Injuries are not fun - they hurt, they stop you from doing things that you love and they do take time to get better. There are certain essential elements to effective recovery that if adhered to definitely help speed up the process. Read on to find out more...
The Right Exercise
Every injury will need some form of exercise rehabilitation. If you have broken a bone or have had surgery your rest time will result in atrophy (shrinkage) of certain muscles surrounding the joint/area. It is essential that you get these muscles firing again for appropriate support and functional movement. Injuries that are caused by other than trauma are often accompanied by muscular imbalance which results in a joint or area taking too much stress or not having enough support. In this case it is imperative that you rebalance the body with exercise, break down poor postural habits and movement patterns and learn ones that serve you more effectively.
Once you have had the go ahead to begin exercise it is essential that you go through appropriately progressive and specific exercise that is bespoke to your needs. This is where a corrective exercise specialist can really help you. Jumping back on the treadmill or hitting it hard in the gym, however tempting, is not the answer and will most likely put you back on the triage stretcher. For more information on the difference between corrective exercise and regular exercise click here.
Sleep is where healing and recovery happens. When you sleep your body is in a parasympathetic state. This means it focusses on digestion, absorption of nutrients, transportation of nutrients to cells for healing and reparation and the removal of toxins. The body revives itself from the daily stressors it has gone through as well as larger issues like the regrowth of broken bone or the healing of tendon or muscle tears. Make sleep a number one priority if you are healing from injury. Aim to sleep a minimum of 8 hours ideally between 10pm-6am Your physical recovery happens between 10pm-2am and mental recovery between 2am-6am. This is especially important if you are doing rehabilitative exercise as both your brain and body need this rest time to process new patterns, make new connections and strengthen those connections to make them the preferred pathways for stability and movement.
You are what you eat - or more accurately, you are what you absorb. I have broken this section down further to three important areas - sugar, fats and proteins and hydration.
Sugar is very inflammatory to cells - especially ones that are trying to heal. Limit your intake of sugar and processed foods and focus on eating as clean as you can. Clean eating means eat from the earth - nothing processed, nothing boxed or packaged, nothing containing preservatives. It also means eliminating anything that is inflammatory to your body. Gluten containing foods and dairy are two such groups that may need to be eliminated. Eating foods that you are intolerant to sets off an immune response, puts your body into a nutritional state of stress and diverts the focus of injury recovery to survival against a substance that is considered dangerous to you. It means taking precious nutrients for healing and recoveryof your injury to deal with the food that is irritating your digestive system.
Proteins are the building blocks of cells. I often recommend to clients who are healing from injury to use Great Lakes Gelatin Powder. You can add it to tea or soups. It contains high levels of collagen which are the building blocks for tendons, ligaments and bones. You can purchase Great Lakes Gelatin from Pure Body Balance and for more information on how to use it look at Karen Maidment's cookbook Meals that Heal.
Hydration is an absolute essential to good health as well as healing and recovery from injury. Aim to drink at least 2L of water a day, preferably mineral or filtered.
Thoughts become things
Of all the elements of healing and recovery, in my clinical experience, your mind is the most important factor. You will recover quicker and more effectively if you maintain a positive mental outlook about your injury and about life in general. I often ask my clients to say affirmations with each repetition of a rehabilitative exercise, such as, "I am getting stronger", or "I am getting better every day". I also advocate good old meditation to cultivate good mental energy and you can even target it to heal your injury. It might sound a little hippy, but I promise you thoughts become things. You can choose to be grumpy and irritated about your injury and tell yourself that it won't get better or you can tell yourself that you are getting better every day. As one of my favourite sayings by Henry Ford goes, "Whether you think you can or you think you can't you're right". My favourite healing mental states include gratitude and laughter. Of late I've been reading a lot of articles about how laughter is becoming part of Cancer treatment. So give thanks for all you have in your life and get your friends round for a good old laughter session. You'll be healed in no time!