinning, they often put ourselves physically in the way of our hoop. Over time we begin to realize that a slight rocking motion of our bodies, back and forth or side to side, is all that is needed and it’s much more subtle than we previously realized. We loosen up and start going with the flow, meeting our hoop where it is at. And as we begin moving together the bruising ceases. Another theory related to initial hoop bruising has to do with the fact that most of us have never done anything remotely like hooping with our body before. It’s entirely brand new. Our body has no reference point for it and it is initially traumatized and confused by what is going on. Once we’ve done it and the more we hoop, however, muscle memory kicks in. Our bodies are smart and they learn quite quickly how to adapt and support us. Whether it’s about flowing with our hoop better or our body adapting to the hoop, or some combination of the two, after the initial bruising heals most of us will never see a bruise on that part of our body related to hooping again.
If you’ve hooped yourself into a bruise my advice is to take an anti-inflammatory pain reliever such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil or Motrin) or naproxen sodium (Aleve), not so much for pain relief, but for anti-inflammation. If you’re in pain think about reaching into the freezer for that bag of frozen peas or make an ice pack. Ice that bruise up for awhile. Beyond these basics you can also take some Vitamin C. Vitamin C is essential for the synthesis of collagen and other compounds that affect our skin’s and blood vessel’s ability to withstand the impacts that lead to bruises. Vitamin C isn’t just great for helping us a bruise heal faster, it’s actually an awesome bruise prevention supplement. Giving your body Vitamin C will help that bruise heal beautifully – and faster too. Oh, and then there’s Arnica.
Arnica (Arnica montana) comes from a plant in the daisy/sunflower family that grows mainly in the Rocky Mountains of the United States or in the mountains of Europe and Siberia. If you’re in another part of the world it is sometimes called Leopard’s Bane or Sneezewort too. Rub a little arnica cream or gel onto the bruise. Arnica root contains derivatives of thymol which has been clinically proven to be an effective vasodilator, which means that it stimulates dilation of our blood vessels, widening and opening them up, allowing blood to flow freely and normally again. That’s why arnica is frequently used by professional athletes. It’s awesome for reducing inflammation and swelling.
If you find that even after your initiation period is over that you are still bruising easily, this could signify a medical problem like Anemia, so consult your health care provider. A common medical problem related to frequent bruising is relatively simple deficiency of vitamin K which is found in dark green, leafy vegetables. You’re also very apt to be running low on Vitamin K if you’ve been taking antibiotics that destroy the happy vitamin K-synthesizing microorganisms in your digestive tract. Up your Vitamin K and if you’re still bruising a lot, see a doctor.
No bruising discussion would be complete without a brief mention of a types of hoops as well. If you’ve found yourself considerably bruised, or the bruising isn’t going away after the typical rite of passage period and you’re relatively healthy, the problem may be your hoop. Many people purchase fitness hoops online that weigh as much as five or ten pounds. Some purchase fitness hoops with built-in plastic waves or intrusions on the inside that the supposedly help you whittle your waist line while you hoop. These hoops are notorious for bruising people up, though in fairness to them most come with an instructional warning that they are not to be used for more than ten minutes a day. If you have one of these hoops and you still want to use it for weight loss or exercise, use it only for short periods of time and make yourself or purchase an adult-sized dance hoop for the rest of the time so you can hoop and play and spin it up as long you want. If your hoop is causing you pain, don’t use it. Listen to your body. It could be trying to tell you something.
So if you or a friend find yourselves black and blue at the hands of a hula hoop, it really isn’t cause for concern. If you’re learning how to hoop for the first time or mastering a new trick on a part of your body that your hoop hasn’t encountered regularly yet, don’t be surprised if you wind up looking a little battered. As your body teaches itself how best to respond to being at the center of your hoop’s orbit and you become more comfortable learning how to move and flow with your hoop, the bruise will fade, go away and become nothing more than a distant memory. We promise.
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003.