So I’m up against a rock and a hard place when it comes to recovery from a hard workout. I’ve been trying to figure out how to write this post from day one… I decided to just do it.
I had a tough workout yesterday, one of those that would have left a 30 year-old me with sore muscles and a sore back for a couple of days – at least. Add on ten years and I was really feeling rough after a hard workout last year. In fact I can remember, vaguely, the day that I really felt like I was 40 and why they make such a big deal about it. It hit about 2 months after my 40th birthday. The additional pain didn’t stop me, it really didn’t slow me down either, I just felt different – like it was harder to turn around after pushing myself. I clung to the old Marine adage; “Pain is weakness leaving your body”. Not exactly comforting, but it is what it is.
This changed with a visit to an unlikely source for strength and pain relief – my dentist a couple of years ago. Dr. Ewing is a holistic dentist and I’m not exactly what you would call a holistic kind of guy – I’ll just leave it at that. In any event, after a normal cleaning, Dr. Ewing notice that I had a hairline fracture in one of my incisors that he attributed to my clenching my jaw during sleep – I was clenching so hard (from stress most likely) that I’d worn down a flat edge on one tooth and put that fracture in another. He said that he’d just come up with a new bite splint that would relieve the pressure and that I should think about buying one before my teeth started crumbling under the strain. He made quite a few claims related to the splint, that it would actually make me stronger if I wore it during workouts and that I’d sleep better. The only problem was that it was not cheap. Normal bite splints are not near as expensive, but he’s got a few proprietary things built-in that make it so. In fact, I hemmed and hawed for about a year before he finally convinced me that I had no other option. My teeth had gotten a little worse and I had some pretty intense regular pains in my neck and lower back…so I got fitted.
The day the splint came it, he took a good hour or two to tailor it to my bite – he made sure that all of my top teeth hit the bottom teeth evenly, over a range of motions which he said would help with my balance and the way my body generated strength, right down to my core. He gave me some final care instructions and sent me on my way. Let’s say that I was skeptical about many of the claims figuring as long as my Chiclets were saved I’d be happy. That night I wore it to bed for the first time. Now stick with me here because this might sound a little outrageous, but I swear to God, I’m not exaggerating… On waking the next morning, I can’t remember ever feeling so alive in the last 20 years…in fact, I actually felt like I was 20 again. My teeth hurt a little bit because the splint needed some adjusting, but the rest of my body was absolutely energized. The best way I can describe this is that it felt like someone had taken an oil can and lubed each joint in my body. My neck, shoulders, lower back and knees all felt like new – in fact my back, a constant source of pain that I’d simply gotten used to, didn’t hurt for the first time in as long as I can remember. Honest to goodness, I felt so good I got a little weepy. Over the next few weeks I went back for a few adjustments so it fit properly over my teeth and to make sure that the alignment was right, each adjustment taking between a half an hour and hour.
After the final adjustment I started wearing it when I did my push ups in my office. I went from four sets of 30 push ups to five sets of 40, instantly. I can’t explain it, originally I figured it was mental but it’s not, and I can tell you, I feel so good now that I really don’t care why it works. In fact, there have been a few times that I’ve fallen asleep before I put the splint in or I’d left it at the office and the difference in how I feel when I wake up the next morning is absolutely NOT mental.
To give an example, after my ride and run yesterday, I was hurting. With the cold weather, I had to bundle up quite a bit so I have to work against the clothing while riding so my muscles have to work harder for every rotation of the pedals. By the time the ball dropped last night, I had a hard time getting off the couch to kiss my wife and clink glasses with English Pete and his wife, Big Steve and his wife and all of our kids… This morning, I feel like I could easily put in a long ride or a 10 k if I really wanted to. Only minimal soreness or stiffness in getting up, no shoulder, neck or back pain…it’s as if I just slept yesterday’s workout off. Recovery time of about seven hours sleep.
I didn’t expect the results, but I sure can’t argue with them. Dr. Ewing’s bite splint changed my quality of life by leaps and bounds and I wouldn’t have had such a great summer without that splint. Period.
This is really an amazing story. Your results are very impressive, and it’s good to read that you feel so much better. That splint that your dentist built for you reminds me of these mouth pieces that some athletes wear called Agility Guards (http://www.agilityguard.com/). They supposedly improve performance and recovery times for much of the same reasons that you listed. It’s definitely a fascinating concept…
The one I’ve got is a lot like the agility guard that you linked to – except mine has a magnet strategically located to match up with a contact point that is supposed to aid in the removal of toxins from the body. I can’t remember which, but a major university is doing studies because there’s evidence that it aids in the burn off of lactic acid…the main gist of all of the guards though, if I paid attention properly, is that it separates your upper and lower teeth while allowing the user to still clench their teeth, both of which increase strength and if the dentist sets them up properly, every one of your top teeth hits the corresponding guard at the same time within a 1,000th of an inch (maybe it was 10,000th – I can’t remember) which is supposed to line your jaw up. Either way, they are fantastic.
From the recovery end, I gather you’re a younger guy because you mention on your blog in several places that you’re still in school – I can tell you for sure, when you hit 40, working out hard hurts a lot longer. The quicker and more complete recovery has meant the difference between working out every day or working out every other day – and without a standing shipment of Aleve. I can work out like I would have at 20.
The idea that they improve balance is right on too. I golf as well and I wore it the first time I went out this year… 3 holes with and 3 holes without. The 3 with I scored par, par, birdie. The three without were par, bogie, bogie. There’s no doubt in my mind, they work.
For cycling, it works well, especially on sprints and pushing up hill… and it’s too awkward to wear while running (at least for me).
[…] A couple of years ago I spoke about this with my dentist, who I actually happen to be close with outside of his practice, and he recommended wearing a bite splint while I sleep. After a lot of hemming and hawing about buying one (his are exceptionally expensive for proprietary reasons and he takes hours to make sure they fit properly within a thousandth of an inch). I went from eating six to ten Aleve a week to two every couple of months. I’ve written about this before, here. […]
[…] I was flat out miserable. Last summer I bought a bite splint to wear at night (I wrote about that here) and that helped immensely, but I’d still have maybe one day every other week that required […]
[…] written before about the bite splint that I wear at night. It aids in recovery from soreness, rest and my […]
[…] pain that was too unbearable to even sit in a recliner with… The bite guard, I wrote about here and has given me a new lease on life, a level of pain-free enjoyment that was previously […]
[…] clench so tightly in my sleep – but that’s for part 2). I wrote about the bite splint here and here. I highly recommend them… I can remember how good I felt after only the first […]
[…] have written a few times about the bite splint that I wear while I sleep. I am a clencher, meaning while I’m […]