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. Don’t be alarmed and welcome to one of the rites of passage in your hooping life – 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 that early and 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. Then the next day getting in the shower we discovered our own discoloration. What is that bruise all about and how can we best prevent bruising ourselves and treat our bruises in the future?
A bruise is a type of relatively minor hematoma. What that means is that we’ve got a little collection of blood going on beneath the surface of our skin, blood that decided to relocate itself outside of our blood vessels. Our tiniest veins known as capillaries, seem to find themselves a little traumatized when a 1.5 pound object they’ve never seen before comes into contact with them, repeatedly, again and again. 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 those are incredibly rare. Hooping bruises may sometimes be painful, though generally speaking they’re benign or a little uncomfortable at best.
How should you handle your bruise? Take a couple days off from hooping. Thank your body for discovering something awesome with you 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’ll probably want to hoop anyway even in spite of the bruise. You may even conclude that in doing so you’re somehow toughening yourself up for the future. A bruise, however, isn’t like a sore muscle; you can’t stretch it out and give it any relief other than father time. Give your hoop a break to heal – or work on some off body hoop skills for a couple of days using your hands and arms instead. Oddly enough once the inflammation goes down and the bruise disappears there is a very strong likelihood it will never return again. It’s like some strange mythical adventure for your body, a hooper initiation if you will. You’ll hoop, you’ll get bruised, the bruise will disappear and you will no probably never have a bruise like that ever 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 had one 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. In fact we force our bodies to make it all 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 the energy necessary to keep it spinning is much more subtle than we previously realized. We loosen up and start going with the flow, literally, meeting our hoop where it is at. And as we begin a more beautiful and harmonious relationship with our hoop 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 continue to hoop, however, muscle memory kicks in. Our body gets smart and learns quite quickly how to adapt and support us in our hooping. After all, it’s probably liking everything else about it. Whether it’s about our flow or our body adapting or some combination of the two though, after the initial bruising heals most of us will never see a hoop bruise on that part of our body again.
If you’re reading this because 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 a little 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 the ability of our skin and blood vessels to withstand the impacts that lead to bruises. Vitamin C isn’t just great for helping a bruise heal faster too, it’s actually an awesome bruise prevention supplement. Giving your body Vitamin C will help that bruise heal beautifully – and faster. Oh, and then there’s also something called 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. Rub a little arnica cream or gel onto the bruise. Why? 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, thus allowing blood to flow freely and normally again. That’s why arnica is frequently used by professional athletes too. It’s awesome for reducing inflammation and swelling.
If you do 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, however, is a relatively simple deficiency of vitamin K which is found in dark green and leafy vegetables. You’re also very apt to be running low on Vitamin K if you’ve taken any antibiotics that destroy the little happy vitamin K-synthesizing microorganisms in your digestive tract. Up your Vitamin K and if you’re still bruising, see a doctor.
No bruising discussion would be complete without a brief mention of 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 described and you’re otherwise 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 supposedly help you whittle your waistline while you hoop. These hoops are notorious for bruising, 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 then make yourself or purchase an adult-sized dance hoop for the rest of the time. That way you can hoop and play and spin it up for as long your heart desires. Some good common sense advice is if your hoop is causing you pain, don’t use it. Listen to your body. It could be trying to tell you something.
In closing, if you or a friend has found yourself black and blue at the hands of a hula hoop, it 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 our 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, bruising will become nothing more than a distant memory. We promise. So take good care of yourselves and have a blast hooping it up.
Philo Hagen is the Co-founder and Managing Editor of Hooping.org. He’s been spinning things up online and off since April 2003. Co-Founder of the Bay Area Hoopers and LA Hoopers hoop groups, Philo has performed internationally and has won Hoopie Awards for Male Hooper of the Year and Video of the Year. He lives in Los Angeles, California, USA.